At the end of this year, the current provost, Professor of Physics Stuart Crampton, will end his tenure at Williams, and Professor Catharine Hill, the chair of the economics department, will take over the position.
“What I’ve treasured most has been the opportunity to work with so many great people,” Crampton said. “Working in the provost’s office has given me a greater understanding of the college, and confidence in its future.”
The President of the College appoints the provost, first consulting with the faculty steering committee and the committee of appointments and promotions, and finding out who they think would make a good provost. “The Provost is, above all, the chief budgeting and financial officer of the college,” President of the College Harry C. Payne said. “At Williams, a member of the faculty always holds this position, and this unusual tradition contributes to the college’s strength.”
The provost fills many important rolls on campus, but the main responsibility is managing the financial aspects of the college. “The provost supervises financial aid and admissions, the college museum, and information technology- all vital operations of the administration,” Payne explained. “[He] also serves on the committee of appointments and promotions, which is centrally concerned with the hiring and promotion of the faculty. Additionally, the provost is on the president’s staff, which means that [he] is one of the people I meet with very regularly.”
Crampton has had a successful tenure here as provost, and he will be remembered fondly by those that worked with him. Professor Hill commented, “I’ve worked with Stuart Crampton closely on the committee of priorities and rescources, and I have a huge amount of respect both for the work he has done and for him as a person.”
Payne added, “Stuart Crampton has had a very distinguished career here as a teacher and as a physicist, and capped it off with his tenure as provost. He has served us very well at an important time, and brought great intellect and integrity to the position. He especially helped us in planning for the future”
Although Crampton’s departure is considered a loss, it was also expected, as at Williams, serving as the provost is usually a short-term charge. “Professor Crampton had always planned to do the job for around four years, so I have known about the transitions for some time,” Payne said. “If you look at the history, the majority of provosts serve for between three and five years. The faculty does not see the position as a long-term commitment, but as a kind of service you do for the college for a few years.”
Crampton added, “I originally said that I would stay as Provost for three years, and this is now my fourth. At the end of this year, I will be taking early retirement, as my wife, who is a minister, will be working in California for a semester, and I’d like to go with her.”
The transition between Crampton and Hill should be smooth. Hill will officially take over the office on the first of July, 1999, but she plans to start focusing on the issues concerning the office when the new year begins. Hill said, “Now, I see my primary responsibilities as teaching and as running the economics department. Obviously, my priorities will dramatically change next year. I hope that the administrative skills I’ve gained as chair of the economics department and from heading related committees will transfer over to my new job.”
The choice of Professor Hill was easy for President Payne, as she has had a great deal of experience in similar positions. “I’m delighted that Catharine Hill is going to serve,” Payne said. “She brings an intellectual command of the budget issues thanks to her background in economics, and experience in steering very important committees and departments. She has been the chair of the economics department for two years, has headed the committee on priorities and resources for two years, and was the head of the Center for Development Economics for several years.”
Crampton also endorses the appointment of Professor Hill as Provost. “I think it’s a wonderful choice, and I’m delighted that she has accepted the position,” Crampton said. “She’s had experience with the Center for Development Economics and with running the economics department. Accordingly, she has a great understanding of both the college and economics.
Hill feels that she is prepared to take over the position, and that it will offer her a chance to use her knowledge and experience in a positive way. “I accepted the position because the responsibilities seem interesting and fun,” Hill said. “It should be intellectually stimulating, and I will be able to meaningfully contribute to the management of the college.”
In the past few years, the provost has had to deal with many perplexing and changing issues. In the last three years, Crampton feels that the provost’s office has had many successes. He said, “We have hired a new director of information and technology and a new librarian; we have studied the athletic and academic faculty salaries, and have made some progress in the structure and the fairness. We’ve also made significant progress in understanding how to use the endowment from year to year, and have come in under or on budget all three years.”
Recently, the college has confronted a changing financial aid environment in the institutions that it regularly competes with. Williams has also had to develop new ways to keep costs and tuition levels down, while expanding its technological facilities. The provost has to address all of these current issues, while at the same time planning for the college’s future. Hill commented, “I don’t have any real plans that I hope to accomplish; it all depends on what issues and questions arise for the college.”
Payne added, “A new person brings new ideas and perspectives. I don’t anticipate any major changes in the position or the topics we address. If we are all doing our job well, we don’t bring our own agenda to the committees, but instead look at the college’s needs.”