Jonathan Lash Announces Retirement in 2018
To the Hampshire Community,
I'm writing to share with you the news that I have decided to retire as Hampshire's president in June 2018, which will mark the end of my seventh year in office. I informed our Board of Trustees about my plans this morning.
This is a bittersweet decision for me. I believe profoundly in the importance of Hampshire and the originality of this learning community. It spoke to me from the moment I first met the students on the search committee who interviewed me—they put me on the spot, again and again, with their thoughtful questions and the way they challenged my answers. Who has students like these? I was inspired, and felt if I could help them I should. Our singular approach to education, our humane mission, the extraordinary people who care so deeply about Hampshire and work so hard in its behalf—these have continued to inspire me every day since then.
But this has also been a time of reflection for my family and me. As you know, I fell seriously ill last winter. And as much as recovery felt like a wonderful gift, it also reminded me of the preciousness of life. There is so much that Ellie and I want to do, and we can do that only while we are healthy and able. I discussed these feelings with the chair of Hampshire's Board of Trustees, Gaye Hill, beginning last summer. Since then, reflection has given way to resolution. I look back confident that I made progress against the goals I set for myself when I arrived here in 2011, and I look forward assured that the timing is right for new leadership to move Hampshire College into the next generation.
The trustees and I are in complete agreement that continuity of leadership is the key to keeping the College moving forward through a presidential transition. This is our top priority. The trustees are committed to an inclusive, active, and expeditious search for a new president, and I am committed to being fully engaged as Hampshire's leader until a new president is in office. As we move through this process together, I ask for all of your support.
I hope that you share my belief that together we have made significant strides in strengthening Hampshire over the past six years. We have enabled wider access to a Hampshire education to those who will thrive here by increasing financial aid. We have revitalized learner-centered pedagogy, giving fearless scholars new platforms to ignore boundaries by endowing faculty positions and creating innovative programs. We have refined a sense of place and purpose by making significant improvements to labs, classrooms, performance spaces, residence halls, and common areas. We have enriched Hampshire as a community of inquiry by increasing the diversity of our student body, faculty, and Board of Trustees. We constructed a major new building, the R.W. Kern Center, creating not just a new center of gravity on campus but also a remarkable living laboratory whose environmentally sustainable systems have fueled student research and tutorials. We have furthered our commitment to the health of the planet (and our bottom line) by committing to going completely solar and reframing how we source and manage food on campus. We have reoriented admissions efforts to align with our mission, focusing on attracting the students who will thrive at Hampshire. We have differentiated the College in the higher education marketplace by capturing the distinctive soul of the institution in communications work and projecting it to the right constituents. And we accomplished all this, in large part, through the generosity of our alums, parents, and friends, whose philanthropy has grown to record levels.
This feels like momentum to me, and I hope it does to you, too. Together we will build on it. I have never felt more confident or more excited by the possibilities that lie ahead for Hampshire.
I was humbled when I was offered the opportunity to join this special community. I still am. As I remarked at my inaugural, leadership is about service, and the meaning of life is about making a difference for good. I believe that, and I hope I have modeled those values as president. As an institution, Hampshire aspires to the same. Those have to be the highest aims for a school that cherishes the intersection of learning and life, and that sees art, culture, science, and justice not as alternatives but as interlinked parts of humanity. Today, as has been true for the last five decades, our progress rests within our people: outstanding staff, inspired faculty, remarkable alumni, intrepid students, and generous friends of the College.
I know that Gaye and the Board of Trustees are looking forward to reaching out to inform you of next steps, seek your insights, hear your concerns, and to rely on your valuable guidance.
Hampshire has taught me much, and will always be part of me. You have my deepest respect, appreciation, and thanks for the gift of being part of this incredible community.
LETTER FROM BOARD OF TRUSTEES CHAIR GAYE HILL
To Hampshire's Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Parents, and Friends,
You heard from Jonathan this morning about his plans to retire as Hampshire's president next year. I want to take this opportunity to communicate with you on behalf of the Board of Trustees.
The most important job of any governing board is to identify and select the right person to lead their institution. I want you to know that the highest priority, for me and for all the trustees, is to carry out a search for a new president that achieves both continuity and quality of leadership for this remarkable institution. I have to admit that today's announcement is especially poignant for me. My first assignment as a trustee joining the Board seven years ago was to lead the presidential search that resulted in welcoming Jonathan into our community. Looking back on that search process, and what we all have achieved at the College since then, gives me full confidence that we have another opportunity before us to open a new, exciting, and prosperous chapter for Hampshire.
Our process for finding a president must and will be steeped in Hampshire's values: our commitment to discovery through inquiry, to rigorous research, to airing and respecting differing viewpoints, to listening to each other. We will succeed by doing this work together, all of us, as a community. We have already begun laying out a plan on how to proceed. The Board will agree on a search process during our meeting this weekend, and over the next few weeks we will identify individuals from the Board of Trustees and the campus who will serve on and chair a search committee. In March the hard work of the search committee will begin. One of the first steps will be to ask you to share your thoughts about what Hampshire needs in a president to lead us from 2018 into the third decade of the 21st century. We will be as transparent about the search process as possible, recognizing that there are obvious issues of confidentiality for candidates, and we will communicate with you regularly and a lot. I look forward to having much more to share with you in the month ahead.
As he wrote in his letter, Jonathan will be fully engaged as president until the day that our new president is ready to begin. So now is not the time for a retrospective on Jonathan's tenure. There will be ample opportunity for that. But as someone whose Hampshire experience has paralleled Jonathan's, I know this: what inspired me seven years ago inspires me now more than ever. My fellow trustees and I believe in Jonathan's vision that this College, born of change and educating for change, must continue to be a leading voice for critical inquiry and analysis, creative vision and expression, academic innovation, and informed activism in support of meaningful change in our country and the world. I am so grateful for Jonathan's ability to listen, to question, to consider new perspectives, and to give all of us room to contribute, create, and make a difference—these are qualities we will seek in a new president as well.
The Board of Trustees and I are honored to be working with you and alongside you as we begin the process of a presidential transition. This is a most important time in the life of the College. Together let us embrace it and work to continue to move Hampshire forward.