Duke University dean and religion professor Laurie Patton will lead Middlebury College

A dean and religion professor at Duke University in North Carolina known as a translator of classic Indian Sanskrit texts is going to become the next president of Middlebury College, trustees announced Tuesday.

Laurie L. Patton will succeed Ronald Liebowitz, who is stepping down in June. She will be the first woman to lead Middlebury, a liberal arts college with about 2,450 students, in its 214-year history, the trustees said.

"Laurie is an accomplished scholar with a deep commitment to the liberal arts and a global perspective on the value and role of education," Middlebury Trustee Chair Marna C. Whittington said in a statement issued by the college. "She lives the values of Middlebury, and I am confident she will provide the leadership and innovative thinking required to maintain the positive momentum and success Middlebury has experienced during Ron Liebowitz's tenure as president."

Patton is the dean of Duke University's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion.

Trinity College is the largest of Duke's undergraduate schools, with 5,200 students, 36 academic departments and programs and 640 faculty members. It awards nearly 80 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees.

As dean, Patton is responsible for overseeing the educational mission of Duke's core undergraduate liberal arts programs, including curriculum, faculty hiring and development and the college's $370 million annual budget.

Patton, 53, is a graduate of Harvard University. She received a master's degree and a doctorate from the University of Chicago. She is the editor or author of nine scholarly books on South Asian history, culture and religion.

Patton's commitment to the success of Duke's students and faculty has made her an extraordinary leader, Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth said.

"She is energetic, creative and passionate about scholarship and learning," Kornbluth said. "We could not be more proud of her appointment at Middlebury."

Liebowitz became president of Middlebury in 2004.