It’s truly an honor to speak on behalf of the Board of Trustees, as we install Illinois Wesleyan’s 19th President. As one of the newest members of the Board, I was asked by President Wilson to come down for an orientation, to discuss my new responsibilities as a member of the Board. The first responsibility, he said was “you will be selecting my successor.” That’s a heavy task for newcomer!
During that first meeting with the Board, there were a group of people in the Davidson Room – people that I’ve known of and admired from afar for many years – glowingly speaking on the merits of the person that the Search Committee would recommend to be the next President of Illinois Wesleyan.
Having been a student at Wesleyan under the visionary leadership of President Myers – who dared us to dream of a place that IWU could become – and working in concert with President Wilson over the past decade as an alum – as so many students, faculty, staff and alumni did to apply laser-like focus to transform lives – in my mind, the bar was set very high. In meeting President Jensen shortly after his election, I knew that the Board had made the right decision.
President Jensen’s background helps him bring a different and fresh perspective to our end goals, while continuing to allow us to promote our strengths and improve us where needed. As was the same at President Wilson’s inauguration 11 years ago, we are in challenging times. Tough decisions are being made across all walks of life, both here on campus, in the state and across the nation. There is intense competition amongst institutions to attain the talented students that will sustain us. Many talented people here are being asked to do more with less while maintaining the focus on our core values that are outlined in our mission statement – attaining the ideal of a liberal education and providing unique opportunities through our curricula and programs, while maintaining our commitment to diversity, social justice and environmental sustainability. And our students are seeking an environment that is reflective of the ever-changing world they will be entering. We have a collective duty to ensure that we are doing right by those who seek a Wesleyan education and our Professors that are lighting the path!
General Colin Powell once said that “great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” The challenges that we face will not be easily solved and not all days will be bright. But we have a strong foundation already in place, at this point in our history, we have the leader in place that can continue to make Illinois Wesleyan the place that we all know that it can be and that we all want it to be.
Eric and Elizabeth, on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Illinois Wesleyan, we’re happy to formally welcome you to the Wesleyan Family as our 19th President and First Lady! We know that with your leadership, the future is bright and we have many more great days of being a Titan ahead!