Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc to Retire

After more than two decades of leadership, President Paul J. LeBlanc announced today that he will step down as president and CEO of Southern New Hampshire University on June 30, 2024. The SNHU Board of Trustees unanimously voted to appoint Lisa Marsh Ryerson, the current university provost, as president for a two-year term effective July 1, 2024.

Under LeBlanc’s direction, SNHU has transformed from a small regional university to an internationally known leader in higher education, having grown from 2,500 students to more than 225,000 learners, making SNHU the largest nonprofit provider of higher education in the country. With his vision to make higher education more accessible, more than 200,000 students have earned their degrees during LeBlanc’s tenure at SNHU. The university also ranks among the most innovative universities in the country and as a top employer nationwide.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to be the president of SNHU for the past 20 years,” LeBlanc said. “When I arrived in 2003 to this small New Hampshire campus, I found a rock-solid commitment to mission, a dedication to students, and a hunger to do more and be more. I found a home, and I am so proud of the work we have been able to do together to help expand access to education and transform the lives of our learners.”

LeBlanc’s Legacy

As SNHU’s fifth president, LeBlanc has played a pivotal role in reshaping the university into what it is today: a forward-thinking global institution committed to student success, accessibility, and innovation, with a reputation as a pioneer and leader in online education. Throughout LeBlanc’s tenure, SNHU was named to the “World’s Fifty Most Innovative Companies” list and was the only university included. Forbes Magazine has listed him as one of its 15 “Classroom Revolutionaries” and one of the “most influential people in higher education.” Washington Monthly named him one of America’s 10 most innovative university presidents. In 2018, LeBlanc won the prestigious TIAA Institute Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence in Higher Education, joining some of the most respected university and college presidents in American higher education. Committed to caring for its people, SNHU, under LeBlanc’s guidance, is the only institution to be named “A Great College to Work For” every year since the list’s inception, a recognition based on employee surveys.

Over the past 10 years, as SNHU positioned itself for growth, LeBlanc helped launch several initiatives to expand access to underserved learners worldwide including the first competency-based education (CBE) model approved for federal funding by the Department of Education, the SNHU Global Education Movement (GEM), which serves refugee and displaced learners in Africa and the Middle East, and an effort to reinvent the campus experience that reimagined the cost and delivery of campus-based education to address the growing issue of college affordability and accessibility.

“Reflecting on the past 20 years, I’m most proud of SNHU’s culture of kindness, support, and a willingness to work together and learn which permeates the university,” LeBlanc said. “The student-first approach in everything we do doesn’t need to be taught, it’s at the center of every decision at every level of the organization.”

LeBlanc’s commitment to SNHU’s home of Manchester, New Hampshire, was recognized in 2023 when he was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Under LeBlanc’s leadership, SNHU has launched many local initiatives to support the community, including partnering with the YWCA NH to launch the Center for New Americans to support families who are new to the United States; donating funds and volunteer hours to support the homeless; and delivering thousands of meals to city students during the pandemic.

A lifelong learner himself, LeBlanc conducted research and gathered interviews with experts to author two books, Students First: Access, Equity, and Opportunity in Higher Education, published by Harvard Education Press in 2021, and Broken: How Our Social Systems are Failing Us and How We Can Fix Them published in 2022. His written work explores the ways higher education has traditionally left some students behind and challenges the industry to rethink delivery models and evolve to meet students where they are.

LeBlanc’s own life experience as a first-generation college graduate informs his commitment to increasing access to higher education. He immigrated to the United States from Canada when he was three years old. His parents, both of whom had eighth grade educations, worked tirelessly to care for the family. The youngest of five children, LeBlanc was the first person in his extended family to attend college and is a graduate of Framingham State University (BA), Boston College (MA), and the University of Massachusetts (PhD).

“Paul pioneered the transformation of SNHU and challenged the conventional wisdom that has long defined higher education, allowing hundreds of thousands of underserved students to advance their educations and careers,” said Winnie Lerner, Board Chair, SNHU Board of Trustees. “His leadership has been courageous and inspired and his impact will be felt for generations to come. The Board is immensely grateful to Paul and all he has done to deliver on its mission to provide a high-quality, accessible education, transforming the lives of students and families around the world.”

SNHU’s Next Leader

Ryerson, who will assume the presidency on July 1, 2024, has vast experience in higher education and nonprofit management: she was president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, New York, for 18 years; was the president of the AARP Foundation for 8 years; and was a member of the SNHU Board of Trustees for five years before taking on the provost role at SNHU in 2022. Over the next several months, LeBlanc and Ryerson will work closely together to ensure a smooth transition for the entire SNHU community.

“It has been my privilege to serve as university provost, and I’m deeply honored to step into the role of president next July,” Ryerson said. “Paul’s legacy is one of bold vision and generosity of spirit. He has guided this institution through immense growth and has led us in building a culture dedicated to student success – our proudest tradition. Over the next six months, he and I will work together on a transition plan that honors the work of our people and prioritizes the experience of our learners.”

“As we make this transition to new leadership, SNHU continues to thrive and grow,” Lerner said. “Lisa Marsh Ryerson is a proven, talented leader who will build upon the strong foundation and bring fresh thinking. Through her time on our board and as university provost, she has showcased her deep commitment to the university and our students and will be a source of energy and ingenuity. We are thrilled she will assume the role.”

LeBlanc’s Next Chapter

LeBlanc is looking forward to returning to his original graduate work, studying the impact of new, paradigm-shifting technologies on society. His first book examined the way educators were trying to shape the emerging world of personal computers and networks in the mid-80s. Coming full circle, he will research and write about AI’s impact on the workforce and learning during a year-long sabbatical.

In speaking about his decision to step down and the personal impact of his leadership, LeBlanc said, “While there is never a perfect time, SNHU is at a very good place in its institutional journey. We successfully navigated the challenges posed by the pandemic, revamped our organization, achieved record enrollments, assembled a formidable team, and we enjoy robust fiscal health. After 20 years, I believe that SNHU can benefit from a fresh perspective. I love the SNHU community and while change is forever constant, that sentiment will remain unchanged for me.”

Reactions from The Industry

“Throughout his time at SNHU, Paul has been committed to breaking down barriers and unlocking opportunities for students around the world,” said Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “Whether it is students studying in a refugee camp or the south side of Chicago, Paul’s work reminds us of the power of education to raise people up and change the trajectory of their lives. While people often associate Paul with innovation, what stands out for me is his big heart and his commitment to underserved students.”

“While historically underserved populations of learners have often been given inferior or just ‘good enough’ educational options, Paul and his team have brought cutting edge innovation and student-centered learning to tens of thousands of students and transformed their lives and the lives of their families,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools and SNHU Board member. “They have done it in refugee camps, in low-income communities, and with students who are too often left behind by traditional higher education – this is disruptive education in service to humanity.”

“Paul’s two decades of leadership have not only transformed SNHU, but also the landscape of higher education,” said Ted Mitchell, president, American Council on Education. “His dedication to student success and willingness to challenge the status quo underscore a legacy that will resonate far beyond his tenure. Paul has not just led, but he has redefined what it means to be a true innovator in higher education. Paul is and will continue to be an inspiration to all of us and an example of higher education leadership at its very best.”

About Southern New Hampshire University: Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private, nonprofit institution with a 91-year history of educating traditional-aged students and working adults. Now serving more than 225,000 learners worldwide, SNHU offers approximately 200 accredited undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs, available online and on its 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH. Recognized as one of the “Most Innovative” regional universities by U.S. News & World Report and one of the fastest-growing universities in the country, SNHU is committed to expanding access to high quality, affordable pathways that meet the needs of each learner. Learn more at