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The Work Ahead

President jones magazine portrait 700x467 dsonmagsum22

Photo by Joe O'Neill.

by President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11

While I am writing this column in the days following both a successful Commencement and tremendous Alumni Weekend, by the time it reaches you we will have closed the books on the 2021-22 school year. By any objective measurements, we realized some notable achievements, and we are energized for the work ahead.

In late April of last year, the board of trustees over which I presided as chairman and had been a member of for 13 years asked me to step into the role of interim president. After considerable thought and not a little soul searching, I decided that this was both a challenge and an opportunity that I could not pass up. This February, the board honored me by removing the interim tag and naming me our college’s 30th president.

While I had great familiarity with the big picture when I took office, it became clear to me in the first months on the job that no one can truly apprehend the myriad issues facing college presidents today unless they hold the office themselves. The Dickinson I found in summer 2021 needed focus, initiative, a morale boost and strong leadership.

We immediately launched our Dickinson Forward initiative, which has been well documented in these pages. This initiative is multifaceted and designed to address the critical needs of the college. This past year, we focused on financial responsibility, scholarships and strategic planning. But let’s be clear—this is but a start, and the really hard work lies ahead. Dickinson Forward will continue. Stay tuned for exciting phases yet to come, including updates to our physical campus and new opportunities for students and alumni.

It has been widely written that higher education is at an inflection point, a perspective with which I totally agree. Our students and their parents are laser-focused on outcomes. Dickinson, like all institutions, must constantly show the value of a liberal-arts education—something that was assumed in my student days but that cannot be taken for granted today. Demographic shifts will continue to be problematic in the years ahead as we experience a shrinking pool of potential students. Inflation has eaten away at our faculty and staff salaries, and that same economic crisis impacts the ability of our students to pay tuition.

Still, in the face of these daunting facts, I am bullish on our college. We have the talent to succeed. Our faculty and staff are world class and have the knowledge and capacity to move us forward. Our alumni network is energized and engaged. With a 35% selectivity rate, our students continue to be the best of the best, and their enthusiasm sustains and drives all of us. And most critically, we have momentum and the will to prevail. I am convinced that our best days lie ahead of us. I love this job and feel passionately about Dickinson College. As I often say, I don’t need to contrive a Dickinson narrative because I am living one.

In just a few weeks I will be formally inaugurated as our 30th president, an unbelievable honor that I never expected. I am humbled by your support and constant words of encouragement. Please know that I live every day dedicated to the success of this college that has meant so much to all of us. Let’s continue to move Dickinson forward—together.

Read more from the summer 2022 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

TAKE THE NEXT STEPS 

Published August 15, 2022