By Patrick Emerson,
Oregon Economics Blog
I find the news that Reed College has hired John Kroger completely fascinating. To say he is an unconventional choice is a massive understatement. Outgoing Reed President Colin Diver was the one who really broke the mold, with only a B.A. and LL.B he was not a conventional scholar – the traditional choice of a college President. His hiring was especially interesting for an institution that has more of its graduates end up with Ph.D. than almost any other place in the US. Still, hiring another President without a Ph.D. and with few academic credentials is still very surprising. Perhaps it speaks to the success of Diver, whom the alumni and faculty seem to love. I would have had the opposite reaction to see Kroger end up at a public institution where political savvy is a desireable trait.
While the job of college president has become one almost entirely about ‘external relations’ (read: fundraising) especially for the big universities, I had the impression that small college presidents still had a reasonable sized hand in the day to day governance of the institution. I am guessing that this is now a false impression: I think it must all be about external relations. Witness the disastrous reign of Thomas Hochstetter at Lewis & Clark who was about as comfortable with public speaking and (one assumes) fundraising as the Pope is at an Act Up rally. He didn’t last long.
Reed, famous for its insularity, perhaps wants to become more open and engaged in Oregon. Or perhaps the same qualities that made him a successful candidate for Attorney General were evident in the interview process – he knows how to talk a good game and get folks to open their wallets. I, personally, hope it is at least some of the former. I think Reed has lost some of its luster partly because of its stubborn unwillingness to evolve. Perhaps that is still a strength, but I think less and less so in the 21st century.
Anyway, here is wishing Kroger good luck.