I did not know it was possible
to feel such happiness for a friend and colleague, yet experience such
a profound sense of personal and institutional loss at the same time.
Let me tell you, it is possible.
Given the two extremes, however, I must begin with
a hearty Way To Go, Caroline!!! If you didnt already
know, Dr. Whitson has been named president of Columbia College in Columbia,
South Carolina, and it sounds to me like she blew the competition away.
In fact, the states largest newspaper quoted the Colleges
board chair, Ed Sellers, as saying, She won the job in one resounding
vote. Thats no surprise to anyone who has worked with Caroline.
As for what we will lose, the toll will be great in
both tangible and intangible terms. Make no mistake that Caroline deserves
to be listed among the great names in Ozarks history. I assure
you, this is not hyperbole. Very few at Ozarks have touched the lives
of so many students in such meaningful ways. She is the walking definition
of educator, demonstrating since 1979 that the educational
process at Ozarks does not begin and end in the classroom. Mentor, counselor,
surrogate parent, and friend are all titles that she has held for our
students, and every student who came into contact with her is better
for it. Her deep understanding of students and their needs, both educational
and emotional, is probably a key to her marvelous reception at Columbia.
Carlee McCartha, a member of their search committee and a student, was
quoted in the Columbia paper as saying, She was warm beyond words.
Its exciting. I kind of hate that Im a senior. Again,
we are not surprised. Who else could make a student she had never met
before wish they werent graduating?!
If you are a member of the faculty and staff on our
campus today, your life is better because of Caroline. It was her vision
that shaped the salary increases and new positions, made possible through
the Pride and Promise Campaign, that have improved the standard of living
and working for all of us. The Mentors Program to help new students
assimilate to college life was her dream. She advocated strongly and
effectively for additional help in Student Life and in Enrollment Marketing.
In all these things and countless others throughout the years, she has
championed Ozarks, she has championed you. As our Champion we owe her
our eternal thanks.
Now, while Columbias gain is certainly
our loss, this is an eventuality for which I have been preparing - it
is an eventuality for which you must always prepare when you work with
outstanding people. While a Caroline will be tremendously difficult
to replace, we will have a smooth transition designed to protect and
further strengthen the academic integrity of this institution. I will
stack our faculty up against anyones, anywhere. As such, it is
my highest duty to find the individual best suited to maintain and build
the tradition of academic excellence you, our faculty, have worked for
so long and so well, and that you, our students, have grown to expect.
Caroline assumes her duties at Columbia on July 1.
A national search, as required by University policy, will be conducted.
I do not know if our next V.P. for Academic Affairs will come from far
away or from right here among people we already know. Whoever it is
will be validated by a thorough search process to ensure that they have
the right skills, experience, and fit to help lead us in
pursuit of our mission of educational service.
It seems only fitting that my last comments in this
letter be directed to Caroline. Caroline, when I arrived you were the
stable and stabilizing force on this campus. Without your patient and
wise guidance, I would have made many unnecessary mistakes. Your deep
sense of the Universitys past and your profound hope for its future
were instructional and inspirational, respectively. It is the inspiration
that I always think of when I think of you. Ozarks today stands as a
shining example of what a Christian, mission-based, liberal arts college
can be. You held to this vision when most others had despaired, and
you shared your vision with me. Any success this school has had since
is your success. Any success this school has after you have gone will
be because of your work. Enjoy your success here always.
Dr. Rick Niece