Warren Wilson College president tapped to lead Manhattan independent school

October 18, 2016

Trustees form search committee for Solnick’s successor

solnick_portrait
Steven L. Solnick is stepping down as president of Warren Wilson College effective June 30, 2017. Photo: Chris Polydoroff/Warren Wilson College

Steven L. Solnick is stepping down from his post as Warren Wilson College’s seventh president to become the newest leader of The Calhoun School, an independent day school in New York City. Solnick, who assumed the presidency in July of 2012, will remain with the College until June 30, 2017.

“This decision was difficult for me because I believe deeply in the mission and values of Warren Wilson College, and I know it has a bright future,” Solnick wrote to campus community members. “I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for the trust it placed in me and the unwavering support it has shown since my arrival. I am also grateful to the exceptionally talented members of the College’s Cabinet for their dedication and support, to each and every one of the faculty and staff for all they do for the College and its students, and to the students whose intellect, talent and dedication to Warren Wilson’s core values inspire us all.”

While mixed emotions set the tone for his transition, Solnick said his new role presents a rare opportunity to live and work in the New York City area closer to family. He also noted his enthusiasm for Calhoun’s mission and core values, which are similar to those found at Warren Wilson College.

In addition to Solnick’s letter, William “Bill” Christy, chairman of the Board of Trustees and a 1979 graduate, addressed the campus via email.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank Steve Solnick for his 4+ years of service as president of Warren Wilson College,” Christy wrote. “Steve has displayed intellect, vision and leadership during his tenure. As our president, he has helped the College and the Board to focus on academic excellence, expand our applied learning model, refinance the debt of the College and redeploy our endowment in alignment with our core values. In addition, he has led the formulation of the new strategic plan which the Board believes is a roadmap for future sustainability of the College.”

The College’s next president is expected to be in place by July 1, 2017. In the coming weeks, a recruitment firm will begin working with a campus-based committee led by Lach Zemp, a member of the Warren Wilson College Board of Trustees, to launch a national search.

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Steven L. Solnick, right, at Warren Wilson College’s 2016 commencement ceremony. Photo: Reggie Tidwell/Warren Wilson College

Here is the text of Solnick’s letter to campus:

To the Campus Community,

Five years ago, when I agreed to become the seventh President of Warren Wilson College, I wrote from New Delhi that I was excited to join a college that offered students a unique set of tools for success – strong academics, practical experiences and community engagement.

Since arriving on campus, I have remained in awe of the power of this model. Together, we have worked to strengthen it through our new strategic plan – focused on creating a culture of academic excellence, developing a renewed advising model that combines traditional and applied learning opportunities to produce strong outcomes for our graduates, and nurturing a diverse and welcoming community. We have adopted a new general education model, increased the diversity of our faculty and staff, strengthened our fundraising, refinanced our long-term debt and aligned our endowment investments with our values.

I have also been amazed by the resilience of the Warren Wilson community. Change is hard for any institution, and the College has through its history undergone several periods of innovation and evolution in response to changing times. As we work to strengthen the College for future generations, I have been impressed by the dedication of every one of our community members: faculty who are classroom innovators and are still always willing to meet with a prospective student; loyal alumni who are ready to advise current students about jobs and internships; staff undaunted by any challenge; and amazing students whose research awards and civic engagement commitments ensure that our impact is far greater than our headcount.

Therefore, it is with mixed emotions that I write to inform you that just before Fall Break I agreed to become the next Head of the Calhoun School – an independent, progressive day school in New York City serving students from pre-K through grade 12. Therefore, I will step down as President of Warren Wilson College effective June 30, 2017.

This decision was difficult for me because I believe deeply in the mission and values of Warren Wilson College and I know it has a bright future. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for the trust it placed in me and the unwavering support it has shown since my arrival. I am also grateful to the exceptionally talented members of the College’s Cabinet for their dedication and support, to each and every one of the faculty and staff for all they do for the College and its students, and to the students whose intellect, talent and dedication to Warren Wilson’s core values inspire us all.

Ultimately, however, this opportunity to return to New York was too rare and compelling to pass up. Personally, the move will reconnect us with Maeve’s and my family in New York and Massachusetts. Professionally, Calhoun advances a progressive education mission similar to Warren Wilson’s – including a commitment to experiential learning, community engagement and shared values of sustainability, diversity and social justice.

With the Board’s support, I remain fully committed to my role at Warren Wilson until the end of June 2017 and will work closely with the Board and with all of you to navigate the coming leadership transition. We have many important initiatives underway – new programs under development, facility upgrades, a new information system, our marketing relaunch, fundraising outreach and many other efforts – and we cannot afford to lose momentum. With your help and support, I am confident the college will remain strong and I am certain it will attract many talented candidates eager to lead this community forward.

It has been a great privilege and pleasure to lead this wonderful college and I will miss it.

Sincerely,

Steven L. Solnick
President
Warren Wilson College

Here is the text from Christy’s letter to campus:

Note to Campus from Bill Christy

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank Steve Solnick for his 4+ years of service as President of Warren Wilson College.  Steve has displayed intellect, vision and leadership during his tenure.  As our President, he has helped the College and the Board to focus on academic excellence, expand our applied learning model, refinance the debt of the College, and redeploy our endowment in alignment with our core values.  In addition, he has led the formulation of the new strategic plan which the Board believes is a roadmap for future sustainability of the College.

While the Board appreciates Steve’s service, we are now focused on ensuring a smooth transition. The Board knows we have a dedicated and talented team of senior administrators, an outstanding faculty, committed staff, and students that are passionate, inquisitive and focused on learning at Warren Wilson. Together our community will thrive with the implementation of the strategic plan and will continue to keep our mission in the very forefront of our minds.  And I can assure you of my personal commitment to being involved with major decisions on campus for the balance of this academic year.

Our goal is to make certain a successor is in place by July 1, 2017.  To that end, I am pleased to announce that I have appointed a presidential search committee whose members are:

Trustees: Lach Zemp (Committee Chair), Mike Condrey, Susan Pauly, Andy Scott, Anthony Rust, Jessica Culpepper; and myself
Administrators: Paula Garrett, Janelle Holmboe
Faculty:  Catina Bacote
Staff:   Brooke Millsaps
Student: Melvis Madrigal

It is worth noting that of the Board members, three are Warren Wilson alumni, and I am confident that this talented committee is equal to the task of selecting our next President.  To date, we have interviewed search firms and will have selected one by the end of the week.  The search firm will immediately begin working with the search committee and the community on the process of identifying traits that we hope that the new president embodies.

In closing, I think it is important to acknowledge that sudden change can be unsettling, and I know it may take some time to adjust. I noted in April when I was elected Chair that the College has faced challenges a number of times in its history and that innovation and determination have been Warren Wilson’s character traits that helped the College succeed and prosper in the face of former obstacles. I ask that you join me in considering the value of these traits and keep them in focus in the days ahead.

Know, too, that I appreciate the work that all of you do, and I look forward to working with you all in the coming days as we look ahead to our bright future.