Chair of the Board of Trustees Michael Eisenson ’77 announced on Aug. 29 that, effective Jan. 1, Protik (Tiku) Majumder, professor of physics and director of the Science Center, would serve as interim president of the College. His announcement follows the news in July that current Presi-dent Adam Falk will leave the College at the end of the year to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
In his announcement, Eisenson noted that the search committee was looking for an interim president who could provide stable and effective leadership at a critical point for the institution. “Our objective was to find an interim president with a keen understanding of our institution; a love of Williams, of its students and of its faculty; enormous patience, tact and insight; and an ability to respond with intelligence, compassion and calm to the inevitable challenges that will arise from time to time,” Eisenson wrote.
Majumder currently holds the positions of Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy and director of the Science Center, where he occupies a key leadership role in the ongoing Science Center renewal project. Majumder, who has been at the College for 23 years, holds a doctorate in physics from Harvard and completed his undergraduate education at Yale. His current research focuses on atomic structure.
Majumder’s term as president will run until the beginning of the new president’s term, which will most likely not begin until the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. His job will involve the careful balancing of the needs for both continuity and adaptability. “I am honored to have been asked, and I look forward to doing the job of the president as any new president would, understanding that it’s a temporary job, that there’s a certain amount of continuity that’s important, but it is also important to think about moving the College forward,” Majumder said. “Six months can be a long time, and a lot can happen. We should feel lucky that Williams is in a good place in many ways, but there are ongoing challenges as we all know.”
Majumder noted that despite whatever challenges may arise, his mission as president will remain constant. “The business of the College is the business of educating its many students in the best ways that we can,” Majumder said. “That’s been my job as a teacher, it’s been my job as a research mentor and it is what I will focus on as interim president.”
Above all, he emphasized the dual importance of both stability and dynamism. “Williams has been around for a long time, yet it is constantly changing. There’s no such thing as being static in these situations,” Majumder said. “My tenure as president will hopefully reflect a sense of stability, and will provide a strong link between the 17th and 18th presidents of the College. Also, as I look forward to this new role, having been here at Williams for 23 years, I have a very strong sense of how important this responsibility is.”
In preparation for his new role, Majumder has been familiarizing himself with the many constituencies at the College and broadening his experience with the administrative work of the College. “There are lots of constituencies, between students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni, who have important ideas, roles and opinions about how things should go forward. It’s an ongoing challenge to listen and bring people together and move the College forward; new ideas emerge and we need to be ready to embrace them,” he said. “My professional life at Williams has been centered in the science world, and I know a subset of students very well, but only a subset. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to learn more and become more engaged in the [broader happenings on campus], and I am already starting that work this fall.”
Majumder, however, will not get the opportunity to live in Sloan House — the house is currently out-of-use for the next year to facilitate the removal of lead paint.