MCLA Selects U. Wisconsin Provost as 12th President
|The MCLA board of trustees on Thursday voted unanimously to offer the post of president to Greg Summers, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The appointment is dependent on the approval of the state Board of Higher Education next week.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts board of trustees voted unanimously to name Gregory Summers as the college's 12th president.
The position is dependent on approval of the Board of Higher Education, at a special meeting on March 10, and negotiations with Summers.
Became readily apparent during Thursday afternoon's brief meeting that Summers would be the choice to replace Mary Grant, who became chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville earlier this year after more than a decade at MCLA.
"MCLA needs to remain student-centered, remain genuine and be a home away from home," said student Trustee Alyson Stolz in stating her preference for Summers. "This president needs to be the MCLA president, not just the president."
Summers, currently provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, was one of three finalists winnowed down from an initial 59 candidates.
He and Jane McBride Gates of Western Connecticut State University and Paula Krebs of Bridgewater State University each visited the campus and were interviewed by the trustees. Gates withdrew her name leaving the choice between Summers and Krebs.
All three candidates were "outstanding," said trustees Chairman Tyler Fairbank. "I was really blown away by the quality of the individuals."
However, Summers emerged as the clear favorite, possibly dating to the initial interviews of the 13 semi-finalists in Albany, N.Y., two months.
"He just sort of fit right in," Trustee Susan Gold, co-chairman of the search committee, said, adding his vision was very much aligned with the college's.
There was some joking that one or more trustees and search committee members had "fallen in love" with Summers.
"I personally, from the day I met him, I thought Dr. Summers was terrific," said Trustee Jondavid Chesloff.
Fairbank said he wanted to not only vote for someone he was confident was qualified, but someone who excited him, which Summers did.
"I labored personally over my decision," he said, feeling it was important to select someone who could continue the college's efforts as it begins to harvest the fruit its worked so hard for.
Trustee William C. Dudley, provost at Williams College, said Summers impressed him as a thoughtful and good listener.
"He gave extremely sharp answers with concrete examples drawn from his experience," he said, citing Summers' "fierce commitment to public higher education. He knows it's fragile and is willing to fight for it."
Several trustees commented on his passion for public education, his degrees in both history and physics, his experience in governmental relations and administration, his ability to bring a different perspective, his focus on collaboration and community involvement, and his rapport with students.
Trustee Mohan Boodram, also co-chairman of the search committee, said he had called some of Summers students in Wisconsin. The student government president had told him that Summers "established a relationship of trust and transparency right off the bat."
He also pointed to Summers' involvement in founding A Partnership for Thriving Communities in Wisconsin, designed to foster collaborative engagement with the surrounding towns.
"He started looking to how institutionally they could be better citizens of the area they served," he said. "Dr. Summer was clearly the one with the deeper experience who could hit the ground running."
Summers began as a faculty member in the university's Department of History in 2001. He received his undergraduate education at the University of Akron in Ohio, a master's degree in U.S. history from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The trustees (with Trustee James C. Clemmer participating remotely) took about a half-hour to make their decision before about three dozen members of the college community; much of the "robust discussion" had been done in executive session last week. Fairbank said a survey had been sent to the college community after the candidates' visits and 187 had been returned for use in the trustees' deliberations.
The board also voted to create a committee to negotiate with Summers on salary and benefits.
Fairbank thanked the search committee, trustees, those providing administrative support and outgoing Commissioner of Higher Education Richard M. Freeland for his "guidance and wisdom."
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