In planning for the possibility that a new College president will not be selected by the time President Schapiro’s term ends on June 30, the Presidential Search Committee announced on Monday that Bill Wagner, dean of the Faculty, will act as interim president should the need arise.
In an e-mail addressed to the Williams community, Greg Avis, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, explained that while the committee had been acting under the possibility that a new president could be in place by July 1, “the chance of that has become remote enough to enact an alternative plan.”
According to Avis, the consultant firm told the committee in January that a presidential search tends to be a six to nine month process. “We expect at this juncture to be comfortably within that time frame as far as naming the next president of Williams,” Avis said. However, he cited “the demands of scheduling and gathering information” as factors creating uncertainty that makes it difficult to give an estimate of when a president will be selected. “We will not compromise our objective of finding the absolute best person for the College because of any perceived time pressures,” he said.
With 29 years at the College, Wagner’s extensive experience with numerous committees on campus and his current position as Dean of the Faculty made him the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees to fill the position of president for the short term. “Given Bill’s experience and qualifications and the strength of the College’s senior staff and their teams and our faculty governance, the trustees thought Bill was the best person for the job,” Avis said. “The Board considered as a factor the College’s by-laws that the Dean of the Faculty presides in the absence of the president until such time an interim or new president is named by the trustees.”
Wagner will begin in his capacity of interim president mid-summer while continuing in his responsibilities as Dean of the Faculty. “My role will be in large part to ensure that that process continues smoothly and that in the interval before Morty’s successor arrives we together make the decisions that need to be made to keep the College moving forward in a positive direction, but in ways that don’t constrain or limit the next president,” Wagner said.
Schapiro expressed his support for Wagner, citing his “wonderful record” as a teacher, scholar and administrator. “While the summer months are somewhat slower than the rest of the year, I suspect he will be busy preparing for the upcoming academic year while hosting various events,” Schapiro said. “Should Bill still be interim president once the school year begins, he will be in for a range of thrills that are hard to imagine until you are sitting at my desk.”
If a new president is not selected by Sept. 1, Wagner will continue acting as president and Andrea Danyluk, professor of computer science, will serve as acting dean of the faculty. “I’m certainly honored to have been asked to serve as acting Dean of the Faculty,” Danyluk said. “The learning curve will be steep, I’m sure. But I will be fortunate to have the help and guidance of Bill Wagner, the rest of the senior staff and everyone in the Dean of Faculty’s Office.”