In this edition of Colgate Magazine, members of our community offer advice and insights, from tips on exercise to philosophies of life. I take the opportunity this column provides me to add a thought or two on this topic based on many years spent on college campuses — with as many mistakes on my record as successes. Experience is a firm teacher. What follows are some ideas that I have learned along the way, which I offer as part of the article’s theme.

Temporary Solutions Are Rarely Temporary

One of the responsibilities — and joys — of working on a campus is that you think about the long term. One of the temptations of working on a campus, however, is responding to pressing issues with short-term solutions. It has always struck me that campuses are both timeless, with old buildings and large trees speaking to immortal themes, and noisy and drama filled, with current crises taking over the calendar.

On my desk, on any given day, are three or four pressing crises. In my email inbox on those days are often dozens, if not hundreds, of emails from students, faculty and staff members, and alumni demanding that I act immediately to address specific current concerns. (These emails, by the way, are often quite specific in the solutions proposed.)

Beyond these crises are the longer-term matters that must need to be addressed. Yet these matters rarely cause the emails, rarely call for emergency meetings.

It takes will to consider the long term when facing acute, present-day matters. Yet, every time I have taken short-term solutions to address current issues, I have harmed the long-term view. This is not uncommon on a campus.

There is no single road to Colgate specifically or to success in higher education in general. 

As proof, I give you Gate House. Built in the face of a “temporary” need for additional student housing, it has long outlived that classification. This is because, once an immediate need has been overcome on a college campus, others inevitably arise, and they must also be met. The provisional plan becomes a permanent — or at least indefinite — part of the landscape.

People often kid me that we have a plan that has as its time frame a whole century. I am used to the teasing, and I just smile. I just know that without such a time frame, the present day, and its present-day solutions, will always win.

Sometimes What You Need Is a Good Book 

I’m on airplanes a lot. My seatmates, when they find out I am a college president, always ask me what it is, exactly, that I do all day. Many seem to think that I attend a lot of lectures, drop in on classes, and talk to students late at night about philosophical issues.

I typically don’t have the heart to tell them that I have endless meetings, budgets to consider, emails to answer, and crises to manage. I can arrive home, most nights, quite tired, though knowing I have more reports to read and more emails to answer.

But if I think about it, what I should be doing is reading — and reading books that are not always directly related to my work. I can say with considerable certainty that my life always seems better — richer, more interesting — when I am in the midst of some great book.

I am not alone in this thought. Most happy people I know are readers, and their reading is often cited as a significant source of their happiness.  

I work on a campus, and my office overlooks the large and well-stocked Case Library. Books are all around me. When I am engaged in one, the good life seems more possible to me than ever.

Relationships Matter

In this edition of Colgate Magazine, you will meet Professor Engda Hagos, whose personal story, scholarship, and commitment to undergraduates are profound and remarkable. The connections he has formed with his students earned him the Jerome Balmuth Award for Teaching in 2022.

While there is much to inspire in Hagos’ narrative, I focus on one point here: There is no single road to Colgate specifically or to success in higher education in general. If we are alert to the full experience of our scholars — and if those scholars are open to the ways in which their own career development can be used as a teaching tool or pedagogical philosophy — we will further differentiate Colgate’s extraordinary faculty from that of our peer institutions. 

I can say without hesitation that there is no Engda Hagos at any other college or university in America or beyond. His research collaborators are certainly to be found around the globe, but the ways in which his life experiences and academic accomplishments inspire his teaching and mentorship make him unique. His effect on generation after generation of undergraduates must therefore be uncommon as well.

It has always struck me that campuses are both timeless, with old buildings and large trees speaking to immortal themes, and noisy and drama filled, with current crises taking over the calendar. 


It should be noted here, as we celebrate great teaching and mentorship, that the Colgate community lost one of its fine teacher-scholars earlier this year: chemistry professor Ephraim Woods. He was a member of the faculty for two decades, a scientist who researched aerosol chemistry, and a Colgate Raiders fan who loved basketball. His death at age 52 is a tragedy for his family and a deep loss for the colleagues and students who learned from him, who participated in his research, and benefited from the example he set with his curiosity and intellect. 

We call this an academic community for good reason. It is not a metaphor. We mourn together, learn together, plan for the future, and aspire together. Our individual histories merge in this place, where we find, in each other, support and shared wisdom. That is the message in this springtime edition of Colgate Magazine. Thank you for reading.