Warch backs Liberal Arts tradition

Richard Warch, in a picture taken during some of his first days on the job. This photo appeared on the front page of The Lawrentian on Sept. 28, 1979.
Jeff Wisser

Richard Warch, in a picture taken during some of his first days on the job. This photo appeared on the front page of The Lawrentian on Sept. 28, 1979.

From Vol. XCVII, No. 1, Friday, September 28, 1979Lawrence University opens the 1979-80 academic year with a new President. Richard Warch, 40, has been the University’s Vice President for Academic Affairs since September 1977. He replaces Thomas S. Smith, whose resignation became effective August 31.

The selection of Warch by the Lawrence Board of Trustees climaxed an intensive five-month nation-wide search conducted by a committee of faculty members, alumni, trustees, and students. The committee, which selected Warch from among 250 nominees, cited the demonstration of his leadership abilities at Lawrence and in previous experience at Yale.

Warch received a bachelor of arts degree from Williams College in 1961. He studied at Edinburgh University in Scotland during the 1962-63 academic year and earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School in 1964. He is an ordained minister of the United Presbyterian Church. In 1968, he received a doctorate of philosophy in American Studies from Yale.

Before coming to Lawrence, he was associate dean of Yale College, director of summer plans for Yale and director of Yale’s visiting faculty program. He was also an associate professor of history and American Studies at Yale. He has received several awards and fellowships, consulted for educational associations and institutions, has been author or editor of several books, and published widely.

Warch was married on September 8, 1962 to Margot Lynn Moses, a 1961 graduate of the University of Rochester with a bachelor of arts degree in English and of Southern Connecticut State College with a master of science degree in special education. She is an instructor and reading specialist in the adult basic education program at the Fox Valley Technical Institute in Appleton. The Warches have two sons, Stephen, 13, and David, 10, and a daughter, Karin, 6.

In a recent interview, Warch stated that he had a “realistically upbeat” outlook on Lawrence and its future. “Coming out of the Academic Vice Presidency,” he said, “I think I’ve come, in two years, to have a good informed and appreciative understanding of the curricular program of the University in the College and the Conservatory. From the academic side, I’m very confident that we enter the 80’s in good shape.”

Warch cited the need for continued attention in the area of admissions: “I have great confidence in Dave Busse and his staff…We’ve seen increases in the size of the matriculating class for two straight years. This year, the quality of the incoming class was very good; 88 percent in the top 30 percent of their class, 43 percent in the top 10 percent and a lot of dazzling AP scores sprinkled around. Admission is strong in both numbers and quality, but we have to remain attentive to that.”

On the broader topic of fund raising and alumni affairs, Warch also expressed concern. “We need to work imaginatively and persistently on that front.”

Warch was particularly strong in backing Lawrence’s liberal arts traction. “I think that in the coming years Lawrence needs to be more aggressive in articulating and arguing for its nature as a liberal arts college and conservatory. I don’t think that we’ve been apologetic about it, but I feel that, like many other colleges, we’ve gotten ourselves unhappily on the defensive on a lot of fronts and we need to turn that around. That’s not easily going to be done, but I think that we need to understand ourselves as one on the institutions of quality that for whom the critical issue is not simply surviving the 80’s, but thriving in the 80’s. We don’t do our students, our alumni, the state of Wisconsin, the Midwest or the nation any food by attempting to become like either institutions for whom simply perpetuating the institution is in and of itself the purpose of the institution. Balancing the budget is, through it all, a central concern, but I believe as the previous administration believed, that balancing the budget is a mission to be accomplished without compromising our excellence.”

Warch pointed to the renovation of Main Hall as another sign of institutional health. “We’ve brought that building into the twentieth century,” he stated, “and I think it will work well as a classroom facility. More importantly, the size and set-up of the offices suggests much about the quality of Lawrence.”

When speaking of the change in titles of two administrative posts from Vice President to Dean, Warch explained, “The decanal title is, by tradition, an academic designation for these positions. Neither position has been denigrated by the use of the term ‘dean.’ It’s simply that, when I was Vice President for Academic Affairs and people elsewhere would ask me what I do, I would say I was Dean of the Faculty, which was, in effect, what I was. It just seemed to me that those titles more closely reflect what the institution is.”

Warch also expressed concern over the condition of Brokaw Hall and Alexander Gymnasium, two facilities unaltered during the Smith administration. “I think that some time within the next few years Lawrence will undoubtly engage in a capital drive and that those two buildings, it is generally agreed by all of us, are on the menu as needing attention.”

Warch concluded by expressing his interest in maintaining president-student relations. “My first two years here,” he said, “I taught. I had a sugar plum vision that I would also teach this year, which several of my colleagues happily, I think talked me out of. At some point in the coming years, I would like to return to the classroom in some capacity.”

“I enjoy students and interaction with them. It’s certainly a part of my job that I don’t treat as my job, but just simply think that that’s one of the pleasures of my work, that one can get to meet students and get to know them as friends.”