Dr. Greg Hess will step away as president at Wabash College after Commencement this coming May. (Courtesy Wabash College)
When I left the office yesterday afternoon to take my customary pre-meeting snooze, I did not really have much of a notion about what I wanted to write about this week.
Every once in a while, though, something will drop into my lap; and this one came to me as a surprise. I will turn the focus toward my alma mater once again for this post.
Yesterday, the college and its board of trustees announced that President Greg Hess would be stepping down from his post at the conclusion of the school year in May.
I have seen a flow of well-wishes from fellow alumni and other acquaintances thanking Hess and his wife, Lora, for their commitment to Wabash during the past six years.
The class of 2017 was his first, and as such I have been a witness (at times a fly on the wall, other times not so much) to Dr. Hess' leadership both as a student and as an alumnus. I think it would be appropriate to say - just as it's been with me and Wabash as a whole sometimes - that there have been points of frustration on this front.
I once labeled his ambitions to grow the college as out of touch. President Hess has not shied away from the idea that Wabash is like a "city on the hill," as he once declared in a Chapel Talk in September of 2016. My brooding cynicism once asked whether he and his administration, at its heart, "got" what makes Wabash unique, as well as relevant.
My faith in him and his colleagues' leadership was dealt a real blow after Austin Weirich committed suicide. Students and parents criticized his administration for seeming to address this tragedy through damage control, rather than a united campus.
President Hess has taken his stride despite these contentions, and I now view his intentions in a more objective light. He was brought to Wabash to help build a strong foundation both structurally and financially. The consensus may be he has done both. I think he did understand what the college needed to thrive into the uncertain future.
I say all of this knowing I can't remember him being unwilling to have a conversation with me, or to either say "Hello" or just nod his head when our paths have crossed.
Dr. Hess will leave Wabash as Dr. Mark McCoy will also be leaving DePauw. He himself has been through a trial by fire, and I still wish him the best with the hope that the campus community doesn't shut him out. Though I don't have a very close relationship with him, Dr. McCoy has been gracious toward me in our passings-by.
May the same remain between Dr. Hess and I as he moves into his new career phase.
His Four Gets Not to Forget - Get to Work, Get Involved, Get to Bed and Get Help - still resonate. The College will continue with an eye on stability and opportunities for students. President Hess has been driving this mission through the ups and downs.
I thank him for his vision and service to Wabash, and I will wish him the best of luck.