Anthony Dellamura/Marlin Chronicle
Virginia Wesleyan College is in a state of transition, a transition between the ending of an era to embracing the changes of a new, fresh start. After spending more than two decades here, President William Greer has announced that he will retire as acting president this coming June. VWC is now in the process of finding his replacement.
The Witt Kieffer consulting firm will help the college find its next president. Virginia Wesleyan chose this firm because of its reputation and experience.
“They are considered one of the best in the business in higher education specifically, in helping colleges and universities find presidents,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Services David Buckingham.
Other factors that distinguished Witt Kieffer from other consulting firms would be the forty-plus years of experience and the composition of the teams behind the searches.
“This consulting firm is like so many others, in this respect: they have a team of higher education veterans, including former college presidents and other people who help them in developing strategies and searches and ultimately helping the institutions that come to them,” said Buckingham.
Witt Kieffer assigned Dr. Kathy Hailey, a former college president herself, to assist the college in its nationwide search. She had previously served Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, which is a small liberal-arts institution, much like Virginia Wesleyan.
She will be on campus in the month of September to interview different individuals in our community. Various focus groups consisting of students, faculty, and staff will meet with Hailey in efforts to come to a consensus that pleases our campus community.
“The purpose of these meetings are to tell Dr. Hailey the qualities we want in the next president,” said Buckingham. “We want to know what the students and faculty want their next president to do for them. We want to know what is important as a tradition here that [the campus] wants the next president to continue and expand upon.”
The consulting firm will use the collection of data from the VWC community, trustees, students, staff and faculty, as well as alumni to develop a presidential profile to help them find who they are looking for.
“Once a profile has been established, the firm is going to market the college in a nationwide search for our next president,” said Buckingham. “With the profile, people can begin nominating candidates for the position and formally applying.”
The college itself composed a selection community, a group that will contribute to the choice of the president. It is mostly made up of trustees. However, it also includes two faculty members, Dr. Wansink and Dr. Ferguson; Imani West, student body president; Amy Richards, head of the alumni association; and Karla R. Rasmussen, director of human resources.
“Gary D. Bonnewell, the current board chair, decided the trustees on the selection community,” explained Buckingham. “They were chosen for obvious reasons, their experiences, abilities, and their service to the college. Some are new trustees, some are seasoned trustees, so it’s a very balanced group.”
Imani West will be the students’ voice throughout the process. In addition, the faculty members were chosen because they represent two out of the three academic divisions.
“Dr. Wansink represents Humanities, and Dr. Ferguson represents Social Sciences, and together with the faculty they are determining the type of president they would like to have,” stated Buckingham.
“It will be the selection community that will lead the college in deciding who our next president will be, and amongst that group, it will be primarily the trustees that will decide because the President reports to the trustees,” explained Buckingham. “Once the applicants have been narrowed down to a select few, these candidates will be invited to the college for interviews and possible presentations.”
“Hopefully, we will have a lot of good candidates and the trustees will have the tough decision in choosing our next president,” said Buckingham. “If everything goes as planned, we will be announcing the new president before President Greer leaves.”
As the college tries to find President Greer’s replacement, he will be preparing for retirement.
When President Greer was asked why he decided now was the right time to retire, his answer was a simple one: “It just seemed like a good time.”
However, he expanded upon his answer after a brief moment of reflection.
“I dearly love this place,” said Greer. “It is going to be a major challenge for me to make it through retirement, but the college is in great shape, it really is in terrific shape. It’s not like our enrollment is sagging, we’re doing well. It just seems like a good time to step down; 22.5 years is a good chunk of my life and there are some other things I want to do, so it all added up to the right time.”
Greer has many plans for his life in retirement. These include writing a few books and reading a hundred books or so, in addition to finding a corporation foundational board to serve his time on. In the meantime, he plans on enjoying extra time with his family.
“The one immediate plan is to enjoy my grandchildren more. I’m looking forward to that, watching them play Little League baseball and things like that,” said Greer. “That’s the most immediate plan I have.”
President Greer made a permanent impression on the campus community as a whole and will be greatly missed. But he said that he only wishes to be remembered by the community for one thing.
“I would want people to remember me as a student’s president,” said Greer. “I have always been—tried to be a student’s president. That doesn’t mean I can always give the students what they want but I have been always, that’s why we are all here, to help the next generation, mostly young people, a college education.”
The students of Virginia Wesleyan College are going to miss seeing President Greer as a permanent figure on campus.
“There’s nothing like seeing the president of the college right alongside you on the sidewalks on your way to class,” said senior Sarah Nwokorie. “Billy Greer was not only just a name of some unknown authority figure on campus, but he was truly one of the Marlins as well.”
President Greer has a farewell message to the students of Virginia Wesleyan and it’s this: “Follow your dreams. I hope that during a time that a student is here, we have exposed students to new and exciting opportunities. Maybe opportunities they never thought about or dreamed about, and so I would say follow your dreams, and follow your heart.”