Volume 3   Issue # 13
Monday, March 26, 2001
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The President's Post
   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 didn’t 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 state’s largest newspaper quoted the College’s board chair, Ed Sellers, as saying, “She won the job in one resounding vote.” That’s 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. It’s exciting. I kind of hate that I’m a senior.” Again, we are not surprised. Who else could make a student she had never met before wish they weren’t 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 Mentor’s 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 Columbia’s 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 anyone’s, 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 University’s 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

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