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Top Presidential Contenders

Who are the top (early!) contenders for the next Williams president? Keep in mind that Williams, unusually for a top elite liberal arts college, has never had a female president.1 Most Williams faculty members I talk to think there is a less than 10% chance that a white male will be selected. Top contenders include:

denise-photo-headWilliams professor Denise Buell: She is the current Dean of the Faculty, the traditional stepping stone for internal candidates. Both Frank Oakley and John Chandler were Deans of the Faculty before becoming Williams presidents. An (anonymous!) faculty member told me she is “insanely ambitious.” Having been Dean of the Faculty for many years, she has had numerous opportunities to interact with members of the search committee. If she were not interested in the job, she probably would have been named the interim president, a role often bestowed on Deans of the Faculty, as with Bill Wagner last time. She is about 52, which might be a tad old nowadays, but still well within the range.

Raymond, Wendy_2013_1(0)Former Williams professor Wendy Raymond: She is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty at Davidson. Her son is out of high school and her husband, David Backus, is a former lecturer in geosciences at Williams. I suspect that she moved to Davidson because she was eager to climb the academic ladder and Davidson provided the best opportunity. At 57 she is, like Buell, a bit older than the target age. She has both fans and detractors among the current faculty. She was a champion of diversity issues while at Williams so, if the committee is interested in this topic, she will certainly get an interview.

spencerFormer Williams trustee Clayton Spencer ’77: She has been the president of Bates since 2012. At age 62, she would be the oldest (new) Williams president in decades. She has done well at Bates and would not be viewed as a bad person if she were to leave after just 6 years. Might Williams try to grab her for a 4 to 5 year term, long enough to allow Provost Dukes Love to gain the experience he needs? Perhaps. Recall that Spencer was on the search committee that selected Falk. Another member of that committee was current search committee heard Mike Eisenson ’77. It is certainly interesting that Spencer and Eisenson are both members of the class of 1977.

cappyFormer Provost Cappy Hill ’76: Longtime readers will recall that I was certain Cappy was going to be selected last time round. Wrong that time but maybe this time? She was almost certainly a finalist when Morty was selected almost 20 years ago so she has been around the block on this several times. A faculty member mentioned to me that they had “heard some positive speculation about Spencer and Cappy Hill; both make some sense.” After a successful decade at Vassar, she now (like many former LAC presidents) runs a non-profit: Ithaka S+R. Do she and her husband like living in NYC? Are they interested in retiring in Williamstown?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWilliams history professor Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97 is my leading dark horse candidate. At 42 (and a Williams graduate) she is the perfect age: experienced enough after more than a decade at Williams to know what she is doing, young enough to have the energy that the trustees are looking for. (I believe that Payne, Schapiro and Falk were all hired while in their 40s.) Although she has not served as either Dean of the Faculty or Provost (the most common stepping stones to college presidencies) she is former head of CUL and current chair of the Committee on Priorities and Resources, perhaps the single spot (outside of the provost’s office) at which a Williams faculty member can learn to think like a president. Being a person of color is also a big advantage in this search since the trustees would love to be able to get the Williams-has-only-had-white-presidents monkey off their backs.

Merrill_2016-219x300Williams history professor Karen Merrill: Any female former Dean of the College is a plausible candidate. At 53, she is not too old. Merrill is, I think, widely regarded as an excellent administrator and consensus builder. I have heard fewer complaints about her tenure as Dean of the College than about her predecessors or successors. Her handling of the controversy over the log mural (pdf) was masterful. (By the way, we really ought to rename the “Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History” to the “Merrill Committee.”) Indeed, of all the controversies at Williams over the last 15 years, I can’t think of one that was better handled. (And since Falk screwed up so many things, I think Merrill deserves most of the credit. Did any of the social justice warrior Ephs even complain about the outcome?) But is she interested in the Williams presidency? Informed gossip welcome!

Portugal2002_3-274x300Chemistry Professor Lee Park is the interim Dean of the Faculty. (Buell is on sabbatical. Isn’t it weird that someone would take a sabbatical year during their 3 year appointment period?) Park is 53 and, obviously, non-white. She has been the associate Dean of the Faculty for a few years, I think. She is currently chair of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, traditionally one of the most powerful positions on campus. (Another member of that committee is Professor Tom Smith ’88, also a chemist and a member of the presidential search committee. If Tom is a fan of Park, then she may have a real shot at the job.) Also interesting is that search committee member Chris Winters ’95 is married to Williams chemistry professor Amy Gehring ’94. Park has worked (closely?) with Smith and Gehring for more than a decade. I wonder if they are friends or rivals? Park has also been chair of the CEP. Is Park interested in the Williams presidency? Presumably, she wouldn’t have worked so many administrative jobs over the years if she weren’t interested in climbing the ladder . . .

Other current or recent Williams female insiders seem less well positioned. After her utter failure at Dickinson, Nancy Roseman probably won’t even get a courtesy interview. Sarah Bolton has not been at Wooster long enough for a move to be reasonable. Marlene Sandstrom is too new to the Dean of the College job.

Given how strong these candidates are, I can’t imagine that Williams will hire a man. Are there are female Ephs who might be interested? Are there other female candidates who are “on the market?”

Who do readers think will be chosen? Who would readers vote for if they were on the committee?

[1] Among the top 10 liberal arts colleges according to US News, only Williams, Bowdoin and Carleton have never had a female president.

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Williams presidential search news

To the Williams Community,

I hope you are all enjoying the last days of summer, and looking forward, as I am, to the new academic year.

As you know, President Adam Falk recently announced that he will leave Williams at the end of December to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In my role as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, I have been asked by the Board to lead our search for Adam’s successor. I am writing today to inform you of our considerable progress in organizing the process, and to share with you our plan for interim college leadership beginning in January of 2018, which was approved by the Board of Trustees yesterday.

First, I am pleased to inform you that Protik (Tiku) Majumder, Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy and Director of the Science Center, has graciously agreed to serve as interim president, starting January 1, 2018, and continuing until the new president is in place. Tiku has an outstanding record as a Williams teacher and mentor, scientist, and faculty leader, and just as importantly has earned wide trust and respect across the Williams community. Our objective was to find an interim president with a keen understanding of our institution; a love of Williams, of its students, and of its faculty; enormous patience, tact, and insight; and an ability to respond with intelligence, compassion, and calm to the inevitable challenges that will arise from time to time. Tiku has each of these qualities, and many more. He will do a superb job of keeping Williams on track, and I ask you to join me in thanking him and supporting his leadership.

Second, we have formed a Presidential Search Committee whose charge will be to present to the Board of Trustees one or more exceptional and thoroughly vetted candidates to become our next president, and to ensure that every member of the Williams community has an opportunity to give input with respect to qualities that we should be seeking, as well as to offer nominations. The Search Committee includes representatives from every sector of our community: students, staff, alumni, faculty, and trustees. Several members are also Williams parents. As their backgrounds indicate, each brings deep involvement with the College. Service on the committee will require significant time and effort, and I am personally grateful to the members for their dedication to Williams and their willingness to take on this essential task.

The members of the committee are:

Michael Eisenson ’77, Trustee and Chair of the Search Committee
O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86, Trustee
Clarence Otis, Jr. ’77, Trustee
Kate L. Queeney ’92, Trustee
Liz Robinson ’90, Trustee
Martha Williamson ’77, Trustee

Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Associate Professor of Political Science
Peter Murphy, John Hawley Roberts Professor of English
Lucie Schmidt, Professor of Economics
Tom Smith ’88, Professor of Chemistry
Safa Zaki, Professor of Psychology

Chris Winters ’95, Associate Provost

Jordan G. Hampton ’87, President, Society of Alumni
Yvonne Hao ’95, alumna and Trustee Emerita

Ben Gips ’19, student representative
Sarah Hollinger ’19, student representative

Keli Gail, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and principal staff to the committee

Third, the board has retained the firm Spencer Stuart as consultant, to help manage the search process. Spencer Stuart has been involved in numerous recent and successful academic searches at the highest levels, and is very well positioned to help the committee in its work. Searches like this are complex and sensitive, and we expect to benefit greatly from their expertise, specialized resources, and pool of outstanding candidates.

The Search Committee will begin its work shortly, and we will announce opportunities for community input as these are developed. As a first step, we have created a website where you can find information and materials related to the search. We will add to the site as additional materials are available, as further process steps are scheduled, and as we have news to share. Our future email updates will link back to this site as the place of record for search news.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to again thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for the work they are about to do, and Tiku Majumder for his service as interim president. I also want to convey to our entire community our enthusiasm and optimism as we set out to find the 18th president of Williams College.

Sincerely,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Almost Presidents

Adam Falk, long may he reign, is the president of Williams. But who are the almost presidents? Approximately 40 people had serious interviews with members of the Presidential Search Committee. A handful of those might fairly be termed finalists. Who were they? I assume that Nancy Roseman had an interview, but, other than her, I am not sure who the internal candidates would have been. My sources have failed me on this. Comments?

Presumably, anyone named in the near future to the presidency of a liberal arts college would have had an interest in the Williams job, especially if they were an outsider. So, I bet that John Bravman, recently named Bucknell’s 17th president, was a (strong) candidate for the Williams job.

I am glad that we choose Falk instead. Are you?

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“Constructive Loyalty” or hors d’oeuvres with the Presidents

Last night (Wednesday), I joined approximately 150-200 of my fellow alumni, parents, and friends of the NorCal Alumni Chapter to listen to Chair of the Trustees Greg Avis ’80, interim President Bill Wagner, and incoming President Adam Falk.  I came away from the evening more impressed by each of them than I had been previously.  Before I go any further, I should thank Chapter Prez Shannon Walsh ’03 for pulling together the inaugural edition of this roadshow they’ll be shopping around the country to other chapters.  I know they were in LA tonight, will be in San Diego tomorrow (Friday) and in DC on Feb. 22nd, but I haven’t a clue when they’ll be elsewhere.  This is a good reason to check out the events calendar on the alumni page and/or subscribe to your regional alumni email list.

And now on to the event…(you’ll have to go below the fold for the juicy details) Read more

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President Adam Falk?

An anonymous tipster David Kane tells us that Adam Falk of Johns Hopkins will be the new President of Williams College. I have no idea whatsoever if this is true.
falk
From the JHU website:

Adam F. Falk became James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences on Feb. 1, 2006. He had served in the position on an interim basis since January 2005.

Under his leadership, Falk said, the Krieger School’s goal remains what it has always been: “To be and remain the best small, research-intensive school of arts and sciences in the country; faculty member for faculty member and student for student, to be second to no other.”

Falk, a member of the Johns Hopkins physics faculty since 1994, was promoted to associate professor after only three years at Johns Hopkins and to full professor just three years later, in 2000. In 2002, he was appointed the Krieger School’s vice dean of faculty, a title that was changed to dean of faculty in 2004. He was instrumental in those positions in the formulation of the school’s strategic plan and in a comprehensive reform of appointment, promotion and tenure policies in the Krieger School.

Falk is a high-energy physicist whose research focuses on elementary particle physics and quantum field theory, particularly the interactions and decay of heavy quarks. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a winner of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. Early in his career, he won prestigious national young investigator awards from both the National Science Foundation and the Energy Department.

He graduated with highest distinction from the University of North Carolina in 1987 and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1991, winning six awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching while a graduate student. He held post-doctoral appointments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the University of California, San Diego, before coming to Johns Hopkins.

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What should we ask Presidential candidates?

hat tip to JeffZ for the idea (see previous post here)

It’s time, ephbloggers, for Williams to undergo a rare reformation by hiring a new President. Professor Macgregor Burns describes two types of leadership, transformational and transactional. What type of leader do we want for Williams? Why? And, more importantly, what questions would we pose to a Presidential candidate for Williams?

Also, to make the exercise more interesting, why not try to answer your own question were you a presidential candidate? I take a shot at it below

Read more

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Ten Questions for the New President

Ephblog, for better or for worse (or probably, a little bit of both) won’t have any influence on the hiring of the new Williams President.  I propose, however, that we attempt to start a dialogue after he/she is hired by sending a collective list of ten (or so) questions about issues particular to Williams that have long bothered some portion of the Ephblog community.  I propose that we keep the questions narrow and discrete in focus, rather than hitting on big picture stuff that will inevitably be discussed during the search process (e.g., how to deal with a lower endowment).  I’ll start us off with an oft-expressed gripe recently raised in another thread:

(1) Is it problematic that the massive parking garage near Greylock Quad sits empty most of the time, and if so, will you push hard to allow students to utilize that parking in the 2009-2010 academic year?

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Another University President

Congratulations to Dr. Hans Giesecke ’78, the new President-Select of Greece’s Anatolia College. He begins his term in the fall.

Anatolia, founded in the Ottoman Empire by Boston Congregationalist missionaries in 1886 and uprooted in 1924 to Greece, today comprises the U.S. and European-accredited American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) and its graduate school of business, the Anatolia College preparatory school (an International Baccalaureate World School), and Anatolia Elementary. Almost 2500 students pursue their studies on its 45-acre campus overlooking the northern port city of Thessaloniki and the lofty peaks of Mt. Olympus.

 More here.

There are two other Williams connections in this story. 

Like Anatolia’s first President, Charles Tracy, Giesecke is a graduate of Williams College….

“For me it is no small coincidence that Anatolia still treasures its founding connection to the Haystack Movement, which was begun at Williams College in the early 19th Century. I hope to continue building on that special spirit of connectivity between North America and Greece during my service as Anatolia’s President,” says Giesecke.

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Update on Presidential Search

At this mornings Ephraim Williams Society breakfast, Morty gave an update on the Presidential Search. First, the Search Committee is looking at 8-10 candidates in a serios fashion, checking resumes and so on. That seems consistent with the recent update:

The Committee has followed up on submitted names and held frequent conference calls to review the pool. We gathered in Williamstown yesterday to review our progress to date.

That progress, we are glad to report, has been substantial. We have held almost 40 meetings with potential candidates. Small teams representing each segment of our membership — students, trustees, faculty, and staff — have traveled across the country to talk personally with the men and women who aspire to lead Williams in the years ahead.

We will now conduct follow-up interviews with the most promising candidates prior to submitting the results of our work to the Board of Trustees, which has the responsibility of naming the next President.

As always, Morty is more forthcoming than official publications from the College.

Second, Morty (who is not involved in the process directly) reported that the Committee would probably reduce the pool to 2 or 3 finalists in the next “month or two.” Third, Morty mentioned that timing was always difficult to predict, but he thought that we might have an announcement before Septenber 1, with a start date for the new President of either September or next January.

Comments:

1) I still hope that the Committee selects Cappy Hill ’76, for all the reasons given previously. But, given this news, I would say that Cappy’s appointment is somewhat less likely than it appeared 6 months ago. The key issue is timing. Cappy has only been president of Vassar for 3 years. If she leaves tomorrow, she is something of a bad person (depending in your point of view). One possibility is that the Commitee appoints her with a starting date of July 1, 2010. Giving Vassar 4 years (and an entire year to find a next President) is reasonable. If we haven ‘t heard anything before the fall, then the Committee might appoint her for July 1, 2011.

2) A sometimes knowledgeable alum writes:

What about trolling for the new president? You heard it here. Pam Carlton or Clayton Spencer. At best these would be neutral, one decidedly negative.

Who is Pam Carlton? I doubt that Williams would choose someone like Spencer ’77 without a Ph.D., despite her extensive experience in higher education. Spencer is on the Search Committee. Political junkies will recall that Dick Cheney went from leading George W. Bush’s search for a running mate to being the running mate.

Not that I am comparing Spencer to Cheney, of course. ;-)

3) I assume that Nancy Roseman is one of the 8-10 finalists. She is clearly interested in more senior jobs and it would be a serious insult for the Committee not to take her application seriously. I could also imagine her as one of the 2-3 finalists. Not because I think that Williams would ever choose her (that seems highly unlikely) but because a smart search committee stacks the finalists so that the whole board picks the candidate the search committee wants. Roseman was clearly just a stalking horse for the insider candidate for the Exeter job.

4) What other candidates are plausible?

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Thoughts on Wagner

A few points of needless opinion below the fold. Click Read more

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From the Next President

To The Williams Community:

I am deeply honored to have been asked by the Board of Trustees to be
Interim President from July 1 until Morty Schapiro¹s successor assumes his
or her responsibilities. I feel privileged to be able to serve the College
in this capacity and look forward to continuing to collaborate with the
other members of Senior Staff, our regular standing committees, and the
Board of Trustees to manage College affairs and in particular to meet our
current financial challenges effectively and in ways that preserve our core
values.

Over the course of the summer I will continue to carry out my
responsibilities as Dean of the Faculty. As Greg Avis pointed out in his
letter, should it become necessary for me to continue as Interim President
beyond September 1, Andrea Danyluk of the Computer Science Department and Division III representative on the Committee on Appointments and Promotions has generously agreed to serve as Acting Dean of the Faculty until I resume my responsibilities as Dean.  In this event, Andrea would resign her position on the CAP and an election for a new Division III representative would take place at the September faculty meeting.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Morty on behalf of all of us for the
splendid leadership he continues to provide the College in these last months
of his presidency.  I look forward in the coming months to working with all
members of the College community on our ongoing goal of making Williams the finest college it can be.

With best regards,

Bill Wagner
Dean of the Faculty

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Interim President Wagner

To the Williams Community,

At its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees received a report on the
presidential search, which is proceeding in an orderly and productive
manner. The community input process and the publishing of the presidential
position prospectus have been completed. The Presidential Search Committee is now focused on the parallel tasks of continuing to add names to the candidate list while researching and narrowing the field. As part of this process, delegations of committee members have been meeting with select candidates and will continue to do so.

The committee has been operating on the possibility of having the new
president in place by the time Morty Schapiro leaves at the end of June. The
chance of that has become remote enough to enact an alternative plan. In
anticipation of this possibility, the Board had charged its Executive
Committee with developing such a plan. The Executive Committee, after
deliberations and consultation with Morty, presented its recommendation to
the trustees.

I am very happy therefore to announce that the Board voted unanimously to
designate as Interim President Bill Wagner, Dean of the Faculty. He will
begin on July 1 and serve for as long as needed. Since the College Laws
indicate that, between presidencies, the Dean of Faculty would assume the
responsibilities of the President, this appointment is a natural
progression.

Williams is fortunate to be able to turn to someone as knowledgeable,
experienced, and respected as Bill. In addition to his service as Dean of
the Faculty, Bill has, in his 29 years at Williams, also served as Director
of the Williams-Exeter Programme and has chaired the Department of History,
the Committee on Educational Policy, Committee on Undergraduate Life,
Committee on Priorities and Resources, and Faculty Compensation Committee.
Please see the note from Bill that is attached below.

He will be supported by the College’s strong faculty governance structure
and exceptional administrative team. If the duties of Interim President turn
out to extend beyond September 1, Morty and Bill, in consultation with the
Faculty Steering Committee, have asked Andrea Danyluk, Professor of Computer Science, to serve as Acting Dean of the Faculty from that date until Bill could resume those responsibilities. She would bring to the task her own extensive experience in College governance, including as Chair of the Computer Science Department, Cognitive Science Program, Committee on Educational Policy, and Faculty Steering Committee and as member of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions.

The Board is confident that this arrangement will provide the College with
continuity and excellence in leadership until the next president takes
office. I hope you will join me in thanking Bill and Andrea for their
willingness to serve Williams in these capacities.

Regards,
Greg Avis ’80
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees

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Presidential Search Update

The major news is the Presidential Search Prospectus. For the whole letter, click: Read more

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Presidential Search Update

Special thanks to “Aparent” for an update from the Williams College Presidential Search Committee.

 
“For those in the Williams community who are truly interested in the progress the Presidential Search Committee is reporting, here is the text of Thursday’s announcement:”

Milestones mapped; outreach meetings continue
February 19, 2009

To the Williams Community,

The Presidential Search Committee held its second in-person meeting in Williamstown on Thursday morning, February 12.

There were three primary objectives of the meeting. First, John Isaacson and Maggie Gilmore ’05 of search firm Isaacson, Miller helped the committee map out a tentative schedule of milestones and meetings. Second, President Schapiro addressed the committee, offering his insights into the Williams presidency and advice for us.

Read more

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A Modest Proposal from Wick Sloane

Wick applies for the Williams College presidency in today’s Inside Higher Ed column.  Call me crazy, but I don’t see the board of trustees biting …

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Announcement of Williams Presidential Search Committee

Latest news on the search for the next Williams President.

To the Williams Community,

I am happy to inform you of progress in the early stages of the presidential search process. The Board of Trustees has formed the 2009 Presidential Search Committee. Its student members were selected with the help of Dean Karen Merrill. I would also like to thank Bill Wagner, Dean of the Faculty, for his guidance. I will have the privilege of chairing the Committee, whose other members are:

Trustees: Valda Christian, David Coolidge, Michael Eisenson, Stephen Harty, Jonathan Kraft, Clayton Spencer

Faculty and Staff: Andrea Danyluk, Laurie Heatherington, Stephen Fix, Protik Majumder, David Pilachowski

Students: Alan Arias, Elizabeth Brickley

Alumni: Sarah Underhill, Christopher Giglio

Secretary: Charles Dew

As you can see from the attached background summaries, these individuals bring a wealth of involvement with and care for the College. The Committee is charged with identifying the candidates best suited to lead Williams and to present a short list of nominees to the Board of Trustees, which makes the final selection. Along the way, the Committee will solicit input from the broad Williams community, decide on selection of a search firm, develop a summary of the attributes we desire in our next President, and identify and screen candidates. Importantly, the process will draw on the College’s recent Self Study for Accreditation and 2020 Planning Process as well as on the sense of the College community to articulate the kind of leadership Williams now needs. The Committee will hold its first meeting later this month and, among other tasks, will weigh the most effective ways to engage the community in these important discussions.

We will operate on the possibility of having the new President in place by this summer. If at some point that appears unlikely, the Board will consider the options for an interim arrangement.

Thanks to all who have shared their thoughts and encouragement. You will be hearing from us as the Committee’s work proceeds.

Sincerely,

Greg Avis ’80
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees

Seems like a good committee and a sensible process. Trustee Clayton Spencer ’77 is an especially good choice, given her insider’s knowledge of higher education. I certainly hope that there are some Ephs here who served on the last presidential search committee, but I don’t recall its exact membership.

More details below.
Read more

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Welcome Back, President Cappy Hill

Cappy Hill ’76 is expected to be named the next president of the college within the next two months, definitely before the end of the academic year, according to a person familiar with the matter, who refused to be identified because the hope is to keep the appointment under wraps for the time being. We, of course, predicted this three weeks ago.

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Welcome Cappy!

cappyCatharine “Cappy” Hill ’76 will be the 17th President of Williams College. You read it here first. We need (or, the powers on the search committee will argue that we need) a quick hire, known to Williams, comfortable with our culture, and experienced with both leadership and hard economic choices. Cappy Hill fits those criteria perfectly.

Quick Hire: The financial crisis makes this the most dangerous era for Williams in a generation. We need new leadership and we need it now. Although it would be nice to conduct a nationwide search lasting a year or more, perhaps installing an interim President like Carl Vogt ’58 in 1999-2000, the College lacks the luxury of time. Hard choices must be made and the earlier they are made, the less damage to Williams. Although Morty will serve as a good steward for the next 9 months, he is in no position to demand sacrifices from various stakeholders nor to make promises as to future benefits. He is a lame duck, with at least one eye focused on his responsibilities at Northwestern. So, Greg Avis ’80 (chair of the executive board of the Trustees and of the Presidential Search Committee) will want to have the job filled no later than this summer. That means a fast search, with a preference for those candidates that Williams knows well already.

Known: Members of the search committee will know Cappy as well as they know virtually any other candidate. She is a Williams alum, a former faculty member and senior administrator. She was a finalist for the presidential search in 1999 that selected Morty. She is a known quantity. Select Cappy and there will be no surprises. The biggest mistake made by the Trustees in the last 20 years was the selection of Hank Payne. They won’t make an error like that again.

Comfortable: Cappy is as comfortable with the Williams ethos as anyone can be. One son is an alumnus and another is a current student! She knows what makes Williams tick, what makes it special. She bleeds purple. And she is a golfer! The greens of Taconic are calling . . .

Leadership: If you had to design the perfect President to lead Williams through a period of economic turmoil and difficult spending cuts, you would have two conflicting goals. First, you would want someone who knew Williams inside and out, who had served as Provost (more or less the chief financial officer of Williams) for many years. Second, you would want someone with experience outside of Williams, ideally someone who had already served as a college president, someone who has insider knowledge of how another elite liberal arts college prioritized its spending, ideally a less-rich college than Williams, a place that spent fewer dollars while providing the same quality education. Unfortunately, those two qualifications are almost never found together in one person, unless that person is named Cappy Hill.

Possible Objections:

1) Williams would not steal Cappy away from Vassar. Hah! Williams stole both John Chandler and Hank Payne from Hamilton without hesitation, after only 5 years in office. Indeed, Cappy is following precisely Chandler’s path of faculty member, department chair, senior administrator and then a different college presidency for seasoning. If Williams was willing to steal Chandler and Payne, we will steal Cappy. Her short tenure (3 years as of this summer) will make Greg Avis ’80 feel guilty, but only a little. His responsibility is to Williams.

2) Williams passed over Cappy once and will do so again. Perhaps. There was something that made Williams choose Morty over Cappy and maybe that something will happen again. But I doubt it. Being runner-up to Morty is still a good showing and her winning the Vassar job means that there was nothing substantively wrong with her application.

3) Williams may want Cappy but she will turn us down. Perhaps. Chair of the Vassar Board of Trustees William Plapinger should be a nervous man. He led the search committee that selected Cappy. He would hate to lose her. If he is smart, he is calling her right now, trying to (gently) pin her down on her future plans, double-checking that her committment to Vassar is as strong now as it was three years ago. He will not want to be so crass as to demand a promise from Cappy that she will remove herself from the Williams search, but he will strongly imply that it is unfair of her to expect him (and other senior trustees) to work hard on the current capital campaign unless she is fully committed to the future of Vassar. Luckily, Cappy is smart enough to put him off.

4) Cappy is a great candidate but there are a dozen others. True! There are many good candidates (and future posts will handicap the race) but none as perfect as Cappy. In fact, I can’t come up with anyone who comes close, at least according to the criteria I outline above. (Suggestions welcome!) She is an even money bet, at worst.

Allow me to be the first to welcome her back to Williams.

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Morty Schapiro to Become President of Northwestern (and thoughts about the Presidential Search)

To the Williams Community,

Morton Owen SchapiroUpon the completion next summer of my ninth year as Williams president, I will be leaving to become president of Northwestern University.

This was not an easy decision for my family and me to make. Twenty of my thirty years in academe have been spent at Williams and I’ve loved virtually every minute. The past nine as president have been the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life. But with the completion of our comprehensive campaign this month and my strong feeling that institutions need new leadership every decade or so, I think the timing is right.

There’s much I still hope to do in these intervening months to help steer this place I love so deeply. Most importantly, with the support of the Board of Trustees, we are putting in place a financial plan that will assure that our college will be in a position to provide an exceptional educational experience for future students despite the current financial turmoil. Williams will emerge from the present challenges with its values intact and positioned to recapture its momentum.

Mimi and I have made many close friends at Williams — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents — and we hope that you will remain in our lives. When you visit us in Evanston, feel free to wear your traditional purple, a color that both institutions proudly share.

All the best,

Morty

Morton Owen Schapiro
Professor and President
Williams College

(announcement from the Office of the President, posted on the Williams website on Dec. 16, 2008)

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Presidential Search Documents

Many thanks to Chemistry Professor (and secretary of the presidential search committee 5 years ago) Hodge Markgraf ’52 for taking the time to answer some of my questions about the search process. Hodge pointed out that the search was thorough and professional. It involved a serious examiniation of 150 candidates, many telephone and in-person interviews, and meetings with the finalists by the full board of trustees.

Hodge was also kind enough to supply copies of many of the updates that Ray Henze ’74 (chair of the board of trustees at the time) sent to the entire community. (The College, or even WSO, really ought to archive documents like this in some public space. Future historians will thank you!)

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