Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
With Al Bloom’s upcoming retirement, the Executive Search Committee was formed last semester to find the new head of our college. True to our Quaker roots, the committee is comprised of Board of Manager members, students, faculty and alumni.
The committee aims to act as a liaison between the Swarthmore community and the Board of Managers, who will choose the president based on the recommendations. According to Chair Tom Spock, the committee will hold meetings with different groups on campus as well as fire-side chats. The committee is also working in conjunction with Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a recruitment consultant firm, to find candidates. However, Swarthmore community members are encouraged to recommend candidates on the search committee’s new website.
The committee first met this summer at the end of July to begin the process that will result in a candidate recommendation to the Board of Managers by December, according to Spock.
One priority of the committee is to identify what it means to be a good president of Swarthmore. Even though the committee members agree that President Bloom set a good example, all were hesitant to pinpoint specific characteristics driving the committee’s decision in this early stage.
“The whole committee is going to be working towards a consensus, deciding the appropriate candidate but also what qualities we are looking for,” said Aaron Schwartz ’09. “We are all going to be evolving in our opinions in the process.”
Several committee members, however, stressed different qualities that they believe are important for the next president.
Professor Pieter Judson ’78 in the History department emphasized Swarthmore’s commitment to its values despite the economic downturn. “Money-wise, it’s going to be harder,” said Judson. “I don’t think people realize how much money we’re going to have to raise to stay where we are. Our endowment isn’t enough.”
Judson emphasized that expanding the need-blind admissions is vital. “The most important thing that we do ever is need-blind admissions. We have to not only maintain need-blind admissions, everyone is committed to doing it, we have to work hard on expanding aid, we can draw more and more diverse groups,” he said.
Alan Symonette ’76 also worries it will be financially harder for Swarthmore to maintain its level of commitment to need-blind admissions. “Swarthmore is getting expensive. We need to find ways that individuals who are not able to meet tuition can still come.
“My feeling has always been that Board of Managers is very much committed to need-blind. But I think that commitment will be more difficult.”
Similarly, alum Gil Kemp, who served on the Board of Managers, the Alumni Council and was head of the Annual Fund, said that fundraising “is an inevitable part of life,” for a president.
However, most of the committee members agreed that a candidate’s values would be more important than specific agendas.
The candidate’s attitude towards Swarthmore is key for Kemp, who has been a generous donor to Swarthmore: his donations include the most recent dorm, David Kemp. “I would say [we need] somebody who has an appreciation for what makes Swarthmore special. I think Al Bloom expresses it well – a combination of intellectual rigor, ethical intelligence and the desire to make a positive difference in the world.”
Similarly, Judson said, “At this stage of process, I am more interested in personal qualities of a new president than the specific priorities, because I trust that a person with the right personal qualities will develop priorities with the college.”