Eighth president spends Wednesday meeting members of College community
There are eight stone pillars in Morris’ Community Pavilion. On Wednesday, to symbolize the past meeting the present, each pillar held a photo of a former president beginning with Arthur Bannerman, who served between 1942 and 1971, on the post stage right. In sequential order, images of earlier leaders looked out at the crowd. The eighth picture, which hung on the column stage left, was covered up until the introduction of Warren Wilson College’s next president.
By 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, the seats in the pavilion were full, and a panel of speakers offered brief remarks leading up to the College’s first official meeting with Dr. Lynn Morton.
“The record shows that this person is an innovator and a collaborator and someone who is willing to take risks when necessary,” professor Catina Bacote told the crowd before Morton’s introduction. “We’ve made a good choice. Let’s take today to celebrate.”
As Bill Christy ’79, chairman of the Warren Wilson College Board of Trustees, concluded his remarks, he ripped off the covering from the final pillar, and the room exploded into cheers and a standing ovation as Morton descended the stairs connecting the pavilion with the Jensen Humanities and Social Science Center.
“Thank you so much for that incredible welcome,” Morton said before reading from her prepared remarks. “I’m overwhelmed as I was when I visited here. This is an incredibly special place.”
Following the announcement, which was streamed over the internet by WLOS-TV, Morton and Christy spent the afternoon visiting areas around campus. Stops on their trip included biology professor Liesl Erb’s class to watch student presentations, biology professor Alisa Hove’s laboratory to meet additional majors, the fine woodworking shop to see the crew in action, the recycling center to tour the facility and visit the free store, and the Verner Center for Early Learning to see the collaborative garden and meet with Warren Wilson College students involved in community engagement projects.
By 4:30 p.m., a larger cross-section of the College community gathered in the pavilion for a reception. Current students and staff and faculty members were joined by alumni, retirees, trustees, community members and some who held multiple distinguishing titles. The College presented Morton with a bowl made by the Fine Woodworking Crew, and she also received copies of the books written about Warren Wilson College’s history.
“I was a history major as well as an English major, and history is important to me. So, it is particularly fitting that I was presented with history. I look forward to not only reading about it but also talking about it with those who lived it. The alums know that I will be reaching out to them and the current students, as well,” Morton said after receiving the gifts.
As she concluded her comments, the people gathered began to mingle, discussing the day’s events and the future of Warren Wilson College.
“I think [Dr. Morton] seems to have a really good understanding of a lot of the values and strengths at Warren Wilson as well as some of our struggles,” said Steve Gifford-Bell, a sophomore creative writing major. “I think she is really passionate about [Warren Wilson College] and seems to want to be here and has a genuine affinity for this place.”
Jocelyn Hartung, a sophomore conservation biology major, who attended the official introduction and the afternoon reception, said she was excited about Morton’s announcement.
“There was an electric buzz when she was introduced,” said Hartung. “I am hopeful that she is going to be a really good president.”
Biology and environmental studies professor Mark Brenner, who is completing his 27th year at the College, said he had hoped Morton would be the next president of Warren Wilson College.
“It was very clear to me that she knew what we were about before she ever even applied for this job,” Brenner said. “I found it very powerful when [Dr. Morton] walked down to the standing ovation that went on for a long time. I kind of got choked up. I was very excited, and I think a lot of people feel she’s the one to lead us.”
Ashley Conley, a 2009 environmental studies graduate, was happy the College selected Morton as its next president.
“I’m really excited to have her as our new president,” said Conley. “She has a lot of strong characteristics. I think she really fits in with Warren Wilson, and I look forward to seeing what she can do for us.”
Walter Anderson, a 1970 graduate with a degree in sociology, agreed with Conley. However, his reasons rest more on Morton’s affinity for the area.
“I like that she’s got some local roots,” Anderson said. “She’s got some good longevity here.”
At the beginning of the day, Brooke Millsaps opened the announcement ceremony as the staff representative on the presidential search committee. Her remarks set the tone for a day filled with exhilaration for and confidence in the future of Warren Wilson College, which is likely why the word “exciting” was uttered by many of the people welcoming the new president.
“[Dr. Morton] is the right person to lead us forward in our next chapter,” Millsaps said. “[She] is a listener. I anticipate [she] will be deeply engaged with us as a community, and I think [she] gets who we are.”
In 58 days, Lynn Morton becomes the eighth president of Warren Wilson College. To learn more about the next leader, visit http://warren-wilson.edu/newpresident.