By now, the announcement that I will retire as president of North Central College at the end of this year is “old news.” But I am still getting used to my new status (as a lame duck!). When alumni and others congratulate me, I am not quite sure what to say. My wife’s advice? “Just say thank you.”
There is a temptation to use this column to repeat those words thousands and thousands of times. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I could go on and on. I have the best job in the world, and a lot for which to be grateful.
When things go well—and I think for most of the past 21 years, they have gone very well at North Central College—presidents get far too much of the credit. It takes a village, which is why there are so many to thank. The best place to start is to repeat what I told the search consultants who are working with the outstanding group of trustee, alumni, faculty, staff, student and community representatives on the Presidential Search Committee.
What made North Central College—and Naperville—such an attractive destination for Benna and me when I interviewed for the presidency in the fall of 1990 is what should make this position equally attractive to a wide pool of candidates in 2012. North Central has always been a good school, grounded in values and a deep commitment to its students, high standards, the liberal arts and excellence in teaching, in a location superior to most of the nation’s great small colleges. My predecessor, Gael Swing, ran a tight fiscal ship, recruited capable colleagues and invested in a campus that was well-maintained. So the first big thank you goes to those who brought the institution to this point in its first 130 years!
Still, there were opportunities to be seized—to grow the College’s small endowment by tapping into a loyal base of alumni, trustees and friends; to take better advantage of its location in recruiting undergraduates and top-notch faculty; to utilize fundraising to build 21st century facilities for the campus and community.
The College’s next president will be confronted with a similar set of challenges and opportunities, inheriting a very good school with high standards; excellent students, faculty and staff; and a strong balance sheet; but also an institution whose endowment isn’t where it needs to be, where new facilities—notably in the sciences—must be funded and built, and where academic program initiatives to serve 21st century student needs must be developed. In short, the best job in the world.
A great college is not just a place, or a moment in time, but a process, a dialogue between all who preceded, and those yet to come. Two of the figures to whom I owe the most—as does North Central College—are the Rev. George St. Angelo and Life Trustee Al Benedetti, whose lives are remembered in this Now. In their
later years, I was privileged to know both of these men whose vision did so much to shape the College of today. As Benna told George the last time she saw him before his death: “It is impossible to imagine the North Central College of the 21st century—and us being here—without you.” Tolerance and civility, intellectual rigor, a commitment to social justice, generosity of spirit and openness to new ideas and to the lessons of the wider world—for that legacy and so much more, I thank you, George and Al, and all whose contributions over a century and a half are part of the DNA that continues to define the promise and unlimited potential of this special college as it moves forward into a new era.
Harold R. Wilde
North Central NOW Spring 2012