from Owl and Spade, Fall 2012
One sunny Tuesday morning in August, I donned a bright orange t-shirt and joined our students and staff to welcome our first-year students and their parents to campus and help unload their cars. For me, this marked the real beginning of my term as Warren Wilson’s seventh president. As the cars pulled in, the campus began to inflate with students, coming alive with the anxieties and aspirations that accompany the start of college.
My plan was to keep busy enough carrying bookshelves and refrigerators into dorm rooms that I wouldn’t have time to dwell on my own anxieties and aspirations in starting this new role as the College president. During a brief lull in the unpacking, I noticed a Vietnamese family of four pausing in front of Sunderland, with the parents posing for a photo. I approached them and offered to take a shot of all four of them, but the camera-wielding son, a college-aged young man, declined. “Just my parents,” he said. And then his mother pointed to her husband and explained, “He went here.”
I briefly thought I’d encountered a multi-generational Wilson family. I asked where the new student was, and the father came quickly over to explain. “I went here in the 1980s,” he told me. “I was on vacation with my family in the area and I brought them over to Warren Wilson because I wanted them to see the place where I became the person I am today.”
I recounted his words later that afternoon to our assembled new students and their families. It captured for me what is so exciting, and also so humbling, about the journey that I was beginning along with them. College is for many of us the place we become the person we are going to be, and at Warren Wilson we are particularly focused on educating that whole person. Through the Triad, we stimulate the mind and also challenge students to work as part of the campus community and to serve as part of the greater Asheville-Buncombe County community. We teach skills for life—intellectual skills, leadership skills, moral reasoning and practical problem solving.
Steven L. Solnick, Ph.D., is the seventh president in the 70-year history of Warren Wilson College. Solnick assumed the presidency in July 2012 after a decade abroad as Ford Foundation Representative in Moscow and then in New Delhi, providing programmatic and administrative leadership. During his years with the foundation, Solnick gave shape and direction to its work across areas such as human rights, higher education, arts and culture, media, livelihood promotion, sustainable agriculture and reproductive health.
Before joining the Ford Foundation, Solnick was associate professor of political science at Columbia University, where he also was coordinator for Russian Studies at the Harriman Institute. He previously was research associate at Harvard University’s Russian Research Center and Center for International Affairs. Since 2001 Solnick has been a full member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A native of Jersey City, N.J., Solnick holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, and a doctorate in political science from Harvard University. He also has a B.A. (First Class) in politics and economics from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He was a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Fulbright-Hays Fellow at Moscow State University.
Solnick lives in Asheville with his wife, Maeve O’Connor, and their children: Elinor, Naomi and Reuben.