One of my favorite parts of ACE’s Annual Meeting is the opportunity I get to connect with presidents and chancellors on an individual level. I think of each generation of faculty, students, and institutional leaders as a link in a very long chain that spans decade and sometimes centuries, bound together by the enduring values of the academy. As I reconnected with old friends and met new ones at our very successful Annual Meeting in San Diego this year, I was reminded of a truth we sometimes forget: A college or university presidency is a cycle. Like everything else, it has a beginning, a middle, and a finish, with transitions throughout. This special issue focuses on all three phases of the presidency, each with the pragmatic perspective of a president.
The Beginning: A. Gabriel Esteban, in his first presidency at Seton Hall University (NJ), is also the institution’s first lay president in a generation, and follows in the footsteps of Monsignor Robert Sheeran, a beloved and longtime leader there. In his article, President Esteban shares four principles that are successfully helping him both uphold traditions and break new ground.
The Middle: R. Barbara Gitenstein, who has guided The College of New Jersey with a sure and expert hand since 1999, and who recently renewed her commitment for another five years of leadership, rightfully points out the fact that the presidential agenda one starts out with is not the same agenda one ends up with. President Gitenstein’s article reflects on the dynamics that have challenged her to pivot her leadership, and on three key lessons she has learned from those experiences.
The Finish: Ronald A. Crutcher, who is stepping down from the presidency at Wheaton College (MA) after a decade of sterling leadership, has only lately had time to reflect on his accomplishments. History, of course, has the final word in assessing which of one’s achievements will percolate to the top of an institution’s memory, but as President Crutcher looks both back and into the future, he passes along five principles that have helped him maximize his effectiveness.
We also have a fascinating feature on the changing context of presidential searches, eight valuable leadership insights from Adelphi University (NY) President Robert A. Scott, and a top 10 list of practical tips from M. Fredric Volkmann and Lisa M. Powers—respectively The Pennsylvania State University’s interim vice president for strategic communications and its chief news and media relations officer—about how to successfully communicate a leadership change.
By the time we reconvene in the nation’s capital for our 97th Annual Meeting next March, some of our longtime colleagues and peers will have stepped down from the urgent daily demands of the presidency to refocus on scholarship or teaching. Other veteran leaders will have taken on new leadership roles in different locations. And I’ll also have the chance to congratulate a cohort of newly minted presidents as they both learn from their peers and share their own fresh perspectives.
Wherever you are in your own cycle of accomplishment and leadership next year, I look forward to seeing you in Washington on March 14–17.
Molly Corbett Broad
American Council on Education