President Falk announced in a campus-wide e-mail on Thursday that Fred Puddester has been appointed vice president for finance and administration of the College. Falk created the position earlier this year as part of his senior administration realignment plan (“New roles outlined, created for senior administrators,” Sept. 23). A committee conducted a national search and made recommendations to Falk, who then selected Puddester to fill the position. Puddester is currently the senior associate dean for finance and administration at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins.
“The purpose of this position is to support the work of the College by bringing the highest professional standards to certain critical elements of the supporting administrative work,” Falk said. “Certainly central to that is the financial care of the College.” Under this heading of financial care lie the responsibilities for budgeting, accounting, auditing, tax compliance and debt management.
Falk added that he also envisioned the vice president for finance and administration as providing expertise that would allow the College to implement longer-range financial planning to support the institutional planning done by the provost.
“It’s critical that we all understand that the role is not one that determines the priorities,” Falk said. “The priorities get determined by the provost and a larger process that involves many constituencies on campus such as faculty governance and the Committee on Priorities and Resources … Once we have those priorities, we need to understand the long-term and short-term financial implications of having those priorities and whether we can afford them and what we can do to afford them. That’s the role of the VP for finance and administration.”
Falk said Puddester embodied the traits he sought for in a vice president for finance and administration given his far-reaching experience in all areas of expertise required of this new position.
Puddester’s role as associate dean for finance and administration at Johns Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, an academic institution similar to the College in its scale and scope, according to Falk, will aid him in his job here. Puddester currently manages a unit that has a budget of about $250 million per year, a faculty body of about 270 and a student body of about 3000 undergraduates.
“[The School of Arts and Science] at John Hopkins] looks very much like Williams in its size and in the kinds of budgetary decisions that have to be framed for the people that are then going to make those decisions about how we spend our money,” Falk said.
Puddester began his tenure at Johns Hopkins in 2000, first serving as the university’s executive director of budget and financial planning.
Prior to his work there, Puddester served the state of Maryland beginning in 1989, rising to become the secretary of the department of budget and management. In that capacity, he was responsible for putting together the state’s $19 billion operating budget and defending it to the Maryland legislature, in addition to handling a $500 million capital budget and managing hundreds of employees.
“[Puddester] has been in a support role in a team doing the kind of budgetary planning that supports institutional planning, and he’s dealt with financial responsibility for units the size of Williams and much larger,” Falk said.
“I have worked in the finance arena for more than three decades and have 11 years experience working in higher education,” Puddester said. “I hope to use this experience to serve the faculty and students at Williams.”
“One of the most important attributes for an incoming VP for finance and administration, I believe, is the demonstrated ability to build terrific working relationships with faculty, and Fred has done that with extraordinary success,” Falk said. He cited Puddester’s work at building productive, transparent and trusting relationships with faculty at Johns Hopkins as evidence.
Under the senior administration realignment, the provost is a person with whom the vice president for finance and administration will be working very closely. Prior to the realignment, the provost carried out the functions now to be shared by these two positions.
“The provost and the VP will be in constant communication and collaboration,” said Will Dudley ’89, professor of philosophy and provost starting July 1. “We’ll work together on both annual operating budgets and the planning of capital projects. I expect the two offices to function like a single team. We’ll each play a particular role, but with the shared aim of helping the College accomplish its short- and long-term goals.”
Dudley said the basic idea is for the vice president for finance and administration to be chiefly responsibility for managing the College’s financial resources, while the provost will make decisions regarding how to allocate these resources. “The VP determines how much we have available to spend, and the provost takes the lead in determining how to spend our money most effectively in the service of our educational mission,” he said.
Falk asked a search committee in November to find three strong candidates for the position. The committee was comprised of Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs and chair of the committee; Collette Chilton, chief investment officer; Cathy Johnson, professor of political science; Bill Lenhart, outgoing provost; Margaret McComish, director of gift planning; Lee Park, professor of chemistry; and Chris Pye, professor of English.
The committee worked with the firm Diversified Search Odgers Berndtson in conducting the search. The College has had the virtue of knowing the firm very well, according to Kolesar.
“It certainly was a time-consuming process, but that is a good thing,” Kolesar said. “It was good to have as long and as wide-ranging of a search as we did. It was clear that working at Williams was an attractive prospect to many candidates.”
After extensive advertising, the College received approximately 100 applications and nominations. The firm conducted 40 in-depth phone calls and 13 in-person interviews. The search committee then interviewed eight of those candidates before selecting three finalists.
The final three candidates came to campus throughout the month of April and met with about 30 people including faculty, staff and students. The search committee then met with Falk on April 29 to discuss the finalists. Falk then selected Puddester for the position.
“Williams is the premier liberal arts college in the country, and the faculty here is extraordinary,” Puddester said. “The opportunity to work in this environment is what attracted me to this position. Also, I am a native New Englander and my wife Susan also grew up in Vermont, so we feel like we are coming back home.””
This week, Puddester will again be visiting the College, and he will be formally introduced at this afternoon’s faculty meeting. He will return again in June around the time of the next Board of Trustees meeting.
Many members of the College look forward to Puddester’s arrival, including Dudley. “We’re going to complement each other extremely well,” Dudley said. “I know a lot about Williams, but I’m new to administration. Fred knows a lot about administration, but he’s new to Williams. We had a long conversation when he was on campus, and I’m confident it will be a great personal and professional fit. I can’t wait to get started.”
Falk shared similar sentiments. “I think [Puddester] is going to work very well with everyone in Hopkins Hall and extraordinarily well with everyone at Williams,” he said. “This is a position that is going to require him to work broadly to develop relationships across the College, and I will say from my experience with Fred that he has an extraordinary ability to connect to people, to listen to people and to build great working relationships.”
“I look forward to working with the faculty and staff,” Puddester said. “Williams is a special place, and I am looking forward to learning from everyone on campus.”