The Colgate Scene
November 1998
Table of contents
Chenango farewell

President Neil Grabois will leave
Colgate at academic year's end

by James Leach
[IMAGE] At a breakfast meeting with the Board of Trustees on October 9, ten years to the day from his inauguration as Colgate's 13th president, Neil R. Grabois announced that he would be stepping down from his position at the end of the academic year.

     In a letter to the Colgate community Grabois wrote: "I confess that this has not been an easy decision. It has been a privilege for Miriam and me to be able to work with wonderful people -- faculty, staff, students, trustees and alumni -- in service to a very special institution."

     He added: "I look forward to continuing to work with you over the next nine months as the college solidifies its strengths, plans for the future, and selects a new leader. Now that I have made my decision, this will not be a time of sadness for me but rather an opportunity to give all that I have as this great institution conceives its future."

     Grabois said that he had no immediate plans for what he will do after he leaves the college June 30, 1999. He told the faculty that he began thinking about the decision last year as Campaign Colgate was drawing to an end. The five-year fundraising effort, which ended December 31, 1997, brought the college $158 million in gifts and pledges, $28 million above its goal.

     Since Everett Needham Case concluded his 20-year term as the college's president in 1962, Grabois noted, no succeeding president has served ("I don't want to say lasted," he said to faculty laughter) more than ten years. Grabois, who arrived on campus in July 1988, will have served the college for 11 years when he leaves next summer.

     Trustee Chairman Wm. Brian Little '64 wrote to the Colgate community October 12 to announce the president's decision and the board's plans to mount a search for his successor. "The members of the Board of Trustees and the entire Colgate community deeply appreciate the many contributions of Neil and Miriam Grabois to Colgate," Little said.

     "Neil has brought Colgate to new levels of stature among leading independent liberal arts colleges," the board chairman added. "His infectious enthusiasm for Colgate, and all that it stands for, has been a most positive force as the college has moved to new heights under his superb leadership."

     Since 1988 Colgate has been listed by USNews&World Report among the country's top 25 liberal arts colleges; the college will be featured in the new edition of Barron's Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges. Throughout Grabois' presidency the college has held a strong admission position, regularly attracting nearly 6,000 applicants or more for entering classes that number approximately 700 students.

     Early in Grabois' tenure, he and the Board of Trustees' Special Committee on Residential Life (SCRL) led the college through a searching review of life outside class that resulted in a newly defined relationship with fraternities and sororities, improved housing on campus, and increased extracurricular opportunities for students.

I always knew I wanted to conclude my tenure feeling good about my role and hoping that others would feel that way as well.      Over the past seven years Grabois has guided the college through the process of planning for and achieving Campaign Colgate, which added to the endowment, provided important new buildings, underwrote student scholarships and teaching resources, and financed academic initiatives. Eighty percent of the college's alumni and faculty contributed to the campaign.

     In the year prior to being named president, Grabois (then a Williams College faculty member) had chaired the visiting committee that reviewed the college's accreditation for the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools -- a process that occurs once each decade. In 1998 Middle States concluded its latest accreditation review, which was a glowing endorsement of Colgate.

     "I always knew I wanted to conclude my tenure feeling good about my role and hoping that others would feel that way as well," Grabois said.

     E. Garrett Bewkes, Jr., '48, who chaired the Board of Trustees and the trustee search committee that brought Grabois to campus, said: "Almost certainly the best decision made by the Board of Trustees and its faculty during my tenure as chairman was the selection of Neil Grabois as Colgate's 13th president. Neil and Miriam Grabois brought to Colgate from their background at Williams College an experience and dedication to the small, independent liberal arts college that enabled them to make a tremendous contribution to Colgate's growth and increased recognition as among the best of these smaller independent colleges. They will be missed, but their accomplishments will remain to support Colgate's continued success into the next century."

     Van P. Smith '50, who chaired the Board of Trustees from 1991 to 1996, said: "The great satisfaction is that we had the opportunity for Neil's leadership for a decade. He is bright, candid, open, trustworthy -- all of which combine to make him a unique and valuable asset to Colgate. The college's most significant advance relative to our contemporary institutions was made during his tenure."

     "I sense that in today's world being a college president is one of the most difficult jobs because of the necessity to please so many publics," Smith added. "Neil Grabois possesses those unusual talents of being equally at home in a very pleasant and personal way with all those various publics that demand service from a university president. We are indeed fortunate to have had his leadership."

     Little will chair a trustee committee charged with conducting the search for the college's 14th president. The other members of the search committee are: Bruce W. Calvert '68 (vice chairman); Richard C. Bain, Jr. '67; Gloria A. Borger '74; George A. Haggarty '63; Robert W. Jones '72; Donald P. Remey '64; Liza Gurall Snell '94; and Michael J. Wolk '60. The search committee will be advised by five members of the faculty and the presidents of the student Government Association and the Class of 1999. The firm of Heidrick & Struggles, which assisted the trustees in the search for Grabois and his predecessor, George D. Langdon, Jr., has been retained to aid in the process once again.

     Little invited anyone in the Colgate community who would like to nominate a candidate for the presidency to contact Gary Ross, secretary to the Board of Trustees, in care of the college.

     As the faculty awaited the results of a vote to elect advisors to the search committee, political science professor Joseph Wagner asked Grabois what attributes he thought would be important in a new president. Beyond intelligence and the qualities common to leaders in any field, Grabois said, the new president should be "someone the faculty can respect to articulate the values of the institution, someone with a sense of the college's capacity, who can recognize that different groups who care deeply about the college view it from different perspectives, and that the views articulated by members of those groups are always thought to be in the best interests of the college.

     "But mostly," he said, "the new president will need to be someone who can make difficult, uncomfortable decisions, weighing conflicting goods, and someone who understands and believes, to the depths of his or her marrow, in the significance of this college in educating the leaders of the next generation."

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