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Simon's Rock Grad Named School's New Provost

11:09AM / Wednesday, December 23, 2015
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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Ian Bickford, a 1995 graduate of Simon's Rock, has been named provost of the Bard College at Simon’s Rock: The Early College.

Bickford will begin his term in January, succeeding Peter Laipson as leader of the nation's only B.A.-granting residential college of the liberal arts and sciences designed for younger students, and the founding site of Bard College’s network of nationally influential public early-college programs.

At the end of this semester, Laipson will depart his administrative post as provost at Simon's Rock to become the Emily H. Fisher Research Fellow of Bard College, a position he will hold through June of 2017. He intends to pursue research in early-20th-century American history as well as in educational practice.

“I am honored and excited by this new opportunity,” Laipson said. “And having worked closely with Ian on Bard Academy, I am confident that Simon’s Rock will be in excellent hands going forward.”

Under Laipson’s leadership, Simon’s Rock has grown as an institution and as a home for educational innovation, most recently with the founding of Bard Academy at Simon’s Rock in 2015. This two-year high-school program, preparing 9th- and 10th-graders for early college entry, completes the arc from the beginning of high school to graduation from college and represents a new moment in Simon’s Rock’s tradition of educational innovation.

Bickford, who was selected by Bard’s president, Leon Botstein upon the recommendation of the school’s board of overseers to succeed Laipson, is well-qualified to strengthen Simon's Rock's growth and to build on the mission, campus, and community that make the school unique. A scholar of early modern literature, Bickford is one of three siblings who graduated from Simon’s Rock and went on to complete doctoral studies. He began his work with Bard in 2007 as a member of the faculty, first at Simon’s Rock, and then at the Bard High School Early College in Queens, New York. He has since participated in the founding of new Bard programs in Baltimore and Harlem. Bickford presently serves as the first Dean of Bard Academy as well as Dean of the Bard Early Colleges, providing academic support and guidance to Bard’s public early-college network.

“As we enter a period of invention and new directions, it is fitting that the next Provost of Simon’s Rock is the first alumnus of the college to serve in that role, as well as a leader in the national early-college movement,” said Stuart Breslow, chair of the board of overseers and parent of a Simon’s Rock graduate. “With Dr. Bickford’s experience, Simon’s Rock moves forward with a campus leader who has a deep connection with, and knowledge of, the college and who understands the importance of maintaining the core of the institution while also seeking to expand its mission.”

“I thank Peter Laipson for his invaluable service as provost during a time of steady progress at Simon’s Rock, and I look forward to being his colleague in his new role,” Botstein said. “I am thrilled that Ian Bickford has accepted the important assignment to lead his alma mater. He has shown extraordinary leadership abilities in his work at BHSEC Queens, throughout the BHSEC network, and in his role establishing the Bard Academy. I ask everyone in the Bard and Simon’s Rock community to extend to him a warm welcome.”

In 1979, Bard undertook the operation of Simon’s Rock Early College, founded in Great Barrington in 1966 by pioneering educator Elizabeth Blodgett Hall for students who expressed the interest and ability to start college in their junior year of high school. Today, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, whose faculty is rated seventh in the nation by the Princeton Review, offers associate and bachelor of arts degrees in more than 35 concentrations characterized by academic challenge, deep engagement with the liberal arts and sciences, and individually tailored courses of study.

Bickford said Simon’s Rock is approaching its 50th anniversary and has a great deal to celebrate.

“The education at Simon’s Rock is unparalleled in its excellence," he said. "This is something the community here has always been sure of. As we pivot to the next fifty years, I think we’ll find that the educational vision we have created and tended here has also taken root in the world beyond our campus. I could not be more pleased or proud to have a part in such an exciting new moment.”


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