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Special Letter to the Editor

Byline: Dr. Lorna Duphiney Edmundson

Posted: November 21, 2010

From the President to the Wilson Campus

At the request of Xiaomeng Li, a member of the Billboard staff, I am providing a few of my thoughts as I prepare to retire from the Wilson Presidency after ten years as your president and forty years in leadership roles in higher education.

Serving as president of a college - especially Wilson College - is truly an honor and a privilege. I find the work here to be both immensely rewarding, and so the coming months will become increasingly bitter-sweet, as I leave behind so much that I have enjoyed and move to the next phase of my life.

There is so much about Wilson and our work together that I sorely will miss. Most of all, I will miss having the opportunities to be with you -our students – engaging you in conversation, having you to my home, attending your presentations, performances, and athletic contests and watching you grow and flourish. I'll also miss our amazing alumnae and those of you who teach and work here and have such amazing dedication to our students and to Wilson's mission. There truly is no place like Wilson. As I've said to you often, of all the colleges and universities in which I've worked, Wilson is my favorite. We transform lives here. Every one of you plays an important role in making that happen.

But next June will be the right time for me to retire. Four decades is a long time to spend in any field, and Dan and I are eager to pursue other opportunities that spring from our well-established relationships and experiences in North Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The development of Wilson's Global Citizenship Initiative and membership in the United Nations Academic Impact program have spurred me on to integrate my research as a Fulbright Scholar to Japan with my growing interest in the Middle East and China. I also would like to have more time for my work on several Boards and organizations on which I serve, particularly the Educational Scholarship Committee of the New York and International Women's Forums.

On the personal side, Dan and I are very eager to resume living together under one roof, after spending fifteen years shuttling between homes and professional work in two different cities. We look forward to spending more time with our young grandchildren, daughters, son-in-law, and our one living parent – my 92 year-old mother.

I personally look forward to having more unstructured time for reading, writing and reflection, as well as for rekindling other nascent creative abilities that I have had to set aside during these intense and exciting professional years. Fully reconnecting with body, mind, spirit and the outdoor world is also very appealing.

That being said, I understand myself well enough to know that balancing action and reflection will be key, and somewhat difficult. I am in conversation with several organizations about the possibilities of consulting on international education, leadership development, fundraising, executive search and strategic planning, but I am heeding advice about not saying yes too soon or to too many possibilities. Often people who retire wind up being busier and pulled in more directions than they were while working – something to carefully consider, I am told.

While the timing of my retirement is right for me and my family, it is also good timing for Wilson. Ten years is a good, solid length of tenure for any college president, and in fact was the pattern set by Presidents Armacost and Jensen who preceded me. We've raised more than $44 million for Wilson's Leading with Confidence campaign, and we will surely have surpassed the $45 million goal by next June as the campaign winds down.

As our auditors reported at the October Board meeting, Wilson is in a strong financial position. Our Strategic Plan has been approved, important projects such as a major upgrade of the website and a new integrated ERP system that will facilitate online learning are underway, it is the perfect time for a new president to step in, bringing new energies and talents to the task of ensuring Wilson's future. As soon as the new president is appointed, I will work closely with her and the transition committee, as Gwen Jensen and I did, to maintain Wilson's forward momentum and create a strong, seamless transition for the Wilson community.

With slightly more than seven months of service and much to be accomplished before I leave Wilson, it is rewarding to reflect on the high points of my work here and have the opportunity to complete one last, full academic cycle. I am especially relishing advancing Wilson's mission and priorities to potential donors, enticing more donors and resources into the Wilson fold and doing my part to fully fund the Global Citizenship Initiative and the Faculty, Staff, Technology Endowment and to make the Campaign enormously successful.

I must admit, however, that when the first-year students came to serenade me at Sharpe House this year – the last time you will sing for me – I realized that despite the exciting work ahead, I am also experiencing a sense of loss. I will miss your singing. I will miss you. Knowing this will heighten the pleasure of being with you throughout the coming months.

Dr. Lorna Duphiney Edmundson
President of Wilson College

Last Updated: October 14, 2011