Honorary Degree Citation
William M. Chace. Teacher. Believer in verities. Writer of uncommon grace and insight. You are among the nation’s most eloquent advocates for liberal arts education and most persistent critics of the trappings that have placed such education beyond the reach of many deserving families. Your student days at Haverford College and the University of California, Berkeley, inculcated in you a reverence for great teaching and a lifelong commitment to the rigorous study of literature. You were professor of English at Stanford and a scholar of James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot when, in 1982, you were named the university’s associate dean of the humanities. That led to service as Stanford’s vice provost for academic planning and development and then to president of Wesleyan University. You have called your time in Middletown the hardest years of your life, as your efforts to right the university’s finances and remind the institution of its core mission as an undergraduate liberal arts college worked against the grain of prevailing sentiment. At Wesleyan you also advanced the cause of diversity, even as the campus experienced unprecedented racial strife and protest. In 1994 you were named president of Emory University, where your accomplishments included dramatic expansion of space and financial resources for teaching, medical research, and the performing arts, as well as the then-controversial extension of domestic partner benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. Retired from Emory in 2003, you returned to Stanford and to your first loves: teaching and writing. You continue to help students wrestle with the joyous complexities of James Joyce, and you write frequently on topics ranging from the value of the Western canon to the arms race among prestigious colleges to the ways humanists might, to the benefit of us all, claim a greater share of American students’ attention.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, William M. Chace, the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are the visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred May 25, 2014