Robert S. Eckley and Minor Myers Jr. had at least three things in common: their presidencies at Illinois Wesleyan University, a deep and abiding curiosity in the world around them and a strong belief in encouraging people to do good by doing what they love.
Sounds a lot like Eric Jensen, named the the 19th president of the private liberal arts college. He will succeed Richard Wilson, who retires at the end of October after a similarly laudatory term at the Bloomington school.
IWU introduced Jensen to the campus community on Monday. We welcome him to the Twin Cities and congratulate the IWU board and search committee on what seems to be a good fit.
Jensen, most recently provost at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., spent 30 years in various positions at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
It was there that he transitioned from teacher to administrator and ultimately to leading the university's public policy program, encouraging students to use their academic gifts in a way to do good rather than to simply pad a checkbook.
In addition to his academic background, IWU seemed to be drawn to Jensen's belief of service above self, that spirit of collaboration, of looking beyond a current assignment.
“I care a lot about outcomes and care less about the specific means,” he told The Pantagraph. “You hire people to do a job and then need to allow them to do those jobs.”
Still, he said, his initial job will be talking to people on campus about their ideas regarding the uniqueness that Illinois Wesleyan has to offer and “see how they mesh” with his ideas.
"We will continue preparing students for democratic citizenship and life in a global society and we'll do this in ways that maintains our commitment to diversity, social justice and environmental sustainability," Jensen told a campus gathering.
He added he has “a tradition of having regular meetings with students,” saying, “I'm very much a management-by-walking-around person.”
That openness should hold him in good stead at IWU, which has a history of presidents working closely with the entire campus community on mutual needs and interests. At a smaller school, in particular, such familiarity is crucial to continued success, although Illinois State President Larry Dietz and former ISU President Al Bowman both showed it also can be successfully done at larger schools.
We hope President Jensen's passion will catapult IWU into even greater success.