Mary Dwyer | Credit: Phil Channing

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Santa Barbara, CA — Dr. Mary Dwyer, a former college professor and administrator who led the  renowned Institute for the International Education of Students through a period of extraordinary  growth, has been appointed interim president and CEO of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa  Barbara, effective January 1. She succeeds Barbara Robertson, who recently announced her retirement  following 22 years of service to the organization. A search for a long-term successor to Ms. Robertson  will commence immediately. 

“I am honored to lead an organization with such a rich legacy of serving students and families in the surrounding community,” said Dr. Dwyer. “I greatly appreciate Barbara Robertson’s many years of  service to the Scholarship Foundation, and admire all she has accomplished to position the  Foundation for continued growth. I look forward to building on the Foundation’s 60 years of impressive efforts to broaden educational access in Santa Barbara County.” 

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English and social sciences at Mundelein College, Dr. Dwyer  earned both a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in public policy analysis at the University of  Illinois at Chicago. She went on to serve as a faculty member and executive associate vice chancellor for  research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a professor at the campus’ College of Medicine, she  taught leadership and organizational change to academic physicians from around the globe. Over the  course of her career, she worked as a consultant, teacher, and CEO with an array of U.S. and  international organizations at 81 sites across 40 countries. As president and chief executive officer of the  Institute for the International Education of Students, or IES Abroad, from 1996 to 2020, Dr. Dwyer  increased annual revenue from $9.8 million to nearly $155 million, and expanded annual scholarship  outlays from $200,000 to more than $6.5 million. Her numerous honors include an Indiana University  Bicentennial Medal, an honorary doctorate in civil law from the University of the South, Sewanee, and national and international awards for diversifying higher education. She served three years on the  Abraham Lincoln Presidential Commission on expanding educational opportunities for U.S. college  students. 

Dr. Dwyer currently serves as a board director for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Direct Relief,  the Thriving Initiative, and the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation, among others. She joined the Scholarship  Foundation Board of Directors in 2021, and served on the Executive, Human Resources, and Student  Programs committees before taking a leave of absence to become the Foundation’s interim president  and CEO. She will serve in the latter capacity until a long-term successor is hired, at which point she will  rejoin the Foundation Board. 

“We are extremely fortunate that Mary has stepped forward to helm the organization during this  period of transition,” said Foundation Board Chair Matt Rowe. “I advocated for Mary to serve in this  important role, as she is quite obviously an individual of immense talent and achievement, and  professionals of her caliber are a rarity. The Scholarship Foundation will unquestionably benefit from  her extensive experience in postsecondary education, which includes fundraising for college  scholarships. I know from her impactful contributions to Foundation Board deliberations that Mary will proceed methodically and prudently in preparing the organization for new leadership and a new  era of community betterment. We are very grateful for her service during this pivotal time.” 

The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara is the nation’s largest community-based provider of college  scholarships, having cumulatively awarded more than $140 million to some 60,000 county students since its  founding in 1962. A nonprofit organization, the Scholarship Foundation also provides free financial aid advising services. For additional information, visit


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