"Walking the Tightrope: The Dynamic Equilibrium of Presidential Leadership," Council of Independent Colleges Keynote

Walter E. Massey | January 4, 2011

Thank you, MaryAnn.

I am extremely honored to have been asked to serve as the keynote speaker for this year’s Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute. Of course, there is always a fair amount of pressure on the first person who formally speaks at this type of gathering. You want to set the right tone for what will follow and, hopefully, say something novel, brilliant and/or exciting to kick things off. Well, I am not sure how close I will come to meeting that high standard, but I do hope to at least give you something interesting to think about.

Fortunately, I feel very much at home sharing my views with you, as I am quite familiar with most of the CIC schools. I have been president of one of your member institutions, Morehouse College, and I am an honorary graduate of three: Allegheny, Rhodes, and Sewanee. I also have had the privilege of getting to know some of you through Morehouse’s membership in the Associated Colleges of the South and the UNCF, as well as from my vantage point as a trustee for the Mellon Foundation. I must say how pleased I am that Mellon has been able to support your institutions, either directly or through your various associations with ACS, the Appalachian Colleges Association, and CIC.

As you have heard, I now have a new job as president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We are a different kind of institution from most CIC members—larger than most, with about 3,000 students, of whom approximately 800 are graduate students. We are geographically diverse, with students from all 50 states and 50 foreign countries.

But, in many respects, SAIC, as we call it, is more similar to your institution than you might think. We are private and share a commitment to personal faculty-student interactions. We are teaching oriented, and our students are exposed to a liberal arts curriculum, including philosophy, history and literature. But it is the SAIC's emphasis on student development—allowing and encouraging students to explore their creative limits and learn whom they are as individuals and artists—that causes me to make the claim of similarity.

Read more:
Council of Independent Colleges: Walking the Tightrope [PDF]