Qualities To Be Sought in a New College President

October 2, 2010

With my announced retirement as Earlham’s President effective at the end of June, a search committee has begun the work of finding Earlham’s next President.  The search committee and the Board of Trustees are compiling a list of qualities to be sought in the next President.  Below is what I sent in as a suggested list of qualities.

To the search committee and the Board of Trustees —

Here are some qualities I’ve come to think of as vital for an Earlham President.  Think of these as aspirational.  I’ve hardly lived up to all of them.  Ideally, a good President for Earlham should be able and inclined to:

Be fully a member of, and comfortable among, both the Board of Trustees and the Faculty in order to represent the Faculty to the Board and the Board to the Faculty.

Keep the big picture and the long run always in focus, even while participating fully in the day-to-day life of the community.

Understand the college with deep insight into all its features, both its ugly warts and its
magnificent spires; and be prepared to communicate, orally and verbally about the strengths, and be prepared (have courage!) to work forcefully, if quietly,on the problems.

Understand, respect and be effective at using the college’s distinctive governance processes.

Set the college’s main agenda, voice that agenda in a saga that is meaningful to all, and pursue it vigorously.

Make judgments in appointment, re-appointment and tenure decisions that weigh carefully recommendations from appropriate faculty committees, but not simply rubber-stamp these recommendations, and stick by those judgments even when the only people heard from (and forcefully) are those who disagree.

Know when to intervene and when not to intervene in disciplinary decisions on campus, and stick by those judgments even when the only people heard from (and forcefully) are those who disagree.

Know when to be equitable and when to make exceptions, and be prepared to defend both ways of proceeding.

Hire and supervise senior leadership, and help them work together constructively.

Help the college community find a constructive road when the whole campus is ablaze with a controversy.

Have some specific ways of relating to and having fun with students.

Serve as a counterweight to the college’s occasional excesses, even when being with most of the community on the matter in question would be a natural and personal inclination.

Voice appreciation to all, often.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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One Response to Qualities To Be Sought in a New College President

  1. Pingback: Qualities To Be Sought in a New College President: High Standards | The Observatory

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