Inauguration of Steven Solnick

Speech by Katie Green, Staff

Good morning.

Greetings and welcome to those who've traveled from near and far to be with us on this momentous occasion of the inauguration of our new president.

My name is Katie Green and I am a member of our community of staff here. Two autumns ago, I had the privilege and honor to be part of the search committee to find Steve; it was an experience that was exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and very successful.

This month, across the country, many presidential inaugurations are taking place, yet few are as intentional about including staff in the celebration as Warren Wilson.

That’s because our community values the vital roles staff members have as work crew supervisors and mentors in our students’ experience. Put another way, our staff are co-educators who guide the busyness of the work of a work college.

Our staff members bear witness to days ordinary to us but extraordinary to the outside world. These days might include: the planning of a new blacksmith project, the creation of service break trips, the tender care of a native plant nursery or the editing of our literary magazine, The Peal. Days like these round out the Triad and create a college experience that is unlike any other.

In my role as an admission counselor, moments that bring the greatest joy are those when I witness a prospective student’s eyes brighten by the thought of doing college differently. It was apparent early in our presidential search that Steve fully comprehended this notion of doing college differently.

It’s funny how similar the trajectories of a prospective student and a prospective president are.

When we meet prospective students, we enchant them with our Triad and our misty valley and they realize they’ve found a place that ties academics, work and service together and offers a community filled with compassionate people who dream big, work hard, dig deep and achieve greatness.

And when they arrive, and their understanding of Warren Wilson is less opaque, they quickly begin to understand there is real work to be done here — in the classroom, on our work crews and with our community partners.

The same is true for Steve. Part of his real work is share the brilliance, both the shine and genius of the Triad with those questioning the value of higher education. His work is framing the relevance of an academic and experiential education combined with comprehensive service learning, for folks who haven’t yet thought of doing college differently.

His work is to challenge us and ask hard questions of our community.

And conversely, the hard work of the staff is to be open to the questions and the process to find solutions — we must be willing to be moved to achieve greatness. And Warren Wilson’s compelling history and mission deserves greatness.

The hopes and dreams we have for students at Warren Wilson are not unlike the hopes and dreams we have for you, Steve. We know you possess wisdom, courage, integrity and curiosity. We believe in your leadership and your vision. We believe in you. It is an honor to serve Warren Wilson with you as our president. Thank you.

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Speech by Dave Ellum, Faculty

Welcome — Students, WWC Faculty and Staff, Trustees, Academic Representatives, Friends, Mayor Bellamy and President Solnick, Maeve, Elinor, Naomi and Rueben -I hope you’ve found a joyful home in these forested mountains and our vibrant community.

It is with Great Honor that I represent The Warren Wilson College Faculty at this important moment in the College’s History. And I will be brief — as brief as a professor can be.

What business are we in, if not in the business of creating leaders?

Leaders whose youth, idealism and energy are essential to creating a healthier, more just world for future generations. Leaders in the Fine Arts and Humanities, Leaders in the Social Sciences and Leaders in the Natural Sciences. And perhaps - if we apply our passions well and we are true to our Liberal Arts mission — leaders who can see the connections between all three disciplines and are able to forge truly innovative and integrated solutions for a better world.

It takes Leaders to create Leaders.

When President Solnick first came to my attention during the Presidential selection process — I must admit that on paper he seemed like an odd duck. A well educated, well traveled, well referenced duck mind you, but an odd one for the position none the less. That said, being the open-minded fellow that I am, and not at all put off by the time he spent in Cambridge Massachusetts, I believed he was worth a shot. My belief in Steve’s ability to lead the college as our next president began from the moment we met the man in person and had a chance to hear him speak his mind.

To be successful as the leader of a great and storied college such as Warren Wilson, our president must be able to tell our story. Our aspirations, our victories, our needs, our unique identity and our important role in current and future Liberal Arts education. It was quickly obvious to me that Steve had taken the time to understand who we are and how he might fit in into our mission. His words, his insights and his enthusiasm told me that he would be successful in telling our story because he desired to be part of our story.

Students are educated in the classroom. Leaders are educated in the world.

Steve’s travels and professional experiences outside of academia will prove to be an important asset to the College going forward in these times of global thought on issues of environmental and social justice. His time in India and Russia and his practical experience in funding initiatives aimed at promoting positive social change at once expand and focus our mission. Put plainly, his world view combined with Warren Wilson’s Triad Education model is a partnership that can not lose, and our triumphs will make the world a better place for our children.

In closing I would like to restate the time tested words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

President Solnick — With the guidance of your leadership, The Faculty of Warren Wilson College is ready to change the world.