Faculty, staff reflect on President Rose’s time at the College
April 22, 2022
After seven years at the College, President Clayton Rose announced he will step down from his position at the end of the next academic year.
“For me, the decision was a battle between feeling that this is the right moment, given where the College is [in regards to our] Covid-19 response and the personal joy I get from coming to work everyday,” Rose said.
In an email to the campus community, Rose cited opportune timing, a transition back to a more normal college experience as the pandemic continues and a desire to spend time with family as reasons for his intended departure.
Senior Vice President for Communications and Public affairs Scott Hood has been at the College for over 30 years and has worked under three presidents in addition to Rose.
“All [the presidents have been] amazing leaders. They have all faced different circumstances and they have all managed the College to the point where it is in a pretty strong place,” Hood said. “The search committees that pick these people do an amazing job, and that includes the trustees that participate, the faculty, the students, the staff, and they have chosen wisely, I think, and we all benefit from that.”
Before coming to Bowdoin, Rose was the Chief Operating Officer at J.P. Morgan and served on the faculty of Harvard Business School. Currently, he is the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and sits on the Board of Directors of Bank of America.
During his time at the College, Rose presided over significant growth in the College’s endowment. When he took office in 2015, the endowment was valued at close to 1.4 billion dollars. At the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, it was valued at over 2.7 billion dollars—almost double the original amount.
A cornerstone of Rose’s tenure was a commitment to intellectual diversity—a value of the College he saw as an essential aspect of the liberal arts experience. Barry N. Wish Professor of Government Paul Franco, who served on the faculty hiring committee that selected Rose in 2015, saw him follow through on his goal to promote perspectives from across the political spectrum.
“I think [Rose] made real efforts to bring opposing views to campus, certainly conservative views, to see if this school could model a kind of civic and political discourse that didn’t mirror the polarization of the country at large,” Franco said.
Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English Tess Chakkalakal also served on the committee that hired Rose. Similarly impressed with his vision for the College, Professor Chakkalakal lamented the ways in which Rose’s plans were upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think [Rose] was really committed to protecting [the values of a liberal arts education],” Chakkalakal said. “I think that is the lasting legacy that I hope [ Rose] will have on Bowdoin College. The problem, of course, was … Covid-19 turned everything on its head.”
“To me, all of these [Covid-19] policies that were implemented threatened the values of a liberal arts education,” Chakkalakal said. “It was about rules and regulations rather than freedom of thought. I think that those kinds of policies that he felt had to be implemented really interfered with achieving his vision of what a liberal arts education can be.”
Bowdoin was among the first colleges to shut down in March 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the 2020-2021 academic year, the College welcomed only first-year students to campus in the fall and only the remaining three grades the following spring. In the years since, Rose has charted a cautious path, mandating regular PCR testing and requiring masks in many indoor campus settings.
Associate Dean for Academic Administration Mike Ranen has worked closely with Rose as the Covid-19 Resource Coordinator over the last two years, helping to make informed decisions about student life in the midst of a pandemic.
“I am so thankful for the leadership that [Rose] has given throughout my time at Bowdoin,” Ranen said. “Working closely with him and others, I’ve been able to see first-hand how [he] has put the health and well-being of the Bowdoin community front and center while also being humble enough to make changes to our policies as information on Covid-19 quickly evolves.”
Other staff members also commended Rose’s leadership while navigating the College through the pandemic.
“He asks questions to listen to those questions, which I think is a really important part of a leader. He doesn’t necessarily ask questions thinking he knows the answers to those questions. He wants to hear people’s input and we make decisions accordingly.” Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Janet Lohmann said. “I feel very lucky to have worked with Rose.”
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President Rose has been a remarkable leader not only through this extraordinarily difficult time, but also when things were “good” before. Rose’s business-oriented background has propelled the College to new heights. His contributions to the College are perceptible now, but his legacy will be solidified as the College moves forward from the exceptional financial state Rose put us in. Thank you, President Rose.
I look forward to seeing who the search committee selects to steer the College moving forward. I hope it will be someone with a different experience and vision than Rose, so they may complement his work and expand the College in new directions.
Nothing about divestment fight? About resistance to minimum wage hike for housekeepers? About adversarial relationship with faculty? About controversial selection of Arthur Brooks as a fellow? About defense of Jes Staley? Rose’s tenure was a mixed bag, but this is a weak review of his legacy.
Thanks for your comment! This article was concerned with providing a broad overview President Rose’s last few years as part of the official news announcement of his departure. Next Spring, as he officially departs, the Orient plans to do in-depth reflections on various aspects of his tenure, including the events you mention.
Deeply aggrieved by his baffling handling of COVID. Off-campus seniors (2021) not allowed on campus all year — not even outdoors?– even though they were masked and tested weekly? Cut the off-campus students out of the testing protocal?