David A. Greene, currently executive vice president at the University of Chicago, will take office as Colby’s 20th president on July 1, 2014. On Sept. 10 Greene attended a reception at Colby along with his wife, Carolyn, daughters Madeline, 15, and Nora, 13, and son Declan, 12.
During his first visit as president-elect, Greene sat down with Colby to talk about his vision for the College.
What drew you to Colby?
When I started looking at Colby I saw all of the things that make a college absolutely great—a first-rate faculty, a staff that was fully committed to the College, a student body from around the world that was talented and held great promise. And then I also saw more. I saw a place that took community seriously and always wanted to be better. And that to me was so exciting. It was in part about what Colby is now, what Colby has been for its last 200 years, but it was also about what Colby can be in its future.
What can it be in its future?
A small handful of places sit at the very top of the pyramid in higher education around the world—places that are revered for the quality of their education and for the quality of the scholarship of their faculty. Colby has all of that in abundance, and it has more. I hope Colby can really step out, take a leadership role among U.S. higher education institutions—among global higher education institutions—and set a path forward for what the absolute best liberal arts colleges in the world can do.
Where do you see the best liberal arts colleges going?
Colleges like Colby are going to need to think about themselves as being, in a very direct way, deeply engaged with the wider world. The nature of partnerships between liberal arts colleges and other organizations is likely to change over time, and the opportunities that we provide to students will need to be fully global in every way—intellectually, but also in terms of the opportunities students have for work or graduate study after Colby.
How do you explain the staying power of colleges like Colby?
These are places that have core values, core principles that inform everything that happens. At the same time they’re not static institutions. New fields develop, new buildings come online. These places become more global, more integrated overall. These are all changes that are happening, and Colby has been well positioned to address these changes when they come up. I hope Colby will continue to be a place that does that and in fact will be the place that leads.
Can you talk a little about your leadership style?
I believe deeply in the values of shared governance. There are so many people who have a legitimate stake in this college—the faculty, students, alumni, staff, and the board all have such an important ownership role. Bringing people together to consider the best direction for Colby, the best decisions we can make for Colby—that takes a real process. The best way to get there is to bring many different voices to the table, to have a full diversity of perspectives, and to be able to argue, to challenge one another, and to really get to the essence of Colby and what it’s about and where it’s going.