The Colgate Scene
Anything but an interim year
|by James Leach|
[Photo by John D. Hubbard]
The call to serve as Colgate's interim president came unexpectedly with the resignation of Charles Karelis in summer 2001, but Jane Pinchin responded swiftly and purposefully.
During her first week in office, Pinchin convened a retreat of the president's executive staff -- administrative leaders with whom she had worked over her previous seven years as provost and dean of the faculty. Her charge to the group was to put in place programs that would energize the campus for the students' return in the fall. Promises wouldn't do; Pinchin wanted "deliverables," and the college responded.
The COVE (Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education) was one manifestation. Headed by Adam Weinberg, associate professor of sociology, and Marnie Terhune, coordinator of community outreach, and staffed at the outset by Betsy Levine '01, the COVE provided a home (in East Hall) and a focus for student volunteerism and service learning. From its opening at the beginning of fall semester, the COVE involved more than 500 students in efforts that reach out to the community.
At an on-campus summer summit with Pinchin and her staff, student leaders confirmed their interest in other changes: extended hours in dining halls, libraries, the computer center and gym; more opportunities to break bread with faculty, or to travel with faculty to sites away from campus; more speakers and films; more and different campus-wide social opportunities; improved and extended recreational facilities.
All were put in place, and a printed broadside and a new web page advertising the elements of a "Vibrant Fall" awaited students' arrival in August.
Suddenly came the terror of September 11. Pinchin coordinated a campus response that embraced students, her colleagues, alumni and all their families. At the first campus meeting, on the Quad, Pinchin concluded her remarks, stepped down from the podium on the Chapel steps, and wrapped her arms around students bereft from shock and grief. Over the next few days she was ever present at seminars and religious services and memorials. Reporting the campus response in a letter to the larger Colgate community, Pinchin concluded: "Please know that as we move ahead in an uncertain world, all of you who are members of this extended Colgate community are in our thoughts."
Bedbugs seem a minor distraction in comparison to unprecedented global events -- unless you happen to be one of several students living in an infested college apartment building. And the fact that Pinchin spent hours as part of the team that found a solution to that problem is evidence of the issues, large and small, that find their way to the president's office.
Interim President Jane Pinchin comforts a couple at the all-campus gathering on September 12. Pinchin coordinated a campus response to the events of September 11 that embraced the entire Colgate community. [Photo by John D. Hubbard]
For students of color, the issues were both personal and institutional, and
they came to a head one November day during a sit-in in the lobby of James B.
Colgate Hall. Pinchin, members of her staff and trustees who happened to be on
campus for meetings of a culture task force spent more than seven hours with
the students, pressing out their concerns and resolving to work for
improvements that would benefit the entire community. One immediate result: a
collection of events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day that attracted
participation from across campus. It was the beginning of events characterized
as a "Spectacular Spring." It was a semester that for Pinchin was marked by
travel to Florida and to London visiting alumni in what turned out to be the
most generous non-campaign year in Colgate's history, and by the opening of the
Palace Theater, a dance club in the village that students are very excited to
see -- part of an enlarged commitment to the vitality of Hamilton that is
visible everywhere this year. Spring ended with the plans for a renovated
cutting-edge Case Library.|
A president's responsibilities are never-ending, all-consuming. Her constituents are 2,800 students and their parents, 31,000 alumni, 300 faculty and 500 staff, prospective students, residents of the region. Hers is the voice of the institution, whether raising money, recruiting students, adjudicating disputes, ensuring diversity, encouraging athletes, or, well, explaining bedbugs.
As the academic year wound down, the Colgate community found ways -- at the annual meeting of the Presidents' Club, the Awards Convocation, at Commencement, at Reunion -- to register its assessment of its interim president. On those occasions and others, the affection and appreciation were palpable, and the words that were used most often to describe the way Pinchin gave herself to that all-consuming job during a year that was like no other were "gracious," "tireless," "imaginative," "thoughtful," "consistent," "humane." "Leader."
A resolution from the Board of Trustees in appreciation of Jane Pinchin's contributions may have said it best: "Hers is the spirit that is Colgate."
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