Leaders in the Crucible: The Moral Voice of College Presidents

Leaders in the Crucible: The Moral Voice of College Presidents

Leaders in the Crucible: The Moral Voice of College Presidents

Leaders in the Crucible: The Moral Voice of College Presidents

Synopsis

Is the college presidency merely a position in which one manages bureaucracies, garners wealth, and mediates ideological battles? On the contrary, the author argues that the moral leadership of college presidents is a tradition that the academy must sustain, and he details what can and ought to be expected of the office in the future.

Excerpt

In 1978 I joined to Dartmouth College as a member of their administration. Though I did not realize it then, this was the beginning of a journey of interest in the college presidency.

The inspiration for my interest was Dartmouth's president, John G. Kemeny. When I arrived on campus, Kemeny had been president for eight years. He was to serve another three, leaving the presidency in 1981, a year longer than the ten years he had from the outset claimed would be the duration of his tenure. What Kemeny had planned, and was successful in doing after departing the presidency until his untimely death in 1992, was to return to the faculty as simply a professor of math. He had taught two courses every year during his presidency. But he yearned once again to focus his intellectual gifts and energies on the teaching of undergraduates and to catch up on more than ten years of scholarship in his field.

Kemeny's interests were broad and his abilities extraordinary. He was an esteemed mathematician, a genius in the minds of many. As a young graduate student he was involved in the Manhattan Project. As a professor and later as president, Kemeny led the nation in introducing computers to college campuses, and he was continually eager to learn how these new tools could and should be used. He argued strenuously for better preparation of students planning careers as elementary and secondary mathematics teachers. in addition to all these and many other traits, Kemeny was a consummate and wise educator and philosopher with a wide range of ideas about education, public policy, public decision making, and democracy.

But most profoundly, Kemeny was a superb leader. During his presidency . . .

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