On Monday morning the Board of Trustees unanimously elected Clayton S. Rose the 15th president of the College, effective July 1. President-elect Rose, who is currently a professor of management practice at the Harvard Business School (HBS), accepted the position shortly after the vote.
Prior to his time at HBS, Rose worked in the financial services industry for 20 years, serving as vice chairman and chief operating officer at J.P. Morgan in 2001, when he decided to return to academia. He enrolled in a doctoral program in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, where he studied race in America and graduated with distinction in 2007. Rose’s other academic credentials include a B.A. and M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He is originally from San Rafael, Calif.
The College held a brief ceremony at 3 p.m. on Monday in David Saul Smith Union to introduce Rose to the Bowdoin community. President Barry Mills, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and member of the Board of Trustees Jes Staley ’79, Rose and his wife Julianne were in attendance. Several hundred students, faculty, staff and Brunswick residents filled Morrell Lounge and lined the ramps of Smith Union to hear Rose speak.
Staley, representing the search committee, said that the body had tirelessly pursued the right candidate.
“We came from different backgrounds and ages,” said Staley. “The search committee clearly reflected the diversity of Bowdoin. The search committee worked incredibly hard. We pored over hundreds of résumés and discussed dozens of potential candidates.”
Staley said that the search committee is confident that Rose is the individual best-suited to guide Bowdoin into the future.
“The search committee was convinced that Clayton has thought deeply about the values of a liberal arts education and the challenges that lie ahead. He has the intellectual strength and quiet confidence to engage with our faculty as we consider the issues facing modern education—from technology to accessibility,” he said.
Rose’s candidacy came from Isaacson, Miller, the search firm Bowdoin hired to help find its new president, but Rose and Staley in fact worked together and became close friends at J.P. Morgan.
“I have learned much by listening to and watching Jes Staley, my long time business partner and great friend,” Rose wrote in the acknowledgments section of his dissertation. “He and I have been discussing issues of race and opportunity in the business world for many years, and he stands above any other executive that I know in his willingness to honestly address difficult social issues; he is a role model for other business leaders.”
A 2012 article in FT Magazine, the weekend insert in the Financial Times, tells the story of Staley giving Rose a Frodsham pocket watch—said to be one of John Pierpoint Morgan’s favorite gifts to give—when Rose left J.P. Morgan in 2001. According to the article, Rose returned the favor on the occasion of Staley’s 50th birthday in 2006.
“It sits on my desk at home and it’s been with me the whole time,” Rose said about the watch in an interview with the magazine. “I have a little stand for it and I look at it every night and every day. It’s a link to a firm and an ethos and a culture that was very much a part of me.”
Staley disclosed his relationship with Rose to the search committee, whose members said that it had no bearing on their selection.
“Apart from the fact that it was disclosed, it was not a big part of our deliberations nor did Jes do anything to make one suspicious of what was going on,” said Professor of Government Paul Franco, who sat on the search committee.
Seniors Oriana Farnham and Dusty Biron and Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English Tess Chakkalakal, all members of the committee, agreed with Franco’s assessment.
Rose began his first address to the Bowdoin community by acknowledging Mills’ accomplishments during his 14-year tenure. Resounding applause followed his words of recognition, demonstrating the esteem in which the Bowdoin community holds Mills.
Earlier in the afternoon during an interview with Orient, Rose explained the decision he made in 2001 to leave the world of finance and return to academia.
“In the business sphere you kind of think of things as a mile wide and an inch deep, and I wanted to flip that and see if I had the intellectual chops to be able to go a mile deep and an inch wide,” said Rose. “The issue that I wanted to go a mile deep into was the issue of race in America, so sociology was the natural academic platform to pursue that interest. I had never taken a sociology class in my life until I showed up at [UPenn] to begin the program—it’s quite a remarkable and powerful discipline actually as I discovered.”
William Bielby, currently a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was a professor of Rose’s at UPenn and is the collaborator of his dissertation. Bielby said that given Rose’s career as an executive and his research focus in sociology, he will be able to make progress on racial issues that goes beyond symbolism.
“He has some interesting insights, a good handle on those kinds of things about making sure that when you are being supportive of diversity efforts or giving directives in the area of diversity, that there is indeed appropriate accountability and oversight so that there really is meaningful change,” said Bielby.
Rose also spoke to the pressures faced by today’s liberal arts colleges. He acknowledged that the public is becoming increasingly conscious of the value of higher education in terms of dollars and cents, but said that there is still a need for the liberal arts.
“It is essential to helping us grow, to shaping us, to creating fulfilling lives, meaningful lives for each of us, and then there’s the value it brings to society more broadly, an engaged and informed citizenry,” Rose said.
He added that a liberal arts education does not disadvantage students as they enter the job market.
“I actually see no tension, no tradeoff between a very high quality liberal arts education that’s dedicated to the notion of the individual and society,” Rose said. “The skills and tools that you develop in liberal arts education—critical thinking and the ability to communicate and understand the world—are incredibly important to whatever vocation someone is going to have. Those are deeply meaningful and powerful skills.”
Chakkalakal said that an ability to articulate the value of the liberal arts was something she was looking for in each of the candidates, and that Rose clearly had it.
“I think what [Rose] is going to bring here is a way of thinking about the value of the liberal arts in a kind of figurative way and also a material, financial way—that there is a payoff to a liberal arts education,” she said.
Franco said he thought Rose possessed the managerial and financial skills that are essential to the job, but also that Rose understood academia from the inside and would be up to the challenge of grappling with Bowdoin’s curriculum.
“There hasn’t been a great deal done in terms of curriculum reform for many years, ever since the distribution requirements that are currently in place were put in place,” Franco said. “So we’re due for some sort of revisitation of what we teach and how we teach.”
In addition to the skills suggested by his résumé, Rose had another important, if less concrete, qualification.
“He has a Bowdoin-ness to him,” said Farnham.
—Cameron de Wet and Ron Cervantes contributed to this report.
Editors note: An earlier version of this article was published on Monday January 26 and has since been updated to reflect what ran in the January 30 print edition of the Orient.