Farewell Address

By President Ronald Liebowitz
May 20, 2015
Burgess Meredith Little Theatre, Bread Loaf Campus
 

Thank you, Marna. And thank you all for coming so I could express my gratitude to Middlebury.

     As I look back on my 31 years here, I have so many people to thank. To give some structure to all of my thank yous, I will focus on three individuals. These three individuals helped me make my way at Middlebury and shaped my understanding of, and eventually my aspirations for, the institution. I would like to recognize and thank each of them today, as I did not have the opportunity to do so adequately in their lifetimes. As I have gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate more and more their contributions. And I should. Their impact on this institution has been transformative, and so I do feel that thanking the three of them is one small way for me to thank all that is Middlebury.

     In this address I will provide vignettes about each of the three individuals, because there are many at the College today who didn’t know them. I will note some of their important contributions and highlight what they might teach us for the future. I should note that this talk is focused on the 215-year-old undergraduate college because, in order to get the 21st-century Middlebury (the Big M) right, one should not assume that the core of the institution will simply keep itself right. It requires attention, and I believe that the three individuals who taught me so much about Middlebury have things to teach future generations of Middlebury leaders, too.

     I regret not having been more successful as president in moving the institution beyond where we are today in terms of what I learned from these three colleagues. And so I identify toward the end of my address some of the issues where I fell short and where I hope the institution could do better in the coming years. All of this is done in the spirit of providing constructive suggestions based on my long tenure here and knowledge of the institution.

First: Thank you, Bob Churchill.

Bob hired me in 1984 when he was an untenured chairman of the geography department. The department had been slated for elimination two years earlier—or more accurately for a merger with two interdisciplinary programs: environmental studies and northern studies. The three were to become one program until a faculty vote, motivated primarily by its opposition to the process by which the decision was made, saved the department. Though saved, geography was left in a very precarious situation with three colleagues, all of whom were untenured. Bob was the most senior of the three and therefore became the department’s chair. What he accomplished over the next ten years in building one of the best geography programs at a liberal arts college was unusual and quite remarkable. He is, for all intents and purposes, the father of modern geography at Middlebury, a department that, I can say objectively as one who has not been in it for many years, is not only excellent but also one that continues to uphold Bob’s highest standards.

     Bob was a physical geographer, a geomorphologist, actually, who was what he himself would call a late bloomer. He served in the Army, which provided some of his most memorable stories, and which is saying a lot because Bob was one of the best storytellers one could find. This talent might come as a surprise to those who only knew Bob superficially, because outside the department he appeared incredibly shy, introverted, and oddly deferential to authority. Maybe he learned more in the military than he let on. But the deferential posturing was hardly the Bob I knew and admired. On the contrary, he had much to say about the administration: little of it positive, and nobody was spared. I suspect not even I was shown any mercy once I became a dean, let alone provost and president. But more surprising than his outward shyness was his remarkable sense of humor.

     I cannot do justice to Bob’s particular brand of humor, but I mention it because it was unusual, sophisticated—sometimes very cutting—and it reflected the complex, extremely well-read, and talented person Bob was. His grades until his senior year in college were, in his words, “abominable,” but he somehow entered one of the top PhD programs in geography in the county—at the University of Iowa—where he quickly became a star. Though he was a physical scientist and was hired at Middlebury to teach the physical side of our discipline, his curiosity and understanding of how the physical environment shaped human behavior led him to study human and cultural geography in order to better understand and teach about the physical-human interrelationship, a leading paradigm in geography for decades.

     Bob’s competency in teaching both human and physical geography with equal comfort and effectiveness was unusual. Though all geographers are supposed to become well acquainted with both, not all do. I saw the depth of Bob’s breadth of knowledge first hand. He published a lab manual for our introductory geography course that contained challenging assignments, which required students to see the world as an integrated whole. He rightly argued that students could not understand the demographic transition, rural-to-urban migration, world hunger, or the transition from an agrarian to industrial society without also understanding some underlying physical forces at work, such as the fundamentals of weather and climate, the ocean’s currents, atmospheric pressure gradients, glaciation, or soil erosion to name a few.

     I was incredibly impressed by the thoughtfulness and rigor of the lab assignments Bob authored for the manual, all of which conveyed more than a superficial understanding of some basic yet foundational geographic concepts. They forced an understanding of the whys and hows, in addition to simply the whats and wheres. The labs were especially difficult for a 100-level intro course, but students recognized and appreciated their value—if not immediately, then semesters and, I am sure, years later. This course was like no other introduction to geography I had even seen, and I had served on a special committee of our professional association whose charge was to review geography curricula at both the k–12 and college level. Our students received a better introduction to geography than students at any other college or university in the country, thanks to Bob. I should note that Bob also wrote all the code for the computer-assisted portion of the labs.

     Bob’s breadth of interest both within geography and outside was what led Bob to become a significant innovator at the College. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the College’s general education requirements revolved around what were called “foundations” courses. These courses were supposed to provide, as their names suggest, a foundation to big ideas and big concepts that transcended the highly specialized knowledge students learned in our majors. It was Middlebury’s answer to a Great Books curriculum without any prescribed great books. Those were the times.

     There were only twelve foundations courses accepted in the first few years of the program, and one of them was Bob’s intro course, titled Geography: A Modern Synthesis. As I mentioned, Bob was an avid reader, and he was fascinated by early Greek and Roman writings on the physical and human world. A significant portion of his foundations course had to do with those ancient writings and how they influenced our thinking about the relationship between humans and the physical world, and, ultimately, culture and politics.

     Though Bob was a big advocate of the College’s foundations courses, he also understood that the discovery of new knowledge and new interpretations of the old required one to challenge existing paradigms with fresh approaches and pedagogies. Geographers, no matter their subspecialty, focus on location as a major variable in their research and thinking. In the early 1980s the advancement of digital computing allowed for the mapping of any phenomena that, in layman’s terms, had an identifiable address or location. To be able to map multiple variables through their digital addresses, overlay them on top of one another, and then analyze their relationships and movement over time through new and increasing computational power was a transformative breakthrough for a discipline that for decades had been trying to move beyond sheer description. This innovation in spatial analysis was called Geographic Information Systems, or GIS.

     Recognizing what the future held for our field, Bob undertook intensive retooling to learn GIS, most of it self-taught. There were few places to learn GIS at the time. Bob retooled by reading computer science conference papers, physics and mathematics research papers, and attending workshops on methodological developments in geo-scientific research at national laboratories and research centers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Santa Barbara, California, Greenbelt, Maryland, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

     In 1987, when an alumnus approached the department because he wished to make a generous gift in honor of his former geography professor Roland Illick, he and his family asked what would be most beneficial to our program. The department met and Bob convinced us all it would be wise to use the gift to launch GIS at Middlebury. He argued that GIS would be the best gift for our students—better than a newly endowed faculty position, better than new desktop computers to replace our fading DEC Rainbows, and better than increased faculty-development support for the geography faculty.

     At the same time, Bob acknowledged that GIS was an expensive and risky venture: terminals cost at least 15 times more than today’s work stations, and they were more than four times the size and weight of today’s sleek equipment. But what a brilliant gamble and investment it turned out to be! Shortly after converting the 501 Warner Science seminar room into the new Roland J. Illick Lab for Spatial Analysis, students filled the GIS course, which resulted in Bob offering the course every semester—as an overload to his existing heavy teaching schedule. The course became known throughout campus and beyond for how demanding it was: I was chair of the department at the time, and several parents called to ask if it was really OK that their sons and daughters were sleeping in the GIS lab at least once a week.

     Middlebury was the first, or among the very first, liberal arts colleges to offer GIS to its students because of Bob Churchill. Its introduction had a profound impact on our geography curriculum and the greater college curriculum as well. It gave students the opportunity to apply what they were learning in their classes to geographical problems in and around Addison County, and the more advanced students provided valuable support in our local communities. Students worked on projects that assisted farmers, land-use planners, small-town developers, family businesses, and environmentalists by performing the kind of spatial analysis that was not possible without GIS. In fact, Middlebury’s former town planner learned GIS from our students and admitted that it took him almost three years to grasp the complexities of what his student instructors learned in one semester with Bob.

     Bob’s introduction of GIS and its seamless integration into the academic program was a model for pedagogical innovation at the College. Not only were geography majors identifying problems that needed solutions and then learning how to use their GIS knowledge to help find the solutions, but nonmajors soon began to see the value of learning GIS, too. Our environmental studies program made the GIS course a requirement for its major; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation asked Bob to lead a multi-week workshop to teach faculty at peer liberal arts colleges from the humanities and humanistic social sciences how best to incorporate GIS into their courses and across their curricula; former students in as wide-ranging fields as classics, economics, and art history reported that the GIS they learned from Bob was essential to their success in graduate school; and many colleagues here began to learn GIS and develop modules for their courses, which enabled them to work collaboratively with students in new ways and advanced both teaching and research within their fields.

     Bob was, more than any other colleague I knew in my 31 years at the College, the champion of rigorous experiential learning. He never provided his students with answers and, in fact, often made them find the questions to pursue in addition to finding the answers. His approach to combining the foundation of the liberal arts with finding answers to physical and social challenges can be seen today in other rigorous experiential learning programs on campus. Bob’s determination to become proficient in GIS, to be a leading pedagogue in the field, and to link his newfound knowledge and teaching skills to our students and our curriculum represent the approach to our students and curriculum necessary today for the College to maintain excellence in undergraduate education.

     Thank you, Bob.

Next, I would like to thank David Macey.

David was an historian who specialized in Russian history. His research focused on pre-Revolutionary agricultural reforms in early 20th-century Russia. He took an unusual path to the academy, having been a longshoreman and member of the British merchant marines before he met Phyllis Topkins, a native of Brooklyn, New York, while she was vacationing in England. Soon after meeting Phyllis, David left England for the United States, married Phyllis, and began his education at Brooklyn College. He earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, after which he decided to pursue a PhD at Columbia University under noted historian of Russia Leo Haimson. While at Columbia David learned Russian, which was essential to his research. He often commented on how learning to speak a foreign language later in life, without the opportunity to do so in an intensive environment, was excruciatingly difficult. Little did he know that his experience learning Russian would have a huge impact on his career more than decade after receiving tenure and an even greater impact on the College.

     David brought his merchant marine past to the history department and the College in 1978. His persona, shall we say, clashed strongly with the majority of his department’s tenured colleagues at the time: he was a left-leaning, underdog sympathizer, always dressed in a tan-brown corduroy sports jacket, plaid flannel shirt, and pointy leather boots. I don’t believe he ever wore at tie, a pair of khakis, or loafers. His strength as a teacher, unlike the senior colleagues in the department, was in small discussion sections and small seminars, not in large lecture courses. He was president for several years of the College’s chapter of the AAUP, the national organization founded in 1915 to protect academic freedom and professors’ rights, and usually—and I say usually—represents a thorn in the side of college administrators.

     Two of David’s tenured colleagues in the history department at the time of his tenure review were serving, or had served, as dean and a third was completing his term as vice president for academic affairs. Chatter surrounds a good number of tenure reviews, especially right before the decision, and in David’s case, there was wide speculation that he would not be supported by his department on account of style more than substance. But his department did indeed support him. One can only conclude that the tenured members of his department and the Committee on Reappointment saw the value of what he brought not only to the department but to the institution as a whole. And we are most fortunate.

     Ironically, though David’s contributions to the Soviet Studies (and then Russian Studies) program and to the history department were great, it was his expansive vision for our Schools Abroad that has had the most profound effect on the College’s present and future, including highlighting the complementarity and strategic match between Middlebury and its future acquisition, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

     David was the architect of today’s Middlebury-C.V. Starr Schools Abroad. He served as our director of off-campus study from 1995 to 2006 and was responsible for transforming our Schools Abroad from five programs all in Europe to 31 sites by 2007, with programs for the first time in South America, Asia, and Egypt by the time he left his position. He saw so clearly how our students needed to learn about and indeed experience more than a European perspective on the world and on American culture. His own expertise in Russian history taught him of the great role Asia played in Russia’s development, and he envisioned the rise of Asia again to become central to Western culture, politics, and economics. He had voiced great support for our students when they petitioned the College to begin to teach Portuguese, because, they argued, to be a Latin- American specialist, one could no longer ignore Brazil and Portuguese. He responded by establishing partnerships with Brazilian universities, which became sites within our School in Latin America, and he similarly advocated for students seeking opportunities in the Middle East, India, and China. Few administrators took our students’ wishes as seriously as David did.

     David also saw the power of our summer Language Schools’ immersion approach to learning and the rigor with which the Language Schools so successfully introduced our students to new cultures and ideas. He believed strongly that the same approach could and should be championed—indeed required—at our Schools Abroad, even at sites at which our students were learning so-called less commonly taught languages. And in response to the fear that our students might not be able to learn as much at the new sites beyond Europe, David was adamant that we would not sacrifice the academic rigor that was the sine qua non of all of our programs. That is, rather than setting up the safer, more traditional, and less challenging island programs, with courses taught in English by American rather than local faculty, David pushed for programs in China, Japan, and Egypt that had our students studying in the host university’s classrooms alongside the host country’s students, living in dormitories with local students, observing the language pledge 24/7, and immersing themselves in their target languages and cultures.

     David oversaw not only the expansion of sites, but also the emphasis on small, provincial university towns rather than the large metropolitan centers most typical of study abroad programs, so as to minimize our students’ exposure to English while abroad. Beginning in 1996–97, the College opened abroad sites in the following places (and I will not include the country so you see the full impact of this provincial strategy): Irkutsk, Yaroslavl, Getafe, Logroño, Córdoba, Ferrara, Poitiers, Bordeaux, Belo Horizonte, Niterói, Florianópolis, Hangzhou, Concepción, La Serena, Temuco, Valdivia, and Valparaíso.

     David’s approach to junior semester or year abroad is not common; in fact, it is unique. No other program in the U.S. requires its students to immerse themselves in the language and culture of their target country as our programs do. And neither is it an easy sell to 20-year olds or to their parents—at least at first. Both groups quickly grasp how difficult and isolating this kind of cultural immersion can be, especially in the developing world and coming from Middlebury’s protected environment. Most students face big challenges for at least the first two months of their time away, but in the end they excel linguistically, they mature in countless ways, and they become more worldly—better educated about both the culture in which they lived while abroad and about their own culture, seen through a new and more sophisticated lens. The proof of this approach is in the level of success our students achieve upon their return to Middlebury, as well as later in life. More proof is the growing demand for these Middlebury programs by the strongest students from the finest colleges and universities around the country. Approximately 300 non-Middlebury undergraduates now study at our programs abroad each year.

     Yet, in pursuing this model, David faced major opposition from a number of our faculty. In order to maximize the opportunities for our students at each of our sites abroad, David believed our programs would benefit greatly if we had nonrotating, permanent on-site directors who were experts in the host country and its language. These directors would be able to provide the kind of stability that comes from long-term personal relationships with our partner universities, their faculties, and the local community. The opposition from faculty colleagues, most of whom had been serving as one-year, rotating directors, was fully understood and intense. David, however, held firm in his vision because he argued that students would be the beneficiaries of this proposed change—and that, he stated often, is why we have these programs in the first place.

     David’s insistence on creating the most challenging environment for our programs abroad was rooted in his belief and confidence in our students. He often told me: “Our students are very smart. You don’t need to lead them by the nose. Just provide them with reasonable and clear expectations and let them fill in the gaps…figure things out…and in the end, ‘own’ their education.” This was a very powerful pedagogy—somewhat risky in today’s cultural context but an approach that has proven successful in preparing our students well for their post-college lives.

     For both me and the College, David represented the contrarian voice that is crucial to a dynamic institution, the colleague who seemingly didn’t fit in here, but actually did and made a huge contribution to its evolution. He was the teacher who never got the rave reviews as the most dynamic lecturer but was among the most effective colleagues to lead a classroom discussion, guide a senior thesis, and provide thoughtful academic advice to any student—the kind that took hours and a lot of face-to-face meeting time. And he was an administrator who implemented a controversial vision for one of this institution’s great distinguishing characteristics that was controversial—based on an unusual, deep confidence in, and commitment to, our students that we would be well served to consider more seriously today.

     Thank you, David.

Third: I would like to thank Dave Ginevan.

Dave just might be the most unlikely person to have a profound influence on a young academic administrator. At least at first blush. Dave was one of those individuals who was loved by those who knew him well and inscrutable to those who did not. And Dave liked it that way. He knew it was a major ingredient to his success as Middlebury’s treasurer and chief financial officer for 21 years.

     Dave would sit in meetings and speak the least of all the senior administrators, yet more often than not he would dictate the outcome of those meetings. He would rarely volunteer or state an opinion if asked, but instead remained silent or responded only by asking questions. Those questions, if you listened carefully, and had spent a few years working with him, would reveal all one needed to know to understand what would happen after the meeting. Such a style was effective, sometimes frustrating, and always enervating. Or, more accurately: sometimes enervating and always frustrating.  I would often find myself discovering things any dean or provost should probably have been alerted to sooner, and just about every one of these instances traced their roots to the financial offices.

     I learned early in my administrative career to ask questions I never would have thought to ask, thanks to Dave. In an accidental encounter with a midlevel manager in the budget office, I discovered there were a good number of gifts given to specific academic programs over the years that were never sent to the dean’s office or to the academic departments to which they were given. Following this discovery, and filled with youthful bluster and an academic’s righteous indignation, I stormed into Dave’s office. He was, as ever, calm as a cucumber despite my obvious agitation. I asked rather bluntly, “Dave, why didn’t I know, as dean, that there were a number of restricted gifts given to the College for use by academic departments?” In typical Dave fashion he turned from his computer, looked at me, and calmly responded, “You never asked.”

     David’s reticence was rooted in his strong belief that the more authority one had, the more caution one had to exercise in choosing one’s words. Such reluctance to speak could be incredibly frustrating, but it was also instructive for someone like me, who, by nature, would tend to offer more opinions than was warranted or wise. Dave gave me this advice on my very first day in the administration: “You no longer have the luxury of playing the role of faculty gadfly. From now on people will be listening to every word you say and hear it from their perspective only. That is, your faculty colleagues, students, fellow administrators, trustees, and parents will all hear the same words you say, but they will each hear them differently. The more you say publicly, the greater the chance you will be misunderstood by any number of groups, so choose your words carefully and also when to enter the fray.”

     But who was Dave Ginevan? Dave was a lifelong educator. He graduated college with a degree in education, and his first job was as a high school mathematics teacher in his native Western Pennsylvania. He moved from the classroom into higher ed administration, serving in the student affairs division of the University of Pittsburgh. While working at Pitt, Dave continued his studies, earning a master’s degree in education and an MBA and completing all the coursework for the PhD in organizational theory and administration. I am sure those who worked with Dave and didn’t know he studied organizational theory and administration are relieved to know there was indeed some method to the madness in how he got from point A to point B on most administrative issues.

     But Dave got his big break, and so did Middlebury, when Carroll Rikert, the College’s long-time and powerful treasurer, hired Dave in 1973 to be the budget director and assistant treasurer. It was during Dave’s ten-year apprenticeship under Carroll that Dave learned what it took for a small institution that had great aspirations, but was under resourced, to achieve its goals.

     From his first day on the job, Dave understood his role was to help advance the College’s mission, which was to provide the very best educational experience for our students—something he understood well. Emotional intelligence, long before it was identified and talked about in higher ed circles, was important to Dave, and he believed this aspect of a student’s Middlebury education was developed through collaborative work and encouraging students to become involved in activities that complemented their academic studies. Though he was an introvert, he understood that a student’s future success required one to know how to work in a group, think smartly on one’s feet, and develop the courage to take a stand.

     Several examples come to mind, and each shows Dave’s deep understanding of Middlebury and its students. When Dave arrived at Middlebury, the country was in the midst of its first energy crisis. Long gas lines and skyrocketing prices for heating oil created incredible stress on all colleges, and especially those in colder climates. Dave was instrumental in rejuvenating the College’s Energy Council from a relatively passive presidentially appointed committee into an influential policymaker on campus. Dave transformed the committee by, among other things, insisting on greater student membership and leadership on the committee. He saw the energy, passion, commitment, and intelligence of our students and insisted that the College take advantage of such valuable human capital.

     In the early 1990s, when a student who was working on an independent project visited Dave with a proposal to establish a student-run campus-wide recycling program, Dave asked for a copy of her paper. No such program like it was known to exist in the academy at the time. Two weeks later, Dave offered the student a postgraduate internship and his full support to begin the program on campus. His offer came after the student had visited no fewer than five other administrative offices, each one pointing her to the next office to seek support. All except Dave were unable or unwilling to see the long-term value of the proposal for the institution or for the student. That recycling program continues to thrive here on campus, housed in the recycling barn on the western edge of campus.

     A few years later, another student proposed a composting program for the College as a way to put to use the great amount of food waste on campus. Dave, along with colleagues in our dining services, provided the resources and support necessary to create that program and it, too, has grown and become a model for other colleges and universities.

     But Dave’s greatest legacy has probably gone unknown to most in the greater Middlebury community. Dave learned from his mentor Carroll Rikert that, for an institution with aspirations to greatness, but which lacked the resources of its more well-endowed peers, it was crucial to exercise great financial restraint and force a culture of parsimony. The stories of how Carroll and Dave kept spending to what was described as an absolute minimum, and allow only strategic investments, have now become legend. Many, I am sure, are true. Some, perhaps, are simply rural legend. One of my favorites is one I heard firsthand many times. I was told by Carroll and Dave’s former assistant, Jane Bingham, that all assistants on campus were reminded more than once a year that each sheet of carbon paper, for those who remember what that is, had to be used at least eight times before it could be thrown out.

     A more popular example I heard—but didn’t witness, as it happened before my arrival to campus—was the famous battle over acquiring a second photocopy machine in Starr Library. Apparently faculty had been requesting a second machine for years. Each request was denied. Ultimately frustrated, a senior faculty member stood up at a faculty meeting and asked Carroll directly: “We have requested a new photocopy machine in the library multiple times to no avail. Can you explain why, with such demand, this request has been denied?” To which Carroll supposedly stood and replied, without any emotion or sense of irony, “because too many people would use it.” And he proceeded to sit down. Such an approach and response to budget requests is sure to keep spending down.

     Since endowments are built through both fundraising success and investment performance, Dave and Carroll knew that the corpus of the endowment would grow faster by limiting the amount taken each year from it to use in support of the operating budget and by directing even the smallest unrestricted gifts to the endowment rather than using it as well for the operating budget. The upside of this strategy was that it accelerated the growth of the College’s endowment. The downside, however, was that it denied the annual operating budget of much needed funds.

     The impetus for funneling even the smallest of gifts into the endowment rather than spending it, as well as spending less from the endowment each year, is rooted in our history. The College fell behind its peers in the size of its endowment because of two factors: first, Middlebury admitted women early—in 1883—almost 90 years earlier than most of its New England peers. While women were far stronger students than the men, something well documented, they were not typically the bread winners of the family. This meant that half of the College’s graduates were unable to match the overall giving seen at peer institutions for almost a century, and the result was a smaller endowment than those at the all-male colleges. In addition, owing to the College’s mission from our early days, a greater proportion of our alumni than those at our peer institutions was predominantly teachers and preachers as opposed to financiers, doctors, and professionals. This demographic also reduced our fundraising capacity until the 1970s.

     Diverting so many gifts into the endowment then—even the small ones—and taking less from the endowment each year to support the operating budget minimized to some degree the difference in wealth and earning potential of our alums and helped to grow the endowment more impressively than otherwise would have been the case. The overall impact of pursuing what was a policy of forced savings and delayed gratification was great, and its impact is still felt today. Our $1.1 billion endowment today would likely be closer to $700 million had Carroll and Dave followed the standard approach to using expendable gifts and spending a full five percent from the endowment each year. This $400 million differential, using our current five-percent spend rate, translates into $20 million of support for our operating budget each year. That is, our $1.1 billion endowment today provides approximately $55 million of funding for our annual budget, or about 20 percent of the institution’s total expenditures. If our endowment were $700 million, the funds made available from the endowment to the operating budget would be $35 million, leaving us with a deficit of $20 million, or with at least $20 million less to do what we are now trying to do.

     Though there were short-term ramifications to Carroll and David’s fiscal philosophy, including suppressed salaries, limited financial aid, and an aging physical infrastructure, it cannot be emphasized enough how Dave’s management of the financial side of the College led to the remarkable growth the College has experienced during the past 20 to 25 years. The combination of tight control over expenditures, an endowment spend rate consistently less than five percent, and diverting more gifts to the endowment than was customary provided the current resource base for the College to improve compensation for faculty and staff; expand the size of the faculty; significantly strengthen our academic programs; modernize and expand the campus infrastructure; and increase access to a Middlebury education by more than doubling the percentage of students receiving financial aid today compared to Dave’s first year as treasurer.

     Thank you, Dave.

David Ginevan, David Macey, and Bob Churchill all came to the College in the 1970s. It was a very different institution then. The list of our peer schools—the schools that our applicants apply to most frequently—is also very different today. Our institutional wealth, still lagging behind the very best colleges, is far greater than it was. Our faculty is much larger and more professionally accomplished than in the 1970s, and the world outside of Middlebury has changed dramatically, making it possible to tie in professionally more easily with colleagues in distant places, yet also making it impossible to fall back on our isolated location to protect us from national and world events.

     Some of the many changes at the College since the 1970s are the result of the excellent work of staff, faculty, and administrators, as well as the generosity of our alumni and friends; some are the result of forces over which we have little to no control; while others are changes that have come as the result of our recent success and greater wealth but have also taken us away from some of the core principles that brought us institutional success in the first place.

     The financial discipline that Dave Ginevan insisted upon was crucial for the institution’s success, and the centralization of authority was essential for its execution, but these times demand a different approach to management and decision making. The highly centralized model of financial and administrative leadership succeeded in building the institution’s wealth, but it also left much of the staff’s middle management somewhat on the sidelines, unable to utilize its deep knowledge and untapped creativity to introduce new approaches that would best suit their staff and the institution.

     The board of trustees’ new governance structure, which took more than a year to design and another year to implement, represents the first step in what could be the successor to the old centralized approach to managing the institution. Faculty have followed the board’s lead in rethinking its governance structures and is in the middle of implementing new committees and procedures that align with the board’s new structure. These changes will bring greater participation than ever by the faculty in the longterm strategy-setting for the College. Our Monterey colleagues, too, are beginning to engage the issue of governance and its participation in institution-wide planning. And our students are close behind, asking appropriate questions about their voice in what is also their institution’s governance. Should students sit with our Educational Affairs Committee? The Space Committee? Should they be involved more visibly in nonacademic initiatives beyond the social issues Community Council addresses? Will they be empowered enough to propose the next recycling or composting program for the institution and then be supported? In general, how does the institution more systematically encourage students to exercise their creativity and benefit from this relatively untapped source of creativity and boundless energy, as Dave Ginevan recognized decades ago?

     While the highly centralized model of management worked well for decades due to the loyalty and hard work of many staff members, it is today something that will threaten the sense of common purpose within the staff—something that a dynamic institution, eager to innovate and evolve, needs to succeed. The College must develop a more inclusive and participatory model of management, which means granting greater authority to our midlevel managers. These managers need to be supported and challenged to work more closely with the staffs they supervise and be freer to propose and implement fair and transparent processes and policies that make the most sense for their respective departments.

     We have begun to lay the foundation for such a change to take place. Our colleagues in Human Resources and the Office of Organizational Development have for several years offered workshops and management training programs that are designed to give managers the tools to act more independently and confidently to achieve their departments’, and the institution’s, goals.

     We also need to reexamine our institutional expectations for our faculty, lest we lose the most important facet of what has made the College one of the very best liberal arts colleges in the country: our exceptional focus on students and undergraduate teaching.

     The central question for the past 20 to 25 years, not only at Middlebury but at other residential liberal arts colleges as well, has been ‘What is the appropriate balance between a faculty member’s commitment to teaching and to his or her scholarly and creative work?’ When David Macey and Bob Churchill arrived on campus, and for some time after, the teaching load was 3-1-3 with winter term off one out of every four years. Three discussion sections per week could reduce the number of course preparations by one, and only one each year. In addition, sabbatical leaves were not automatic but competitive, were available after seven years of full time teaching rather than five, and were limited in number each year. And the College covered 5/9ths of one’s salary during a leave year rather than the current 80 percent.

     I am not suggesting that we return to our old leave program, because we know that more active scholars are better teachers. Nor do I suggest we return to those teaching loads. I believe strongly that our faculty remains fully dedicated to undergraduate education and delivers magnificently in the classroom. But what has changed over the past twenty years is the kind of attention we give our students. Whereas David Macey and Bob Churchill amended their teaching and professional-development trajectory to address what they perceived as our students’ and the institution’s greatest mid- to long-term needs, we need to ask whether we, today, are thinking more about our mid- to long-term needs than our students’ needs. Are we offering too many specialized courses in areas of our current research and interest rather than creating new introductory or mid-level courses that are more appropriate for undergraduates, or perhaps devoting more of our time to guide senior work? How would we as a faculty engage this issue to begin with so we might align our collective teaching resources with present and future student needs?

     These questions are not meant to suggest that we should abandon our ambitious scholarly pursuits. Rather I am suggesting that if the undergraduate college is to remain in the forefront of liberal arts education, and is to remain a destination for the most talented students seeking the best education, we would be well served to step back and remind ourselves of our history, even our recent three- or four-decade history. We need to recall what it was that enabled us to become among the very best liberal arts colleges in the country, able to attract an incredibly talented student body to teach and engage and share all that we find fascinating and worthy of our scholarly and creative endeavors. For many of us who have been around for at least those three or four decades, it was, in large part, our clear focus on students and a particular attention to their needs. To drift away too far from that focus is likely to beg the question of why 600 talented students each year would choose Middlebury over any number of other colleges
and universities.

     I have great confidence that Middlebury will adapt successfully to address these challenges. It will, I am sure, develop effective management principles and find ways to refocus its energies on our students and their needs first largely because Middlebury has, over its 215 years, done what it needs to do to survive, innovate, and flourish. Our staff remains incredibly hard working and loyal, and our faculty has not lost any of its love of teaching and dedication to students. But we need to ask some fundamental questions and challenge ourselves to avoid falling into a deadening comfort zone created by decades of hard work and increased institutional wealth.

     I know there are numerous Bob Churchills and David Maceys on the faculty right now, and probably several Dave Ginevans on our staff, working beneath the radar to ensure that the undergraduate education we provide our students will continue to be responsive, innovative, and global in outlook—key ingredients to a liberal arts education for the 21st century.

 

And now there are two more people I want to thank today: my long-time colleagues Michael Kraus and Allison Stanger, both in the department of political science. I want to thank them for a very special reason, for something that turned out to be so relevant to Middlebury, but really has nothing to do with Middlebury. Michael and Allison introduced me to Jessica, my soulmate and the love of my life.

     Jessica came to Middlebury for our first encounter in September of 2002, when Allison Stanger, then directing the Rohatyn Center, invited Jessica to give a talk. Allison and Jessica were graduate students together at Harvard and also spent a year together at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Over the years, Allison told me about a Jessica Korn on more than one occasion, suggesting we might make a good pair, and so the 2002 invite and visit was a long time
in the making.

     Jessica’s talk was great, and the dinner at Michael and Allison’s house afterwards was a success: I was determined to see Jessica again, and the opportunity came soon after. I was heading to New York for a conference at the Mellon Foundation and, because Jessica was heading to Yale to give a talk that same day, we decided to meet at the clock in Grand Central Station. We met and walked over to Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, on the balcony in Grand Central, before she boarded her train to New Haven. We had a wonderful, if brief, rendezvous, and I left knowing this was going to be something special. Five months later we were engaged, and less than four months after that we were married.

     When I began my term as president the following July 1, it is fair to say that Jessica seemed somewhat clueless in her role as president’s spouse at Middlebury. Things I saw at the College to be black, she saw as white. There was less grey than I had hoped there might be in our conversations about work. My twenty years of experience at the College, I thought, allowed me to see things far more clearly than a newcomer—someone who had never experienced a residential liberal arts college set in a rural area before coming to Middlebury. We debated and argued, quite vociferously at times, on a number of issues. I should note that for New York Jews, this kind of edgy back and forth means true love. I was sure I understood all these issues fully and thought Jessica’s take on them was somewhat off the wall. At least initially.

     Eventually—and, in truth, earlier than I had led on—I came to see that my perspective as an insider of twenty years, while steeped in history and knowledge of the institution, was flawed or at least skewed. I realized that I was part of the Middlebury wallpaper for two decades. Jessica had nothing invested in calling things as she saw them and, quite rightly, as they were—even things I had been responsible for helping to create or having supported as a faculty member, dean, or provost.

     At first this was very uncomfortable, but soon the regular banter back and forth became an extremely valuable part of our work together, and helped to shape a most wonderful partnership in work to match our partnership in life. I learned from our intense discussions, and so did Jessica. Thanks to our numerous conversations over lunch with students, lunches with new faculty, endowed lectures, and special dinners with faculty and staff—and through learning from the students, faculty, and staff who presented to trustee spouses and partners as part of the South Street Seminar series she hosted, Jessica developed a deep understanding of Middlebury’s excellence, as well as its challenges. Her views of Middlebury most definitely evolved over the past 11 years, some more slowly than others: for example, it took about five years for Jessica to recognize that Middlebury might indeed be a better place for undergraduate education than her dearest Yale, where her alumni loyalties run so deep.

     As many of you know, several initiatives of the past decade here at Middlebury have quite a sprinkle of Jessica’s fingerprints on them. What might not be as obvious is that Middlebury’s energetic celebration of the core values of a liberal arts education is sprinkled with those fingerprints as well. All of us old-timers can come to appreciate that outsiders, like Jessica, can and obviously do contribute to an institution with new ideas. They can, and obviously do, help an institution refocus on its core values, too.

     And so now, 11 years later, with pride in the work we have done together here, and with admiration for the excellence we believe lies at Middlebury’s heart, Jessica and I look forward with great expectation and anticipation to the next chapter in our lives. It will be with our three beloved children—Heshie, Shoshana, and Ezra—helping to lead the way to communities we will join and be enriched by in new ways. And it will be a deep knowledge and experience of each other’s sense of meaning and adventure that will guide our choice of jobs and work together.

     For the opportunity to say goodbye in this way, for having had the chance to grow and work and learn together here every day, we will always feel gratitude to all that is Middlebury.

Thank you, Middlebury. And farewell.

Office of the President

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