Herbst Appointed President

On Tuesday, November 17, the newly appointed 16th President of Colgate University Dr. Jeffrey Herbst made his first public visit to campus to meet with members of the Colgate community. President of the Board of Trustees Chris Clifford ’67 and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Peg Flanagan ’80 welcomed Herbst at an 11:15 a.m. reception in Cunniff Commons of the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center. The Search Committee made the surprise announcement of Herbst’s appointment at 3:00 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Herbst, who holds degrees in political science from Princeton and Yale Universities, currently serves as Provost and Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Miami University of Ohio. He will assume his new position at Colgate on July 1, 2010.

In his address during the Ho reception, Herbst touched on a wide range of issues facing Colgate today, spanning University administration and finances, academics and campus life. The speech was also webcast on the University’s website.

Herbst offered a bold assertion on the evolving role of colleges and universities in American society.

“I believe that universities in this century will largely be judged on how well they provide students with the cultural competence to deal with people from other countries and other regions,” Herbst said.

Following his remarks, Herbst was presented with Colgate apparel and Clifford invited those in attendance to introduce themselves to the new president and his wife, Sharon Polansky, who also attended the event to greet the Colgate community. Polansky is a marketing executive who holds a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The couple’s daughter Alana will attend Hamilton Central School as a high school junior. One of their older sons currently attends Miami.

Earlier in the day, Herbst attended a breakfast meeting with leaders from the Town of Hamilton, including Mayor Sue McVaugh and Hamilton Central School Board President Ingrid Hale.

In an interview with The Maroon-News, both Clifford and Herbst spoke about the excitement of the announcement and the various challenges ahead for the new president.

Clifford noted that the countrywide search for the successor to former President of the University Rebecca Chopp began in earnest in May. Using a statement of leadership qualities as a roadmap, the Search Committee sought candidates that expressed strong support for the liberal arts model of education.

“We were very attracted to Jeff’s…provocative view of higher education,” Clifford said.

Clifford noted that in Herbst the Committee and Board found a candidate that matched their views of Colgate’s mission.

Herbst added his support for these goals in The Maroon-News interview.

“I am committed to the vision which the Board laid out in the basic search document of Colgate being a liberal arts university,” Herbst said.

The pair also discussed several of the more contentious issues currently facing the University. Herbst noted that Colgate’s proactive response to the financial crisis piqued his interest in coming to the University. He voiced support for continuing this dynamic approach.

“We cannot reduce our forward looking profile, we need to continue taking risks,” Herbst said.

Herbst also commented on the hotly debated results of the Colgate Campus Life Survey (CCLS). He explained that he has read the quantitative results of the report, but has not had a chance to review the free-response section that was released two weeks ago.

“I need to understand much better the context in which these issues are being discussed,” Herbst said, “and I also want to follow and become involved in the debate about what the University should do in light of the findings.”

Herbst’s campus visit and the University’s media rollout were the first steps in a transition period that will extend through July. Herbst said he hopes to return to campus several times over the coming months to begin building relationships with various campus constituencies.

“I hope that this will just be the start of a conversation that will go on for many years,” Herbst said in his public address, adding, “After arriving in July, I hope to become intensively involved [in such discussions].”