Princeton president gets ‘minimum’ 5-year extension; Bowdoin leader stepping down

One of the goals of the former is to expand undergraduate admissions.
By: | April 20, 2022
(Sameer Khan for Princeton University)

Princeton University in April became one of a group of highly selective institutions to abandon the public release of its acceptance rate, which was a stingy 3.98% in 2021. Those kinds of low numbers have raised many concerns, including the overzealousness by some institutions to brag about them. Princeton’s president wanted to face that perception head on and make change.

As part of his charge moving into the 2022-23, Christopher Eisgruber vowed to not only end the practice but also admit more students. It is one of the many goals he laid out in a letter to the community in February, a mission statement that resonated with the Board of Trustees, which also acknowledged the university’s strong performance through the pandemic. They awarded him with an unusual extension on his contract: a minimum of five more years.

“As the University and the world emerge from a period of unprecedented challenges, the board felt it was so important to give us all the reassurance and strength of Chris Eisgruber’s continued leadership,” said Louise Sams, chair of the Board of Trustees. “The exceptional performance of the University’s endowment last fiscal year allows us to consider even bolder ways to extend Princeton’s mission and impact. Chris is a visionary thinker, and we are delighted to keep him at the helm as we lean into this moment of opportunity.”

Among the many challenges for Princeton is being recognized as an institution that is a bit more welcoming to applicants while also maintaining its status as one of the world’s most esteemed universities. To increase the pool of acceptances, Princeton is building a pair of new residential colleges that will open in the fall. It is also planning to double the amount of undergraduate transfers.

“When people talk about the low admission rates at selective colleges and universities, the conversation often focuses almost entirely on how to divide existing slots,” Eisgruber said. “While I understand the allure of that topic, win-win solutions are better than zero-sum trade-offs. By working with our alumni and friends so that this university can admit a larger number of talented young people, Princeton will enhance more lives. The additional students we educate will make a positive impact on our university and, eventually, on the world.”

And then, trying to balance that with its sterling academic reputation over 275 years.

“We want to ensure, of course, that as Princeton grows, students continue to have the high-quality experiences that generations of alumni have cherished,” Eisgruber said. “To do that, we are adding more than bed space in which to house more students. The new residential colleges will offer distinctive gathering and activity places. We are also designing new facilities to expand access to healthcare and fitness and recreational opportunities that will support students’ health and well-being.”

While it won’t give away its data on admissions—the College Scorecard eventually will do that—Princeton officials were proud to release other numbers, including the fact that it has boosted Pell Grant recipients by 15% over the past 17 years, including the nine that Eisgruber has been in the position. And it highlighted that 20% of its new student admits are first-generation.

Around the nation

Bowdoin College: President Clayton Rose, who has helped build two campaigns— a nearly $500 million fundraising effort that is still ongoing and a boost in diverse and first-generation students applying for entry—said he will leave the position in June of 2023 after eight years. “I have reached this decision after considerable thought, and it was not taken easily,” Rose told the community. “With Bowdoin stronger than it has ever been in virtually every regard and with the clear prospect of life on campus and elsewhere returning to normal in the months ahead as we learn to live with the ups and downs of the virus, the end of the next academic year will be the right time to welcome a new president to the College.” Trustees have begun the process of searching for a new president, which officially will kick off in mid-May.

Vermont State University: The still-developing coalition of Northern Vermont University, Castleton University and Vermont Technical College has announced that Dr. Parwinder Grewal will serve as its next president. Grewal has been an advisor to the president at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. An entomologist, he has spent more than two decades in various roles, including being an instructor at Ohio State University and the University of Tennessee.

Washburn University: Jerry Farley, who has spent the past quarter-century leading the Kansas university, is officially retiring on Sept. 30. However, he is planning to stay on to help the university with fundraising initiatives and international student recruitment. “I expect to have a small office somewhere on campus where I can continue to serve a university and community that I love,” he said. Prior to his arrival at Washburn, he was in administrative positions at Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma.

Other news: Michelle Patrick is moving up from her post as Dean of the School of Business to become interim president at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. She is the second consecutive person to be in that role after Mary Ann Raforth took over in the short term for Chris Howard, who was hired as Arizona State University’s executive vice president. … Scott Dalrymple is leaving the president’s job at Paul Smith’s University in New York after just one year to spend more time with family. Nicholas Hunt-Bull, senior VP and provost, will take over the post while the university searches for a permanent replacement. … Tom Botzman, president at Mount Union, is also retiring June 30 after 17 years at the Ohio university. His distinguished career also included a stint as president at Misericordia University. … Two former presidents passed away in the past week: Clark Atlanta’s Thomas Cole and Kansas State’s Jon Wefald.