Middlebury’s 16th president, who has served in the office since 2004, shared his news with the College community in an e-mail at the conclusion of the December Board of Trustees meeting in New York City.
“It has been an honor of the highest order to serve as the 16th president of this remarkable institution,” Liebowitz wrote. “With its dedicated and committed staff, superb faculty, and outstanding students, Middlebury has never been stronger or better positioned for the future.”
Liebowitz noted that the institution “will continue to pursue the ambitious agenda we have set for ourselves” through the presidential transition and beyond. He stated that announcing his own transition plan now would provide the Board of Trustees with “the time necessary to select a search committee, to conduct a thoughtful search to identify the finest candidates, and, ultimately, to select Middlebury’s next leader.”
In addition to announcing his decision, Liebowitz informed the community of another important initiative that will affect the way the College is governed—a bold revision of Middlebury’s trustee structure that will go into effect July 1, 2014. While the size of the 35-member board will remain the same, how it is organized and how it approaches its responsibilities will change. In its coverage of the announcement, online publication Inside Higher Ed noted that while “some things unique to Middlebury prompted the change . . . other changes could fix an American higher ed board structure that many administrators believe is broken and unable to guide institutions ably in the 21st century.”
Among the notable changes is a reduction of 15 standing committees to six, with each carrying a range of substantive responsibilities. (The six consist of the Prudential Committee, which acts as an executive committee of the board; Trusteeship and Governance; Strategy; Resources; Risk Management; and New Programs.) In addition, the new governance structure establishes three boards of overseers—one for the undergraduate college, one for the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and one for the “Schools,” which includes the Language Schools, Bread Loaf School of English, C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad, School of the Environment, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. These boards will be charged with focusing on the academic and student affairs operations of their respective institutions; membership will include current trustees, “partner” overseers (individuals who typically have some connection to Middlebury), and “constituent” overseers (one faculty, one staff member, and one student).
The governance changes come a year after Liebowitz and board chair Marna Whittington had initiated a review of the board’s structure and appointed a Governance Working Group to make recommendations on how the board should best be organized. These recommendations were subsequently turned into a set of proposed bylaw revisions that were unanimously approved by the full Board of Trustees in December.
For more on the changes in governance and what it means for Middlebury, please see Ron Liebowitz’s Q&A, “Board, Restructured.”
While there will be more opportunities—in this magazine and elsewhere—during the next 18 months to discuss the impact Ron Liebowitz has had on Middlebury, it’s worth noting several significant achievements at this time.
During his presidency, Middlebury acquired the Monterey Institute of International Studies; opened 23 new Schools Abroad sites; added 120 endowed student scholarships for financial aid and 15 endowed faculty positions; established the School of Hebrew—Middlebury’s 10th intensive summer language school—and the summer School of the Environment; sent two successful teams to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition; inaugurated the Franklin Environmental Center for the study of the environment and sustainability; created the Center for Social Entrepreneurship; and initiated an array of programs to help students acquire leadership and communication skills and to cultivate creativity and innovation.
For context, many of these accomplishments took place against the backdrop of a deep economic crisis that began in 2007. Liebowitz guided Middlebury through that recession while maintaining a balanced budget, sustaining the institution’s commitment to need-blind admissions, and without resorting to layoffs.
He will be missed. But not for another year and a half. As he will be the first to tell you, there is still a lot of work left to be done.