By Alice Horner, Editor-in-Chief
As the school year comes to a close, so does the tenure of Washington College’s 27th president, Baird Tipson. As the days count down, faculty and students recall what Tipson brought to the college in his six years as president.
Dr. Richard Gillin, professor of English, thinks Tipson’s legacy lies largely in the physical growth of the campus and his attention to the number of students on campus.
Students remember the many constructions and renovations that were completed under Tipson’s tenure.
“I think President Tipson has done a great deal for Washington College. Since I came here as a freshman, he will probably be the president that I remember when I graduate since he oversaw many new building projects on our campus,” said freshman Colby Doetzer.
Junior Adam Cranford said, “Tipson has done great work making Washington College’s campus a place for students to be proud of. The new buildings that he oversaw have made our campus a really nice place to go to college,” he said.
SGA President Tri Ofosu-Ameyaw said that Tipson was always available for the SGA during her leadership. “Whenever we needed him, he did all he could to help us. He always lent a helping ear to me whenever I needed clarification on certain matters,” she said. “President Tipson is a good man with a good heart.”
Gillin believes that Tipson’s type of leadership was a great fit for where the college stood in its development history. “Since 1973, I’ve seen a number of presidents. Each president and the part of a generation they represent come with different challenges. President John Toll moved the college dramatically forward. After the acceleration took place, when Tipson arrived, the college was ready to be on a plateau,” Gillin said.
“Tipson came at a time when the college had to figure out where it wanted to go in terms of academic programs and size. It was a time to reorient its priorities and see who we are and where we wanted to go,” Gillin said.
Tipson agreed that his different leadership style worked well with the development of the college. “I do have a different style than Dr. Toll, and I happen to think that it was the right style for this time. I have a very high regard for faculty governance, I respect the faculty’s control over the academic program, and I think it’s important that the wisdom and experience of the faculty be respected,” Tipson said.
That respect for others has shined through with his humble leadership.
“I think he made progress in regard to faculty salaries early on in his presence, and he’s been successful in raising younger faculties’ salaries. I think his heart was in the right direction,” Gillin said.
Ofosu-Ameyaw agrees with Gillin. “Tipson really wanted what was best for the college and with the resources that he had, I think he did a phenomenal job. I wish him great success with his future endeavors, and I will truly miss him,” she said.
John Menzione, a sophomore, said, “I think Tipson has left a legacy at WC, and will be remembered most for his improvements to the campus. The new residence halls and student center are awesome additions to the campus. And I think Tipson had a great vision for what he wanted to see on our campus when he became president.”
Dr. Jim Siemen, professor of psychology, said that he has been very impressed with Tipson during his tenure, particularly with Tipson’s demeanor. “I think he’s very smart and gentle, and he can easily diffuse tense situations. He can disagree with you in a very collegial way,” he said. “He’s trustworthy, and he says what he means, and I applaud that.”
Ofosu-Ameyaw stated that Tipson’s modesty has made him a gentle but strong leader. “I have been truly fortunate to have had the time to know him better than a lot of students, and I have realized that he is the type of leader that likes to let others shine,” she said. “He is very brilliant and very accomplished, and yet so humble. I would call him a silent leader, he is never really “out there” and “in your face,” and because of that I do not think people realize what a great leader he is and how much he has helped improved Washington College for the better.”
Tipson, however, feels uncomfortable giving himself credit for the legacy he’s leaving behind, stating that he came to WC at a time when the pieces were already in place.
“The image that I’ve tended to use since I’ve been here is that of a train going down the tracks. During Dr. Toll’s presidency, the college started moving in the right direction down the tracks. We needed to be financially stable, which we were not when he took over; we needed to improve the quality of our academic programs; we needed to build on what was already a strong faculty, and we needed to ramp up fundraising. And I think Dr. Toll did all those things. During his presidency the academic quality of the student body steadily improved,” Tipson said.
Tipson said he believes he has kept the college going in the right direction.
“Toll turned things around, got the college moving in the right direction, and that momentum was created. When I came, my challenge is to keep that train moving down the same set of tracks, and so I would be uncomfortable not giving him a lot of credit for the things that have happened during my tenure. But I would be even more uncomfortable not to give a lot of credit to the faculty and staff who have worked tremendously hard,” said Tipson.
“I was just part of something that was happening before I came, and it will be continuing to happen after I leave, and I just had the good fortune to be here when the college was steadily improving,” Tipson said.
There are regrets that Tipson holds about his tenure. The construction of Hodson Commons was not on the agenda when he arrived, and its construction changed his original plans.
“We were expecting to do some minor renovations on the dining hall, but the HVAC system, the electrical system, and the plumbing was in very bad shape. It was a lot of money that when I came here I imagined spending on something else, like the library. But I do think it was money very well spent,” he said.
Looking back on his tenure, the Gibson Center for the Arts stands out as the building that marks his time here, which connects to Tipson’s personal passion for the arts. “I do believe the arts enliven who we are, they make visual for us other ways of being human that we might not be exposed to.”
For the future, Tipson hopes that such a state-of-the-art center will connect student musical interests to the kind of music that is produced in Gibson. “I personally feel that one of the biggest challenges we have is finding a way to bring that student musical culture into the Gibson Center for the Arts. I think there ought to be some way we can connect the kind of serious musical performance with the kind of music that students like to listen to,” he said.
Tipson does have some words of wisdom for his successor. “My advice to President Reiss is: don’t make hasty judgments, give yourself a chance to recognize what’s special about Washington College, and work closely with the very talented people on the faculty and staff to realize your mission,” Tipson said.
Gillin said that Tipson helped the college form its identity, and with Reiss’s arrival, WC is ready to full steam ahead.
“The college is ready to really roll again and move forward, maintaining its traditions and highest values of the liberal arts. We need to have a resurgence of the college, and I am truly optimistic about that,” Gillin said.
Additional reporting by Lindsay Haislip.