The Marlboro Record

View from the Hill

People, Place, and Purpose

Dear Marlboro Community,
On this, my first day, I wanted to write to let you know how pleased I am to be part of the Marlboro College community, how grateful I am for the board’s support, and how much my wife—Susan Flaherty—and I appreciate the warm welcome. I look forward to meeting each of you and discussing how we can build on the college’s remarkable legacy.

First, I want to thank Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, who has been a fabulous steward of the college, has many remarkable accomplishments during her eleven-year tenure as president, and was extremely gracious in ensuring the smoothest transition humanly possible. In our frequent phone calls and almost daily emails these past five months, I have come to admire her enduring passion for Marlboro College. I am inspired that she is leaving the college even more of a champion of its values and virtues than when she arrived.

Having long been a student of Asian cultures, I know that numbers and signs matter. For me, becoming the ninth president of Marlboro is especially auspicious: Susan and I are a “pair of nines,” both coming from families with nine children, and I’ve been living for the past few years in Thailand where King Bhumipol Adulyadej is the ninth king in the Chakri dynasty. King Bhumipol is the longest serving monarch in the world, the only one born in the USA, and perhaps the most widely revered public figure anywhere.

According to Chinese cosmology, 2015 is the Year of the Goat (however, for some reason it is called the Year of the Sheep in the United States). During the presidential search process, we discussed the state of higher education, especially challenges to liberal arts colleges, perhaps best exemplified by William Deresiewicz’s trenchant critique, Excellent Sheep. Deresiewicz bemoans how many of the best and brightest students seem more interested in checking off lists and building resumes than getting an education that helps them shape a purposeful life. 

In my discussions with the search committee, when I asked “If the students at Marlboro College aren’t sheep, what are they?” co-chair Peter Zamore ’74 responded that they are goats: rugged, tenacious individuals who don’t follow the crowd but blaze their own way. Since we are in the Year of the Goat, I take this as an especially good sign that I am becoming part of the Marlboro community and its lively population of goats.

Throughout my career working on international development and expanding opportunities for Americans to serve, I have found that organizations work best where there is an interconnected trinity of people, place, and purpose. On Potash Hill and by the Connecticut River, Marlboro College is blessed with a remarkably beautiful place. In my visits to the college and interactions with people there, I have learned the Marlboro community is a collection of remarkably dedicated individuals who are committed to the college’s purpose of helping individuals have a self-directed, rigorous academic experience rooted in community values.

Since Marlboro College has that essential trinity of place, people, and purpose, I feel very fortunate to be arriving on campus today. The college so clearly echoes my own life experiences, and its values resonate deeply with me. In the weeks and months ahead, I eagerly look forward to meeting you and hearing your stories, learning about your aspirations for the college, and developing plans on how best to realize them.

Until we have a chance to meet, I’d welcome hearing from you regarding the things about Marlboro that matter the most to you. Please send this to: kevin@marlboro.edu.

With gratitude for this special opportunity to serve the Marlboro College community, and very best wishes,

Save the dates, September 11-13, for Kevin’s inauguration and associated events, including a Marlboro College community “day of service” wherever you find yourself.