Yesterday, the Albion College community gathered in Upper Baldwin Hall to see who had been chosen as the 18th president of Albion College.
The selection: Dr. Wayne P. Webster.
Webster brings over 20 years of experience working in higher education to the job, primarily in advancement and alumni relations positions. He is also familiar with the presidential role, as he currently serves as the interim president of the College of Wooster, a small, private liberal arts college in Ohio. He will hold that position until Wooster inaugurates their next president, Anne E. McCall, on July 1.
The announcement comes sixteen months after the resignation of former Albion College President Matthew Johnson. During that time, Joe Calvaruso, ‘78 alumnus and member of the board of trustees, served as interim president.
At yesterday’s announcement, Calvaruso took the stage to begin the event. He was joined by Brian McPheely, ‘78 alumnus and director of the presidential search committee, and Joey Miller, ‘75 alumna and chair of the Board of Trustees.
McPheely spoke to the crowd, saying that he worked with a 15-person committee comprised of students, staff, faculty and alumni to conduct the search and hiring process. He said that the search began with 38 bona fide applicants before narrowing it down to Webster.
“We had a great group of diverse individuals,” McPheely said.
He also said that the search was guided by community input gathered from a survey sent out over a year ago.
He said the survey guided the committee to prioritize certain traits in candidates, such as a passion for the liberal arts, an understanding of enrollment and retention issues, an appreciation for Midwestern sensibilities and a high emotional IQ.
Miller spoke after McPheely. She said she expects Webster to be a consensus-building, mindful leader.
Following Miller’s introduction, Webster took the stage and made some promises. He said he is committed to listening to the community, learning about the college, establishing financial stability and building consensus.
In an interview after the event, Webster said he hopes to be a present and friendly figure in the Albion College community. He is married and has a daughter, as well as two dogs and a cat. He said the dogs, like him, will be present around campus.
Webster also said he is committed to the value of the liberal arts.
“My career, my ability to read, write, think critically, to express myself, to look at issues from a lot of different points of view, all those skill sets you learn being a student of liberal arts at a college like Albion,” he said.
Webster, who obtained his doctorate in education from George Washington University, said his goals during his presidency are financial stability and accessibility.
He said he also hopes to build “a stronger sense of shared governance so that everyone on campus has a sense of ownership about what we are doing.”
Student Senate President and Lansing junior, Sheridan Leinbach, said she is “excited” to welcome the new president.
“I see a lot of potential,” Leinbach said. “Across the board, he seems really involved at his current university with the students.”
Following the announcement, Webster had lunch with Leinbach, other student leaders and members of the Pleiad, including the author of this piece. At the lunch, he heard the students’ concerns and hopes.
After, Webster made his way around campus. He visited classrooms and art studios and even delivered the first pitch at Albion’s baseball game against Olivet College.
Webster comes to Albion during a time of instability. Johnson’s tenure was notably controversial, and the college is being probed by the Attorney General’s office over an alleged misuse of endowment funds, which it has denied.
While introducing Webster, Miller cited his background in fundraising as an important trait for Albion College’s next president.
“You all know we’re challenged like every other school financially,” Miller said. “And we have, in our next president, someone who has spent years in fundraising and working on finances.”
She was optimistic about Albion’s future.
“We’re going up, guys,” she said.