Brown President calls its quits; Freedman endures

by Maura Henninger | 1/27/97 6:00am

Brown University President Vartan Gregorian will retire in July, due to what he called the huge personal and professional toll facing College presidents today. But Dartmouth President James Freedman said he plans to stick around for a while.

Freedman, who came to Dartmouth in 1987, is the longest-standing Ivy League president.

Gregorian, the President of Brown since 1989, resigned to become the president of the Carnegie Corporation in New York.

In his nine years at Brown, Gregorian doubled the University's endowment to more than $800 million, brought in 270 new faculty members, and expanded the library from two to three million volumes, according to the New York Times.

Freedman said the main factors contributing to the low longevity of most college presidencies are the heavy demands of matters unrelated to education, such as fundraising and ceremonies, travel, appealing to diverse constituencies and having little personal time.

In a Jan. 19 column in the Boston Globe, Freedman described the dilemma facing most college presidents today.

"The truth is that college presidents today face a proliferation of administrative responsibilities and internal pressures created by the ethic of constituency participation and consultation; that ethic was far less expansive a half-century ago," he wrote.

The demands of fund-raising are such that Harvard's President Neil Rudenstine took a leave of absence in 1995 due to the physical exhaustion incurred from running Harvard's $2.1 billion capital campaign which began in May, 1994.

Both Columbia University's President Michael Sovern and Yale University's President Benno Schmidt resigned under pressure from faculty because of cost-cutting attempts.

The abundance of responsibilities a college president faces has resulted in the dramatic decrease in the longevity of most college presidents. The national average is between five and six years.

Yet Dartmouth College has had only 15 presidents in 227 years. Freedman called this number slightly deceiving, since there have been presidents such as Eleazar Wheelock, Ernest Hopkins and John Dickey who each served terms of about 30 years.

"Presidents are not likely to serve 25 or 29 years again," Freedman said. "It's amazing to be the senior president after only 10 years, a seemingly short period of time."

In his letter of resignation, Gregorian wrote, "I believe presidents of major nonprofit institutions, especially our universities, need periodic renewals, and the institutions need new leadership."

Gregorian, who has referred to himself as a scholar first and a fund-raiser second, told the New York Times of his frustration at having to forsake most of his scholarly pursuits to become the president of Brown.

Freedman said he will not preside over another school if he retires from Dartmouth. He said he would prefer to dedicate his time to completing one or two more books. Freedman wrote in the Globe that college presidents need to find more time to read and reflect if they wish to be "effective public intellectuals."

Freedman said Gregorian was a "wonderful president of Brown"

and described Gregorian's next job at the Carnegie Corporation as "a very good thing."

Gregorian helped raise Brown's profile in the Ivy League. This year's freshmen class of 1,482 was drawn from a pool of 15,009, the largest in the university's history, and it is the most highly rated group of freshmen ever, according to the New York Times.

An Armenian born in Tabriz, Iran, Gregorian speaks seven languages and has written three books and numerous articles, mainly on the subjects of Armenian history and literature, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

Brown students have created The Vartan Page, a World Wide Web homepage completely dedicated to him. It features a series of photographs of Gregorian, a collection of his sayings called "The World According to Vartan" and a detailed biography.

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