On the occasion of the presidential transition at Harvard this year, HGSE News is featuring a series of responses by HGSE alumni who are university or college presidents to an essay by HGSE professor Richard Chait about the "great" presidents. The resulting exchange is a provocative and thoughtful conversation on the nature of contemporary leadership.
This response was written by Peggy Ryan Williams, Ed.D.'83, President, Ithaca College.
I applaud Professor Chait on his article. As the world of higher education has changed in the last several decades, so have the leaders who are at the helm of our colleges and universities across the country. Are we in a leadership vacuum? I certainly think not.
Throughout my career in higher education, I have worked closely with a number of college and university presidents who have had varying styles of leadership, and most of whom have had successful presidencies with healthy growth at their institutions. The challenges that we face as educators as we head into the twenty-first century will require the type of leadership that is collaborative and creativethe type of leadership that will create a synergy on campus embraced by all as opposed to having one strong leader who will carve the path for all.
The Myth of Presidential Vision
I am sure that Charles William Eliot, Nicholas Murray Butler, and Robert Maynard Hutchins were all outstanding presidents in their day and provided the type of leadership that was needed at the time. I believe that we have hundreds of leaders today who are providing their institutions and the world of higher education with innovative and forward-looking ideas while working closely with their campus communities to move their institutions forward. I believe that our successors will look back on these decades and see tremendous growth with solid leadership grounded in collaboration and teamwork.
About the Commentary
HGSE News, Harvard Graduate School of Education