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Reflections

Stepping Down
President Tipson reflects on Wittenberg as he prepares to take helm at Washington College

At the end of this academic year I will be leaving Wittenberg to become the 26th president of Washington College, a selective liberal arts college on the eastern shore of Maryland. It will not be easy to leave. Sarah and I love Wittenberg; we have made many friends here at the university and in the community; and there are certainly plenty of challenges remaining both on campus and in Springfield for the president of Wittenberg to face.

So why would we choose to leave now? The reasons are both professional and personal. The personal reasons will come as no surprise to those who know us well. Our families, especially our parents, live on the East Coast, and we have found it more and more difficult to be separated by so many miles. I have thought of picking Wittenberg up and moving it about 500 miles east, but even if I had the power to do that, the Wittenberg community would never be willing to leave Springfield. Washington College offered me the chance to do what I love to do — spend all my energy sustaining and improving the best possible education for young men and women — in a location much closer to our families. And so I look forward with great enthusiasm to this new challenge, even as I face the prospect of saying goodbye to people here who have meant a great deal much to us.

From the moment I arrived on campus, members of the faculty and staff not only extended a warm welcome but were also consistent in their support for me as I strove to articulate and bring into being the enormous expectations this community has for itself. I have enjoyed consistent support from an outstanding board of directors. Alumni and friends have listened patiently to my requests and responded with great generosity. Our students — the reason we devote our professional lives to this work — have been a source of great admiration and pleasure to both Sarah and me. In the classroom, in the theatre, on the playing field, in countless informal contacts, they represent the best of Wittenberg.

What about the professional reasons? By this June I will have served here nine years, more than the national average tenure of a college president. During these nine years I have made my best effort to apply my particular blend of experience and talent to the task of making Wittenberg an even stronger institution: stronger academically, stronger financially, an even better citizen in this community. I believe the university is stronger than it was when I arrived in 1995, and that the groundwork is laid for its continued improvement. A new president, with a different blend of experience and talent, can foster that improvement. The heart of Wittenberg, its faculty, staff, alumni, students, and friends, deserves nothing less.

Just as Wittenberg is poised to profit from new leadership, I, too, am ready for one more challenge. I believe strongly in the value of broad, general education in the liberal arts; Washington College has been educating undergraduate students in the liberal arts for more than 200 years. President John Toll, who retires at the end of this academic year, has helped the college take tremendous strides in the past 10 years, and I intend to build on the foundation he has helped put in place. The college competes in the Centennial Athletic Conference, a group of institutions (e.g. Franklin and Marshall, Johns Hopkins, Haverford, Gettysburg, Dickinson, Swarthmore) comparable in academic quality and athletic ability to those in the North Coast Athletic Conference. I intend to bring my experience in the academic arena, in external relations, in managing a complex educational institution, and, yes, in fund-raising, to establish Washington College’s place even more firmly in that group of schools.

I have gained enormous benefit not only from the chance to preside over this university but also from the opportunity to become involved in this community. Sarah and I will be saying lots of goodbyes over the next few months, but I would like to express my thanks now to my colleagues in the Community Leadership Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Springfield Symphony, the Business Advisory Council to the Springfield City Schools, Aid for College Opportunities, the United Way, the Rotary Club, the Southwestern Ohio Council on Higher Education, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio. Some of the most difficult goodbyes will be to the members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, who have welcomed me so unreservedly to their congregation and choir. Springfield is a community whose strength comes from its concerned citizens, and I have had the chance to experience firsthand what makes this community succeed.

We’re not leaving just yet; I intend to preside over Commencement on May 15 and will officially remain president until June 30. During these final months I’m going to give all my energy to Wittenberg, and in particular to helping it prepare for this presidential transition. Even as we prepare for a new challenge, Sarah and I know we will be leaving a great university and a wonderful community.

— Baird Tipson headline



Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112


In This Issue Around Myers Hollow
Education
Witt World
Tiger Sports
Alumni World
Class Notes
Reflections
Last Word