Karen R. Lawrence

President Karen Lawrence
Department: President's Office

Karen R. Lawrence assumed her position as the ninth president of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens on Sept. 1, 2018, following a decade as president at Sarah Lawrence College.

President Lawrence’s position at The Huntington marks her return to Southern California, where she led the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, as its dean from 1998 to 2007. Throughout her career, she has been a forceful advocate for the liberal arts.

Relevance, access, and diversity have been important themes in President Lawrence’s leadership at The Huntington, as reflected in both the DEI and institutional strategic plans. In particular, she has championed the institution’s public mission, including enhancements to the visitor experience on-site and online as well as partnerships that expand The Huntington’s audiences and impact. She has shepherded major collections acquisitions; promoted cross-divisional synergies among the library, art museum, and botanical gardens; and emphasized the relevance of research in The Huntington’s collections to contemporary societal challenges.

She has also propelled transformative capital projects, including the renovation and enhancement of the historic Rose Garden Tea Room that opened in 2023 and two new major projects: a 90,000-square-foot Huntington Library renovation and the creation of residential units on the Huntington property for visiting researchers. The Huntington Library renovation will accommodate Library and Art Museum needs, renewing and retrofitting the Library’s signature exhibition galleries; doubling the collections storage space; bringing Library and Art Museum staff together for greater collaboration; and providing a much-needed objects conservation center. Additionally, with a transformative gift from the philanthropist and longtime Huntington supporter Charlie Munger, President Lawrence is overseeing the creation of nearly three dozen residential units for visiting scholars studying The Huntington’s collections, fulfilling a longstanding institutional priority of providing reasonably priced housing for visiting research fellows.

President Lawrence is a renowned English and Irish literature scholar who has continued to write and teach about literature. She served as president of the International James Joyce Foundation and the International Society for the Study of Narrative. She has written widely on 20th-century literature, particularly on the work of James Joyce; women and travel; and experimental writing, as well as on higher education. At The Huntington, she co-convened the Joycean Cartographies conference and hosts the “Why It Matters” program series, in which she converses with distinguished guests about the enduring relevance of the humanities and arts. Since 2017 she has served as a trustee of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and in 2020 she served as a member of the Los Angeles County Economic Resiliency Task Force Arts and Culture Work Group.

President Lawrence is married to Peter F. Lawrence, M.D., who is emeritus chief of the Vascular and Endovascular Division and emeritus director of the Gonda Vascular Center at UCLA. The Lawrences have two grown children, Jeffrey and Andy (married to Jessica), and a grandson named Jake.