Even though I have just begun my service to Colgate, I do not feel like a stranger. During the presidential selection process, I took a “covert” trip to the campus — with my dog, Emrys — to get an early sense of the university. I was amazed by the beauty of the campus and the energy of the community. Emrys liked the squirrels.
Over the next several months, I came back a number of times to meet faculty members, students, and staff. As a student of higher education, I have always been aware of Colgate. Everyone is; it is one of our nation’s most highly regarded liberal arts colleges. After spending this past year learning more about Colgate and its history, however, I am now more excited than ever about its future.
The job of a university president is to see that an institution is well managed; that its resources are carefully stewarded and applied; that the academic life of the institution is vibrant and demanding; that the faculty assembled is excellent and well supported; that the students receive an education — in and out of the classroom — that prepares them for lives of meaning and purpose; and that the campus is pleasing.
But I am not writing about just any campus, or any college or university. I am writing about Colgate, and about this moment in time. I am also — truth be told — writing about why I have come here, and why I feel honored and humbled to have the chance to be at Colgate now.
Colgate is unique. It is distinctive. There are attributes that set Colgate apart from the vast array of institutions of higher education in the United States. We are larger than most traditional liberal arts colleges (more than twice as large, for example, as Haverford). The size of the faculty and the reach of their scholarship and research are remarkable and provide countless opportunities for Colgate students. The array of activities for our students includes participation in NCAA Division I athletics, which adds a type of spirit to the campus not seen at many liberal arts colleges. And all of this occurs on a campus well known around the world for its beauty.
In the months and years ahead, I plan on writing about the ways in which we can strengthen the university. How we can continue to hire excellent faculty and develop new academic programs while enriching the departments and centers we already have on the hill. How we can make the student experience more challenging, connecting, and rewarding. How we can continue to improve the campus, while sustaining its beauty. How we can strengthen the fine and performing arts on campus. How we can extend the reach and reputation of Colgate through more confident and robust communications efforts. How we can make this education accessible to an ever-wider range of students.
I also plan on writing about the joyful moments to be found in Hamilton and — as we look at the experiences of our students and alumni — around the world. I want to write about the many expressions of Colgate. We can, and should, be excellent in many ways — in the classroom, on the playing fields, in the arts, in the village, and in the world. And there are moments, in each of these areas, when Colgate proves itself to be special. I will talk about these moments as well.
The task before me is to let Colgate be Colgate. The energy will come as we strive to make it the best possible version of itself.
I have grown, in a short period of time, to admire and even love this university. I write to all of you, therefore, with a sense of pride, excitement, and energy. There is much work to do to move Colgate forward, and there are many conversations about its future to be had. These are the tasks on my desk in these first days. I look forward to sharing all of this with you.
And, in the meantime, I will let you know about Emrys’s continued efforts to meet all of the squirrels on campus.
Meet Brian W. Casey, Colgate’s 17th president
University of Notre Dame Class of 1985
– Summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
– Philosophy and economics double major
– Varsity swim team captain, Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Stanford Law School, JD, 1988
Harvard University, PhD in American History, 2000
Attorney, Davis Polk & Wardwell
Assistant provost, Brown University
Associate dean for academic affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University President, DePauw University
Emrys, his beloved terrier-mix rescue dog, born on St. Patrick’s Day
6:00 a.m. laps in the pool — now with the Colgate Raiders swim team