Rob Huntington's friends say that he's talked about being a college president since he was a kid. Although that might be an exaggeration, Huntington, Ed.D.'97, says it is definitely a career he has considered at least since he was an undergraduate at Middlebury College. He will finally fulfill his goal on July 1 when he assumes his new role as president of Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.
Heidelberg, which was officially designated a university in January (until then, it had been considered a college), was established in 1850 and offers a variety of liberal arts and preprofessional programs. The diversity of its academic offerings, which range from music to business to water quality research to military archaeology, is part of what attracted Huntington to the school. "I like the blend of the liberal arts model, which has been my preference and is what I experienced at Middlebury, with professional preparation. It's not a contradiction, it's an 'and statement,'" he says.
The opportunity to support the academic enterprise and what takes place in the classroom represents Huntington's primary interest in higher education and university leadership, and he sees great potential to do so at Heidelberg. "I was excited when I was meeting members of the faculty, staff, and administration, and I look forward to becoming a colleague of theirs and helping them drive the core academic purpose of the school to higher levels of excellence."
Huntington has spent the past 22 years in various positions at Dunkin' Brands, where he is currently vice president for Enterprise Support Services. He has simultaneously gained experience in higher education while serving as a member first of the board of overseers and then the board of trustees at Lasell College in Newton, Mass. Despite the apparent differences between these two careers, he says that they are both part of the overall path he set out for himself years ago. "I have always thought of my career path as being about core values, leadership, a desire to make things better, and an opportunity to help people be as great as they can be," he says. "And although they are not identical, they are definitely integrated in that regard."
His introduction to educational leadership and administration came in 1987 when he enrolled in Kent Chabotar's Harvard Extension School course, Financial Management for Non-Profit Organizations. He then became a teaching assistant under Chabotar, who is now president of Guilford College, and in 1989 enrolled part-time as a doctoral student at HGSE while continuing to work full-time at Dunkin' Donuts. Studying higher education and administration, he wrote his dissertation on presidential leadership and curriculum development with Chabotar as his advisor. "The Ed School and many individuals there really nurtured me, and it continues to be an inspiring factor through ongoing contact." He cites Dean Kathleen McCartney and Professor Judith McLaughlin as individuals whose work he greatly admires and will look to as he begins his new role as president.
Huntington will be moving to Tiffin with his wife and two children and is looking forward to joining the unique environment he encountered upon visiting Ohio. "Everyone in Tiffin and at Heidelberg talks about itself as a family," he says. "I love that passion, commitment, and shared purpose, and I want to be a part of it and contribute to it," he says.