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