Goodbye, Silver

Peter Gillette

An all-campus celebration in honor of Richard and Margot Warch will be held tomorrow, Saturday, June 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Main Hall Green.The celebration will include performances by the Sambistas, a cookout lunch, and a program beginning at 1 p.m.

Warch, Lawrence University’s 14th president, concludes his 25-year tenure as president June 30. He will be succeeded by Jill Beck, Professor of Dance at University of California at Irvine and former dean of its Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Warch retires with the second longest tenure of any Lawrence University president, as Samuel Plantz’s 30-year term, from before the turn of the last century, remains the high-water mark.

Warch’s tenure spans a time of expansion in higher education not unlike Plantz’s. The Warch Years have seen growth in the endowment and enrollment, in addition to a myriad of substantial building contributions, most recently Hiett Hall, a $14 million project according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

No 25 years, though, can be filled entirely with sunshine and flowers, despite what the photograph at right (taken during the 1978-79 school year while Warch was still Vice President for Academic Affairs) may suggest.

Several controversies during the last half-decade have led various students and alumni to criticize Warch’s administration. In 2000, Lawrence University’s Task Force on Residence Life revised 60 years of university policy, deciding that no student group could lay permanent claim to a campus residence.

After the Task Force subsequently recommended a site then occupied by the Phi Kappa Tau and Delta Tau Delta fraternity houses and Hulbert House for a proposed Campus Center, it also established new procedures for Formal Group Housing, which led four fraternities to sue the university.

In November an administrative decision to ban Senior Streak was met by a massive editorial backlash in this newspaper and a series of student fliers and mailings protesting the decision.

And, as Warch is quick to acknowledge, the early 21st century is certainly “a tough time for higher education in general,” as likely budget deficits and a stagnating endowment led the university to suggest a pay freeze for faculty earlier this spring.

During the middle of May, the trustees decided instead for a modest increase in faculty pay. Early in April, fraternities and the university settled out of court, and the case will likely be dropped officially July 15, two weeks into Beck’s presidency. No streak followed the Senior Dinner, as had been becoming the custom, and the date for an advertised “All-Campus Streak” in protest of Warch policies came and went without the skin to show for it.

As each of these storylines wraps up, The Lawrentian takes a look back at The Warch Years, from the good-and-lean years to all the in-between years, in a meager attempt to contextualize 25 years of institutional history, even if the latest Lawrence Today does seem plenty thorough.

I sat down with President Warch for 45 minutes Tuesday, May 18 to interview him about various aspects of his life before, after, and at Lawrence. A large portion of that interview is included throughout this edition in transcript form, starting on page 5, along with a variety of stories highlighting particular aspects of the Warch presidency.

Finally, we would like to thank the various faculty, alums, former and current Warch colleagues, and trustee chairpersons past and present for contributing essays on their experiences of the last 25 years.