Campus Gathering in the R.W. Kern Center July 18, 2019
Today, members of Hampshire College's Presidential Search Committee introduced President-elect Ed Wingenbach to a campus gathering of staff, faculty, and students. Wingenbach was unanimously appointed this month by the Board of Trustees on the recommendation of the search committee. He greeted campus community members with these remarks.
Thank you all for coming, I guess the first thing I need to do, actually sort of a ritual shift from Ripon College, where I've been, to Hampshire, I need to loosen up my tie. I'll put this back on for the press, this is my outside clothing but...
I really want to thank everybody for the opportunity here. I'm extraordinarily excited by this in part because or mostly because — [cell phone rings in room] I won't ask everyone to silence their cell phones, this is not my seminar room.
I really believe that Hampshire College is the essential College in higher education. If Hampshire is not healthy, American higher education is not healthy. I believe that with all my heart and I have always believed that. This should be a quick anecdote about that, the depth of that: One of things I shared with the search committee was, I was asked when I got to Ripon College to talk about, what are places that you look at as models for higher ed. And I said, well it's easy, there's two places. There's Berea College because they devote all of their resources to making sure that they guarantee access to low-income students and make sure that they succeed. And there's Hampshire College because Hampshire exemplifies everything that a liberal arts education should be and has done and pioneered everything that all the rest of us are trying to do.
And so I always ask myself when I'm making decisions, does this make our college more like Berea or more like Hampshire? And if the answer is no to both of those, why are we doing it? And now I've got an opportunity to actually help one of those two exemplars of higher education reinvigorate itself. I am humbled by that opportunity and looking forward to working with all of you to make that successful.
I want to recognize right here early on and I will recognize it again when there are more people back on campus, the trauma of the last year, at least. It's clear that there's been a lot of conflict, it’s clear that there's been a lot of pain, some of it self-induced. Part of the task of the coming months and years is to process that trauma and turn it into action. No one's ever going to get over what has happened, no one's going to forget the losses that may persist to this community, but we need to use that as energy and fuel to become the next iteration of Hampshire as the leader of higher education.
And part of that process of healing isn't just acknowledging it, part of it will be, at least my hope is, that part of it will be widespread participation and engagement in a conversation about the future of Hampshire College. Hampshire is an experimenting college, Hampshire's job as an institution of higher education is to invent the future. We need to do that, we need to continue to do that, we need to do that again, and that involves dealing with conflicts about who we think we are and who we will be and working through those and reaching some kind of consensus about what our future looks like and then doing it and implementing it.
And so I'm going to be inviting people to participate in that conversation and I see most of my role or a big part of my role as president here as helping to structure that conversation in ways that are effective, in ways that make sure everybody can participate and be heard, and maybe not all get what you want in the end but be able to look at what we end up with and say, I can live with that, I'm willing to give that a try, I'm willing to go along with that because I think it's going to be effective.
I think a couple of things about what that vision needs to look like, these are broad strokes, but I think it needs to be, one, that is clearly about experimentation, that we need to think carefully about what it means to do curriculum by successive approximation. That is a wonderful way to think about what education does, and we need to embrace that, and it's hard, but if we can do that and keep that in mind in our conversations, we can make progress.
We need to continue thinking about, how do we connect what we do here inside and outside of the classroom, how do we connect that to changing the world in real ways? How do we connect education to activism? We have to do that. If we can answer those questions, we will get somewhere, we will make progress together.
I will be meeting with as many of you as I can when I get here in early August before everybody returns, but my expectation and my hope is that pretty early on, late August early September, I'm not even sure when actually everything starts, I've been here since seven o'clock last night, but whenever we get started and right before that, we're going to need to work inclusively but rapidly. So these conversations are going to be I think all-encompassing for several months. Because we need to figure out what direction we're going to go, both so we can talk to our accreditors but more importantly so we can talk to the community of people here and around the country that care deeply about Hampshire College as you do and as I do and whose support we will need to implement that vision.
And I am completely confident that we can do that alright, I'm confident that Hampshire can do that, that's why I'm here. I'm here because I believe in this place I'm here because I believe we can do this. I'm here because I think it is our obligation to do it for Hampshire for higher education generally and for all of the students who need a place like this and are ready to come here. I think that the work that we do, it has to be about what students want, what do students want , why are the students that are at Hampshire here? They're here in large part because they want to do something purposeful and meaningful and impactful with their lives, and they think that what they do here will be purposeful and meaningful and impactful, and it will allow them to go off into the world and live purposeful, meaningful impactful, lives.
And I'm going to bring it back to me for a second when I ask myself that question right what is the most purposeful meaningful impactful thing I can do with my life in my career right now and for the next decade or two? It’s reinvigorating Hampshire College. So that's why I'm here and I hope that all of you feel the same way about Hampshire College and about the work we're going to be doing together.
So I don't want to take up too much time there's a lot of ice cream back there so a couple of thanks then and then I'll be done and people have lots of time to ask me questions at different venues throughout the next month or so and for the next minutes or so before we done here. But I really want to thank the search committee they were really really good, really professional, like nobody should use a search committee if they've got people like this to search candidates for any job.
Thanks to the community that came out and participated in the interviews. That was part of something that was really impressive as a candidate was sitting in that room with people from all around the campus and knowing that they had gone through difficult hard conversations and some of which were very raw even in the room and yet seeing all of them devoted to and committed to making a good decision for the college. It was inspiring and a wonderful thing to see. Hopefully we can maintain that energy.
I need to thank the board for deciding to offer me the job, I just signed the contract about 45 minutes ago so it's now official. I moved a bunch of stuff into the house last night so I guess maybe that was the official ticket.
I need to thank even though they're not here Ripon College which has allowed me to practice experimenting with curriculum and practice helping lead a democratic community and the faculty and the staff there who were willing to play in ways that they hadn't in the past and do interesting work that I think will then translate to what we're trying to do here at Hampshire.
And I need to thank everybody who loves Hampshire College, since many of them are going to be hearing from me soon asking to put their money where their mouth is.
And then of course the last people I need to thank are my family who are willing to uproot themselves and move across the country on literally one week’s notice. This interview was last week, I was offered this job on Friday and my daughter and son found out Saturday that we were moving to Massachusetts. So so my wife Susan Rice is right over here [applause]. My daughter Aletheia Riley is right there [applause]. And my son Thelan Riley who's running around making noises on his phone I'm sure, so, he's back there somewhere [applause].
Thank you all, I really appreciate it, I can't wait to get to work [applause]
KEN ROSENTHAL (steps to the mic)
It ain't over yet Mr. President, please step up here. The keys to your office [applause] Thank you everybody.