Liebowitz to Step Down in 2015

By Kyle Finck

President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz will step down at the conclusion of the next academic year, effective June 30, 2015. He announced the decision in an email sent to students on Dec. 12 in conjunction with major revisions to the structure and governance of the Board of Trustees.

“It has been an honor of the highest order to serve as the 16th president of this remarkable institution,” he wrote in the email. “With its dedicated and committed staff, superb faculty, and outstanding students, Middlebury has never been stronger or better positioned for the future.”

Liebowitz has been at the helm of the College since 2004. During his presidency, the College acquired the Monterey Institute of International Studies, opened 23 Schools Abroad sites and added 120 endowed student scholarships for financial aid in addition to 15 endowed faculty positions.

“Middlebury is a far more complex place than it may look. From the outside, it might look like a university, or something like a university, but not so. Undergraduate education needs to remain the focus of Middlebury, no matter what other programs it acquires or develops,” he said.

Liebowitz, a New York City native, graduated from Bucknell University in 1979 majoring in economics and geography while competing as a varsity swimmer. After receiving his doctorate from Columbia University, he joined the faculty at the College in 1984 and was promoted to full professor in 1993. In 2009, Time Magazine named him one of the 10 best college presidents in the country. The President acknowledged the difficulty of this decision, but noted that the time was right for both the institution and for him.

“This isn’t something I just thought about last night.. “The average collegiate presidency these days is now around six years. I’ve had thirty-plus years on the faculty here and 11 years as president, and I think it’s good for the institution to change leadership and I think it’s good for me as a person to take on different challenges.”

Board of Trustees Chair Marna Whittington said that the board would provide information about a presidential search committee following the February board meeting.

Liebowitz also took the chance to announce changes to the governance structure of the board. Of note, the number of standing committees will be reduced to six from the current 15, with three overseeing boards: one for the undergraduate College, one for the Monterey Institute, and one for the rest of the “Schools.”

“We are involving students, faculty, and staff on these overseer boards for the first time. That will allow the board to hear more perspectives beyond just the president and senior administration,” he said. “What we need with the many challenges facing higher education are more voices, more opinions to be heard. There will be a student sitting on the board of overseers for the College. They will be full-fledged members of that board. The only thing they will likely not partake in are personnel decisions such as tenure decisions. Student, faculty, and staff participation on the board of overseers represents a fairly big change for the College.”

Liebowitz would not discuss what he plans to do after leaving the College, saying that his focus is on continuing to work with faculty, staff, and students on the institution’s “already ambitious agenda” during the next 18 months.