I was back in Philadelphia last weekend at an event at the University of Pennsylvania. While walking from the University City train stop to the Inn at Penn, I passed a Swarthmore professor on the street heading in the other direction. She was someone I knew from my days at the College, although not well enough to recall her name right then and there. In any event, we both stopped to say hello and she asked me how my new job was going. “It’s been a ten years,” I noted, ”so not so new, but things are going very well. And we love Atlanta. It’s home.”
As I approach the tenth year anniversary of my decision to leave Swarthmore and the Northeast, my primary emotion is thankfulness. Thankful I was able to return to my alma mater to work for fifteen years and to build so many wonderful friendships there. Thankful to President Bloom for encouraging me to consider doing something beyond Swarthmore. Thankful to my wife Betty for making the move to Atlanta so graciously. And thankful to the community that is Oglethorpe for first accepting me to lead their institution and, more especially, for being my partner in building Oglethorpe into a stronger and more vibrant institution. Today is the start of our Scholarship Weekend at Oglethorpe, where we invite the most qualified prospective students and their families to spend a couple days getting to know us. I’ll have the chance in just an hour to welcome almost 800 guests to our campus. And after that, three straight hours of receptions designed for me to meet and talk to as many parents and students as I can.
I remember my interview with the search committee almost exactly ten years ago this month. Fresh off my dissertation that explored, among other things, the length of tenure of college presidencies, I told the committee that if I didn’t make it ten years, I thought we would likely both consider my hire a failure. It would take that long, I thought, to make the kind of changes and the progress that would last.
Well, it’s a decade later now and I am incredibly thankful for both the opportunity to have served this extraordinary institution and for the chance to continue to work with others to make us even better.