Dr. Tsutsui's Remarks to Campus

Read the full text of Dr. William Tsutsui’s remarks as he greeted faculty, staff, and students on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.

I could not be more humbled (or, frankly, more thrilled) to be introduced to you all today as the next president of Hendrix College.

I want to thank Randy Wilbourn for his kind introduction, and for all he did to bring me here.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to David Knight, chair of the Board of Trustees, who moved heaven and earth to induce me to leave a job where I am very happy and to convince me that Hendrix College was the very best place for me at this point in my career and life.

Thank you to the members of the search committee, and especially to the Board of Trustees, for seeing the potential in me and for putting their faith in me to lead this remarkable community into the future.

I also want to express my true appreciation to all the people on campus, starting with President Ellis Arnold, who have already made Marjorie and me feel so welcome here at Hendrix.  And I apologize that Marjorie could not be here to join us this morning: her first priority is always to her students, so she is back in Dallas, teaching sophomore poetry class even as I speak.

Last but hardly least, my biggest thanks go out to all of you – faculty, staff, students, alums, and supporters – for coming out today and, most of all, for everything you have done to make Hendrix such a special place and such a cohesive, unique community.

I don’t have to tell you all this, but Hendrix really is one heck of a college.  In a time of great uncertainty for liberal arts education nationwide, Hendrix has gone from strength to strength.  Hendrix’s reputation precedes it: for the pioneering Odyssey program, for its academic excellence and the accomplishments of its creative students, for its strong identity, strong forward momentum, and rising national profile.  This speaks well to all of you and what you have worked together to create here in Conway.

Importantly, Hendrix has not sold its soul in the midst of very challenging economic times in American higher education.  Hendrix, to its eternal credit, has not opened nursing programs in strip malls, or branch campuses in Singapore, or new online degree programs.  Hendrix has remained true to its fundamental character: as a residential liberal arts college, rooted in the United Methodist tradition, rooted in the place and the culture of Arkansas, committed to innovative and holistic engaged learning, offering a broad and rigorous education and preparation for a meaningful life, in an intimate, supportive, and committed community.

Hendrix has heart, and it won me over hook, line and sinker.  I wish I were 18 again and could make my college choice one more time; I would love to enroll at Hendrix and have the opportunities that all the students here have, though honestly I probably wouldn’t have the record to get in.

Now I might well be the only person left in America who is truly bullish on liberal arts colleges (although I suspect one or two of you might be with me on this one).  The headlong rush into vocational education and narrow pre-professional training of the past few decades, which has accelerated over the past few years, is (in my opinion) incredibly short sighted and ultimately not in the nation’s (or the world’s) best interests.  The ongoing mess in Washington and the not-too-long-past excesses of Wall Street should remind us that what America really needs now is thoughtful, principled leaders with breadth of vision, with flexibility of mind, with creativity, and with a profound sense of connection to the community and devotion to the public good.  This is just the kind of person that is produced by traditional, demanding liberal arts colleges like Hendrix.  So it is not the time to start wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth about liberal arts education, or to throw in the towel on our traditions and values.  The world needs more Hendrix graduates and the education and inspiration offered here on this campus will only grow more valuable, and more important to us all, over time.

I firmly believe that Hendrix’s future is a bright one.  I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and join all of you in this energizing community and in the absolutely critical work of nurturing, sustaining, and growing Hendrix College.  I look forward to meeting you all, starting right now.

Thank you.

Dr. William Tsutsui

Friday, Nov. 1, 2013