Whitman president to step down in 2015

Whitman president George Bridges talks with guests at the installation ceremony.

Whitman president George Bridges talks with guests at the installation ceremony. Photo courtesy of Whitman College / Greg Lehman

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The following is a news release:

February 26, 2014

Dear Alumni:

Greetings from Whitman and Walla Walla.

On June 30, 2015 -- a little more than 16 months from now -- we anticipate celebrating the successful completion of our comprehensive “Now Is the Time” campaign. One of the most important goals the trustees and I established seven years ago was raising $150 million for the College, its people and programs. When completed, the campaign will represent Whitman’s largest fundraising effort ever. Thanks to generous gifts from many alumni, parents, friends of Whitman, foundations and many of you, we have raised $135 million. With 16 months remaining, we continue to pursue and receive gifts and grants that should enable us achieve our goal on schedule.

I plan to celebrate the end of the campaign as an outstanding achievement by and for all of us: present and future students, alumni, governing board members, staff, faculty, and friends. However, as the campaign’s end marks a new beginning for Whitman, it also offers a celebratory bookend for my wife Kari and me as well as an opportunity to begin a new chapter in our lives. By the time our campaign ends, I will have served ten years as Whitman’s president and have decided against seeking another term. Thus, I will leave the presidency at the end of June 2015.

Serving as Whitman’s president has been a tremendous honor. I have truly enjoyed meeting and working with thousands of you -- all dedicated and passionate “Whitties” -- as we have sought to advance the college together despite external pressures related to the Great Recession and a rapidly changing landscape in higher education across the country. I am profoundly impressed by your affection for Whitman, your loyalty to its mission, your generous support of our students, faculty and programs through your giving, and finally, your enthusiastic and lasting relationships with fellow classmates and professors. Never in my career have I witnessed such loyalty and zeal among a college’s or a university’s alumni. I am both proud and humbled to have had the privilege of meeting, working with and learning from you over the years.

Some of you may wonder what I will do after I leave the presidency. Although I have no immediate plans, Kari and I are considering many options. My sole focus now is completing the campaign and the other important work we have planned for this year and next.

By announcing my decision now to step down as Whitman’s president, 16 months in advance, our governing board members and the Whitman community will have adequate time to plan and undertake the complex tasks required to identify and recruit the college’s next president. Along with ensuring the final success of our campaign, hiring Whitman’s 14th president represents one of the most important responsibilities of our trustees. They recently began preliminary planning for the search and look forward to immediately including additional faculty, staff and student representation in this process. They have also assured me that all Whitman constituencies will be fully informed about the timeline and tasks necessary for the search and will have opportunities to share in defining aspirations for Whitman and the new president.

Because Whitman stands on significantly stronger footing today than it did ten years ago, I am confident that the college will find an exceptional new president who will lead the college successfully in the years ahead. This represents a very exciting and important turning point for Whitman. I am fully committed to working with the trustees in ensuring a smooth transition to a new president and new leadership for the college.

I hope to see many of you at upcoming alumni and campaign events in the months ahead, and I genuinely look forward to greeting many of you on campus for the Whitman Alumni Reunion Weekend in September of this year. All alumni are invited.

Thank you for supporting Whitman, my leadership, initiatives and ideas, and Kari and me personally. We have had the great privilege of meeting and making many new friends among you. And we most certainly look forward to enjoying and continuing these friendships for many years ahead.

Respectfully yours,

George Bridges

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