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New DePauw president finds 'enormous good will' here

Monday, August 4, 2008

New DePauw President Brian Casey in his office.
Despite a quiet campus void of students or many faculty members, DePauw University's new President Brian Casey is meeting as many people as possible.

The intense 44-year old has been in his new job for one month but has spent only 20 days on campus as he attended a week-long new president's camp at Harvard in the middle of the month.

"I find there is enormous good will toward and excitement about a new president. And there is the expected trepidation and nervousness," Casey told the Banner Graphic in an interview Friday.

"Everyone is wondering does he have an agenda that's already been written and is sitting in his desk drawer," said Casey adding, "There isn't one."

While stating he has lots of ideas about the future of DePauw, he is not ready to share any until he has had several in-depth conversations with the faculty to discuss the intellectual life of students on campus.

"Colleges are fragile entities. They are small communities. They are people that have their rhythms, cultures, styles and habits. And, this community has already gone through one enormous switch. There's only so much change a place can absorb at once," he explained.

"The plan is for me to listen and hear what is going on and then working with them to develop a plan where DePauw is going in the future. Not that I'm without ideas, but it's very important to me to have contact with everyone here if they want," comments Casey.

The new President says students are already e-mailing him constantly. Because of the large influx of mail, there was a thought about removing his e-mail address from the directory. Casey is a little worried about all 2,300 students having access to him at any time once they all arrive on campus, but for now he plans to keep the e-mail lines open and is answering every message he receives.

"One sorority, who shall remain unnamed, has been sending me baked goods," laughed the new president. "It's been a constant stream of brownies and homemade doughnuts."

Other than e-mails and baked goods, Casey has not had much student contact but expects that to change in a few weeks when students return to campus. Once his home is in order, he plans to begin having dinners full of conversation.

"I want to have lots and lots of people over just to talk, as many people as possible," he said.

He went on to discuss the changes of traditional departments at the university and how they are evolving.

"Today's university departments need to be multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary. It takes a wide range of people and ideas. Here we don't have a faculty of 800 like Harvard, so how do you cover all those areas? How do you address all these issues?" asks Casey.

For instance, he says he sees an enormous rise in all things Islamic. Students want to know about the culture, religion and lifestyle. They are less interested in Russian and German which is what they were looking at during the 70's and 80's," he said.

Casey is comfortable with his staff, saying they are a strong group of extremely dedicated people who take teaching very seriously.

He says he desperately can't wait to have a discussion with faculty about the intellectual life of the institution.

"DePauw will rise and fall on the strength of its intellectual life. Period," Casey said. "The stronger the education is for the students, the stronger the school is.

"It's easy to get distracted from that. The Princeton Reviews and town gown relationships can get in the way. You have to ask the question are students receiving a wonderful, intense, rich liberal arts education.

"These students are entering a complicated world. It's amazing. It's our job to teach them how to think and to write. Because I can't predict, no one can predict, the world they will be living in 35 years from now. We want to produce ethical, conscious, engaged, lively, civic people."

Casey also discussed developing a strong partnership with the town of Greencastle and surrounding community.

"I've lived in Boston and New York City where you can walk past thousands of people who never look you in your eyes. It's very odd to walk around here and have everyone say hello. And, they know who I am," smiled Casey.

He has had lunch with Mayor Sue Murray and plans to spend more time with her talking about how to keep developing a positive relationship between the university and local community.

"I'm really looking forward to working with her (Murray). There is some nervousness on the part of the town about my intentions, and rightly so," he said.

"The town and the university have been intermeshed with each other sine 1830. They have been connected very deeply for a very long time. There have been some periods where there wasn't a very productive relationship. I need Greencastle to be vibrant and alive and interesting. And, I think we can realize it all together," concluded Casey.

The new president is an avid reader, listens to jazz and has a strong interest in American History. In fact he has a book being published next year. For fun he swims. Casey was the captain of the swimming team at Notre Dame during his undergraduate years and was named the university's "Scholar-Athlete of the year" in 1985.

While at Notre Dame he also earned the Economics Award for achieving the highest grade point average in that subject. He graduated summa cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn his J.D. from Stanford University Law School, graduating with honors. He earned his PhD in the history of American civilization from Harvard University.

Prior to taking the position of President at DePauw, he was associate dean for academic affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.

Casey succeeds Robert G. Bottoms, the longest serving president in DePauw history. Bottoms, who led the university since 1986 stepped down at the end of 2007-2008 academic year to become Chancellor of the University and director of the new Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

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Welcome to Greencastle, Dr. Casey!

-- Posted by JustTheFax on Mon, Aug 4, 2008, at 8:40 AM

I look forward to meeting you Dr.Casey!!!

-- Posted by aen2012 on Tue, Aug 5, 2008, at 8:53 AM

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