Alumni Column: Change is Coming

Kit Smith

Game of Thrones fans are familiar with the phrase “winter is coming,” but so far, in the first five seasons at least, winter has yet to come. However, at Colgate the phrase “change is coming” is a certainty and will play out over the next few years.

I just returned from an Alumni Council meeting where I had the privilege of meeting President-elect Brian Casey and listening to him begin to articulate his hopes and dreams for Colgate during his tenure as President. Rather than me trying to paraphrase his thoughts, I will let him express them to the Colgate community next fall when he is officially installed as Colgate’s 17th president.

However, I will share one point that I came away with. Communications appear to be very important to him and he plans to spend a good part of his first year communicating with students, faculty, administrators and alumni. And by communications, he believes in two-way communication, so he will spend a good bit of time listening to his various constituencies. So if you have thoughts you want him to hear, the next year will be the time to make you voice heard.

When I was a student at Colgate we also experienced a transition from one president to a new one. Everett Case had been president for 20 years when he decided to retire in 1962 as Colgate’s ninth president. The 10th president was Vincent Barnett, a professor from Williams. Procedures and policies had been in place for a long time and everyone wondered what might change and how that change would manifest itself.

One positive change was that President Barnett decided to teach a seminar on political science, which meant he was going to be approachable. Demand for admittance to that seminar was intense, but those who were able to take it were very enthusiastic about the content and the discussions that ensued. My fraternity invited President Barnett to dinner at the house (something we never would have thought about with President Case), and he came and spent time talking with the brothers before and after dinner. These sort of things hadn’t happened before the transition and all agreed it was a very positive change.

Another positive development was a change in the school calendar, going from two full semesters, one that ended in mid-January and another that ended in early June, to a calendar where the first semester ended before Christmas, instituting a “January Plan” where a student would take one intensive course for four weeks, and then starting the second semester in February. Students loved the “Jan Plan” and it lasted for a number of years.

So, changes will be coming to Colgate. Some will be very exciting and some may seem a little worrisome, but in general change can be good and I expect many positive developments to occur as President Casey begins his term at Colgate. I am sure it will be exciting. Enjoy the ride!