‘The ideal college president’

Robert Dodson

Rik Warch has shaped indelibly my model of the ideal American college president.He has been the most effective advocate I have known of the “learning community.” College presidents must attend to a plethora of practical matters, but Rik has also tended to the spiritual health of the enterprise and its parts, as well as to the spiritual well-being of each individual in the enterprise. He thinks deeply and speaks compellingly about learning and education, the individual and society, the playful and the serious, the temporal and the transcendent; and he understands that as a “learning community” a college must exemplify all of these and more.

I always looked forward to Rik’s public utterances, whether in convocations, board meetings, or after-dinner remarks, for their oratorical finesse, and their sometimes powerful, sometimes wry or even sly reminders that “our business here is to learn.”

I learned from Rik (and relearned as many times as was necessary) that a healthy liberal arts college must maintain not stasis or equilibrium, but rather a dynamic balance fostering opportunity to do well for each of its constituencies and each of its members.

Rik was a wonderful colleague, neighbor, and friend during my time at Lawrence, whose support and encouragement could always be felt but never confined or intruded. I have missed him very much since I left, and I will miss knowing that he is still there even more.

Alberta and I send Rik and Margot our congratulations, warmest best wishes, and gratitude for all that they did to make our years at Lawrence so wonderful.

Robert Dodson

Dean of the Conservatory, Lawrence University, 1989-1999
Dean of the Conservatory, Oberlin College, 1999-2004
Provost, New England Conservatory of Music, 2004