Friday, June 09, 2006

Bye-Bye, Bobby. Davidson's president is retiring.

UPDATE: I spoke to Parker Engels of the Davidson development office about this yesterday. (He and I have become friends over the last few years, another dividend of the privilege I have of representing a particular former member of the board of trustees.) He called me to give me a heads-up. He said that Bobby will resign at the end of the next school year, and that will make his stay at Davidson a round ten year term. Parker said that a ten-year term is becoming the standard term for a president of a private college, especially for a president who is coming off a very successful fund-raising campaign, as Bobby surely is. Parker said that this will make room for his successor to ramp up for the next campaign. He also said that Bobby will be much involved next year in guiding the search process for the new president.

As I think about that last point, I note that the board of trustees which will be involved in the search process will be very much Bobby's board. As you may recall, certain board members, incensed by Bobby's watering down of Davidson's Christian commitment (to the extent such a commitment remains - and I believe one does, as weak as it may be), left the board in reaction to those developments. Now they are not there to have a hand in picking a successor.

This reminds me of the orthodox Presbyterians who have left the PCUSA over the past 40 years over doctrinal differences, rather than stay and fight it out. Those people left the rest of us weakened, and it has taken many years for the orthodox Christians who remain to recover that lost influence, as I believe those Christians are doing, despite the headlines to the contrary.

But leaving the board of trustees of Davidson in anger, as those several trustees did a couple of years ago was, at least to me, about as smart as it would be for a US Senator to resign because the majority voted on some profound national issue that was contrary to his own views. It is not easy to get on the board of trustees of Davidson College or any other institution of such influence. Now Bobby's legacy will not only be his watering down of Davidson's "traditions" (I would call it something like "weakening Davidson's soul"), but that legacy may well include his arrangement for a successor who will, clonelike, continue the slow death of Christ's influence on that campus.

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