Hendrix Leadership

Balance in a New World

Inaugural Address
J. Timothy Cloyd, Ph.D.
10th President of Hendrix College
May 17, 2002

Distinguished guests; former presidents of Hendrix who are with us today – Dr. Roy Shilling, Dr. Joe Hatcher and Dr. Ann Hayes Die; leaders of the United Methodist; Church; Mr. Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees, past and present; members of the faculty, of the staff and the senior leadership; students; alumni; members of the community; my family and friends. It means a great deal to me that you are here today for this special occasion.

Today, we celebrate much more than the investiture of the President of this great institution. This inauguration is an opportunity for all of us, as a community, to reflect on our mission, our aims, and our aspirations for the future. My confidence in the glowing future and great potential of this institution is grounded in you, in this community – Hendrix College. It is grounded in what you have done to build this place, to improve its quality, and to raise its stature.

Whatever is achieved is a communal enterprise. The power to achieve what we will achieve together lies in each of you.

My role today is to celebrate what we have achieved and to challenge us to raise our sights. I want to set before you a vision of the greater heights I know we can reach together.

I have said that any presidential vision is organic. Its elements arise out of the fabric of the community and our particular historical context. But in addition to that, a vision inspires us to reach, to dream, and to stretch, and, in doing so, to release our better angels, the angels that can give us the grace to achieve excellence.

Hendrix was founded by people who had a bold vision of what this College could become. The leadership of this College has molded Hendrix on national exemplars of excellence in liberal arts education. 

Many of the earliest faculty members and founders of this College came to Arkansas and to Hendrix from Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and other great institutions of higher learning. Their aim was high and their vision was bold. 

One can imagine the conditions in Arkansas 125 years ago. The environment they forged into was not Cambridge, New York City, or Chicago. And yet they aimed high, and they fearlessly developed a dream grounded in hope. Their hope and their vision continue to inspire us. 

Their hope was grounded in the heritage of the United Methodist Church and the church’s role in founding and nurturing some of the greatest institutions of higher learning in the United States. Our statement of purpose embodies the original vision of our founders. We are a “collegiate community dedicated to the cultivation of whole persons through the transmission of knowledge, the refinement of intellect, the development of character, and the encouragement of a concern for worthy values.”[1]

Our legacy is deep and strong. Thus, our hope and our vision for the future must reflect continuity with this past. It must be a bold dream of what we can become. 

Our vision is grounded in confidence and in hope. Our hope is in the mission of a liberal arts institution that gives our students balance as they enter a world that can quickly disorient the most sure-footed.

We find ourselves today on the frontier of a new world. The watchword in that new world is security. At this point in our history, we have been rocked by economic uncertainty, terrorism, violence, prejudice, and threats to the values of justice, liberty, and equality that have been our foundation.

Are there threats to this great liberal arts institution, Hendrix College?

Well, we certainly wonder: Will the students come? Will our benefactors give? Will the market stabilize? How will we teach on the frontier of this new world? But we are not afraid! We have weathered challenging times before. We will not waiver in our mission! We will not fret, because our mission is about a higher purpose, grounded in a power greater than ourselves, greater than this particular time and this particular place.

We have hope today! What is our hope? Our hope is the cultivation of character that is a part of the liberal arts tradition. This cultivation of character produces virtue and grounds our students in commitments to fairness, justice, decency, integrity, liberty, tolerance, and mercy.

We have confidence in our vision of an institution open to the free exchange of ideas. Our confidence is in an open academic space in which we seek truth.

We have hope today! What is that hope? Our hope is in an academic institution where we do not shy away from the position that there are better and worse ways to order your life. [2]

We have confidence that through the journey of the liberal arts, nurtured in this community, our students will realize that the analytical and critical skills we teach lead to the conclusion that there are principles and values worthy of defending.

We have hope today! Our hope is the knowledge that you students will move out from this community into the broader civil society to become a part of the essential fabric that holds our communities together for the common good.

We have hope today! What is our hope? Our hope is that in the darkness of the world around us, we will become aware of the awakenings of light in the individual lives of people in our community.

We have hope today! Because we are open to that higher power of God’s presence and grace in the educational mission of Hendrix College.

Despite our society’s preoccupation with security we have confidence and hope today. Many liberal arts colleges are preoccupied with the issue of their own survival. But we are not in that condition. We are a strong institution. We have a solid financial foundation and a firm mission.

Our mission will strengthen the foundation of our democratic civil society. This is our charge and this is our responsibility.

We have a responsibility to help heal divisions. We have a responsibility to help make our communities whole again. [3]

For that reason we must resist balkanizing ourselves by unthinking devotion to ideologies and particularistic identities. But, we must help our students recognize that their moral commitments must be grounded in sound philosophical, spiritual, and faith traditions.

We must resist the temptation to embrace some simple form of subjectivism or relativism. That road would be a disservice to our students. We would risk paralyzing them as they confront some of the most profound questions we have ever faced as a culture.

We are confident that we will teach our students through the examples of our daily lives that there is a road to the full flourishing of human potential!

We know that what St. Augustine called the “City of Man” is never a source of permanence or fulfillment. Our teaching is grounded in an ideal that looks beyond the passing trends of life, intellectual fads and material trappings. We seek to discover a grounding for our moral commitments.

We teach our students balance in the cultivation of the mind, the body, and the spirit. We teach that balance rejuvenates our souls. If we do not teach balance as the source of a life well lived, we are not doing our job as a liberal arts college.

Life is not simply about the mind. Reason, analysis, and critical thought are hallmarks of excellence in education. But, they must be balanced with the understanding of our human frailty and our limited nature. We can only understand this by cultivating the spirit that grounds us in humility and in empathy for the daily struggles of those around us.

We must balance the mind and the spirit. We must teach understanding of the passions, the needs, and the mortality of our embodied selves. Without this balance in education we risk being swept away in the material tides of a consumer society. We risk the unreflected acceptance of unexamined prejudice and the passions of our appetites.

Our liberal arts education equips students for lives of fulfillment. But to be truly whole, as Aristotle taught us, means to be engaged as citizens in civic life for the common good.

Thus the educational experience at Hendrix College leads students to care less about the goods that they can accumulate and to care more about the good that they can do. [4]

So what kind of vision do we need on the frontier of this New World?

In practical terms, we need to build on our legacy of fiscal responsibility. We need to maintain our strong efficient fiscal plan of operation that will sustain and strengthen this institution for generations to come.

We need to grow the size of our student body without sacrificing the essential elements of our community. We need to grow our endowment to at least $200 million.

But the core of who we are is more than a business plan! That is why we must focus our efforts, I believe, in several substantive areas.

We must continue to enhance our strong science programs in the context of the liberal arts. We have strengthened those science programs substantially over the last decade, and we will continue to do so into the future.

But on the frontier of this New World, it is time for us and necessary for us to focus on additional ventures.

We must fund more scholarships and financial aid. We must ensure that Hendrix is able to effectively compete for the nation’s best students. We must be certain that a Hendrix education continues to be one of the nation’s best values.How canHendrix continue to transform lives if it becomes inaccessible and unaffordable? We are committed to increasing the number and size of our endowed scholarships.

As we increase the size of the student body, we must also add faculty. The beauty of the liberal arts experience is active participatory learning that leads to close faculty/student relationships. This is what it means to be a learning community where students engage in undergraduate research with faculty. We must ensure that Hendrix retains its spirit of student-faculty collaboration. This requires a low student/faculty ratio.

We must also increase the endowment to provide funds for continuing faculty development and for the ongoing recruitment of exceptional faculty. Our endowment must grow to fund new faculty positions, new endowed chairs and new distinguished professorships.

We must increase the endowment to provide funds for distinctive academic programs such as interdisciplinary and experiential education. What are the new academic ventures that will give us balance on the frontier of this New World?

First, our students need a framework for moral imagination. They must be challenged to explore the relationships between their faith traditions, their moral sensibilities, their daily lives, and their vocations. They must be brought into a cross-cultural dialogue between their faith and the faiths of others. We have already begun strengthening this area through the Hendrix-Lilly Faith and Integrity Initiative. We will continue to strengthen these types of programs at our institution.

Second, our students must understand the challenges of the contemporary world. We are now structurally enmeshed as citizens in a global society.

Our students must understand the vast diversity of this nation and this world.  We must study the journeys of diverse cultures. By doing this we will gain greater and deeper insight into ourselves and into the distinctiveness of the journey of the West. Only then will our students see that it is through the heterogeneous nature of our world and our nation that our lives are enriched. This diversity makes us better human beings and better stewards of our planet. The faculty who have worked to create our new Journeys course have done important work in this area. We will strengthen programs in the study of globalization, international relations, and the historical developments that have produced the challenges that we now confront in our contemporary world.

Third, the globalization of market economies and the development of new products brought on by the rapid technological and scientific advances raise profound questions about our values. Our students must understand how market systems work and the implications of these innovations. They need to understand the unique entrepreneurial initiatives that have produced wealth and impressive advances in modernization. But, at the same time they must understand the great disparities in our world. Our students must understand how we can be responsible, reflective citizens in this endless flow of markets and new products. We have already begun to strengthen programs in this area through the creation of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and we will continue to enhance this area.

Fourth, among all of the species that inhabit our planet, artistic expression is distinctive to human beings. The study of cultural and artistic expression allows us to understand ourselves as human beings with common experiences, fears, aspirations, and dreams. That is why we must strengthen the expressive and performing arts, cultural and area studies, and the study of languages which all deepen our self-awareness. We have begun this with the creation of our new Art Center and the requirement that all students study a language other than English.

As we develop these new programs, we must also strengthen what we offer students outside the classroom. That is balance!

Activities in co-curricular programs give our students experiences in working together toward a common good.  

We will construct a new campus center as a space in which we can build on the deep tradition of service and volunteerism that characterizes the Hendrix experience.

The cultivation of recreational dispositions also instills habits that last a lifetime. They teach our students that they are not disembodied selves, disconnected from their bodies in ways that diminish the flourishing of the human potential. We will strengthen our programs that encourage physical activities and team sports. We will build a new wellness and athletics center as not only a space for spectacle and recreation, but as a space for educational opportunities for the study of life sciences.

Let me repeat: this academic and co-curricular vision requires us to address the following areas:

  • Increase the endowment to fund more scholarships
  • Increase the endowment to fund faculty development, new faculty positions and new programs
  • Build a new Campus Center.
  • Build a new Wellness and Athletics Center.

Over the next 12 months, the senior staff, the faculty, the Board, the alumni, our students and our other constituencies will work together to refine these areas of focus.

We will then present a blueprint to the entire community on how we will develop the resources and funds that will allow us to strengthen our programs and facilities in these areas.

These areas of focus have grown organically out of numerous community discussions and study groups. I believe that they represent the answer to the question: How will we teach on the frontier of this new world? And I believe a focus in these areas will make our educational experience distinctive among national liberal arts colleges. As we identify and build on the strengths that make Hendrix distinctive, the College will become better. And, we will continue to attract the best and brightest students from across Arkansas and the nation.

We have a charge and a responsibility to offer, in the greatest tradition of the liberal arts – the balance of the mind, the body, and the spirit. “Unto the whole person,” as our motto says.  But we also have a charge to balance our educational program – to give students opportunities to ground their experiences in a balance of curricular and co-curricular offerings.

This vision is bold and is perhaps dizzying. But we will succeed because we have hope today. Our hope is the great and humane minds and talent of our faculty who can articulate and carry out this vision. Without them we will have no chance at all of achieving our greatest purposes – excellence in liberal arts education.

An excellent education teaches students to imagine a range of possible interpretations of an event or a piece of literature or a piece of music or a particular person’s or country’s actions, while recognizing that perhaps more than one interpretation may be plausible. [5]

It is only in the unique context of a liberal arts community that students can be grounded and nurtured toward this end. That is why this college stands as a beacon of light.

Our confidence is the knowledge that we have a vision that is guided by a power greater than ourselves. Our hope is that we can serve as a place of illumination for the greater good.

In closing, I trust that I will not befall the criticism that William James leveled against Charles Elliot when Elliot became president of Harvard in 1864. James said of Elliot, “His great personal defects and meddlesomeness are quite known, but he has a few good ideas…. So in the absence of any other possible candidates, he will do.” [6]

I trust that I will not befall this same critique because I know that we have a world-class faculty, a strong and committed Board of Trustees, excellent students, a wonderful senior leadership team, devoted alumni, a stellar staff, and a church that holds this place in its prayers. And, we have an institutional legacy that stands on a rock. A rock of God’s grace. And a rock of faith, in excellence, in innovation, and in the progressive thought of this place – Hendrix College.

I am thrilled to be the 10th President of Hendrix College. And I know that together, with God’s grace, we will keep this institution on the mountaintop of excellence and continue to stand as a beacon of light for the best of what it means to be a great national liberal arts college.

Therefore as St. Augustine said:

Wake us to delight in your praises;
For you have made us and you have made this place for yourself;
And our hearts and our hopes are restless until they rest in you!

[1] Hendrix College, “Statement of Purpose,” adopted 1997.

[2] I am indebted to Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, for her influence as a mentor and colleague.

[3] President William Jefferson Clinton, "If Martin Luther King Were to Reappear," speaking at the Church of God in Christ, Memphis, Tenn., 13 November 1993.

[4] President George W. Bush, “State of the Union Address,” the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 29 January 2002.

[5] Neil Rudenstine, Pointing Our Thoughts: Reflections on Harvard and Higher Education, 1991-2001, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2001), 324.

[6] William James, letter to a friend, 1869, quoted in Neil Rudenstine, Pointing Our Thoughts: Reflections on Harvard and Higher Education, 1991-2001, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2001), 3.