We had a reception at work today honoring our college president. He recently decided to leave the school, hopefully on his way to better, even more rewarding ventures. It was a lovely reception, with a lot of visitors from on campus and off. It reminded me of when he first came to the college, 8 years ago. We had a similar reception, although it had a different feel to it then. It wasn’t as bittersweet as it was today.
The work of a college president is, in all effects, a tightrope walk. Like any position of high authority there are politics involved. At a college, those politics are played out not simply on campus, but also within the community the college serves. The business of education is complicated and intense. It seems so simple on the surface; students enroll in school and faculty teach them what they need to know. But what do they need to know? And how much of it is necessary? Everyone has an opinion, and that’s when it gets tricky. Depending on the community, the what and how can fluctuate. Part of the duties of a college president is to work with the community to find out those needs and how the college can work on programming and funding to supply it. It was my opinion (shared by many) that our president did that well. But I’m biased.
See, I was fortunate enough to get to know him a little bit outside of his job title. I was part of the welcoming committee when he was first hired and from the beginning had an easy rapport with him. I found him to be approachable and welcoming as a person. He was the type who would walk through the halls and wave hello. Or stop by someone’s office and sit and chat for a while. More than once, he had sent me a quick note congratulating me on a job well done in a meeting or on a task. And he made it clear that if anyone had a concern or idea, his door was open. So once, I even met with him for career advice. I’m going to miss seeing him on campus. It felt like saying goodbye to a friend today. But I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work for someone so giving. I hope he left knowing that he will be missed.