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Drew University to Get New President

Robert Weisbuch stepping down after seven years; Madison resident Dr. Vivian Bull appointed as interim head.

President Robert Weisbuch announced Wednesday he will step down at the conclusion of this academic year, June 30, to focus on his writing, according to a university news release.

Madison resident Dr. Vivian A. Bull, president emerita of Linfield College and a former professor of economics at Drew, has been appointed by the university’s Board of Trustees to serve as president until a permanent successor is found.

During his seven-year tenure, Weisbuch led Drew in re-envisioning the liberal arts for a new era, the news release said.

In a letter to the university community announcing his resignation, he reaffirmed his belief that Drew is “poised to become a model of real-world liberal education in all three of its schools”—the College of Liberal Arts, Caspersen School of Graduate Studies and the Theological School.

“I will leave Drew with a strong sense of fulfillment that, together, we have achieved major improvements in terms of student diversity, faculty scholarship and pedagogy, curricular innovation, and student engagement,” Weisbuch wrote. “Drew’s original purpose, to employ learning in service to humanity, has been renewed and redefined.”

John H. Crawford III, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, thanked Weisbuch for his service to Drew.

“Bob has been an excellent champion for the liberal arts,” Crawford said. “He has consistently challenged our thinking on their place in today’s world and has sought to make Drew a model for liberal learning in the 21st century.”

Crawford said Weisbuch will leave Drew with a strong vision for the future. In February, the Board of Trustees passed a new strategic plan for the university, which reaffirms and seeks to strengthen the institution’s core values: quality teaching, faculty scholarship that fuels student scholarship, and an emphasis on civic, global and professional engagement, the news release said.

“The plan will serve as our guide through this transition period and beyond as we continue to transform Drew,” Crawford said.

Weisbuch, a scholar of American literature, plans to take a sabbatical—his first in 25 years—to work on three books. One, he says, will be on issues in the humanities, another on Emerson’s Divinity School Address, and a third, for fun, on Top 40 radio.

Bull, who served as president of Linfield College for 13 years and led the school through a period of unprecedented change, has been charged with leading Drew through this period of transition and maintaining the forward momentum that began with the adoption of the plan.

“Vivian brings a record of excellence in scholarship and leadership and a deep knowledge of Drew. She’s one of us,” Crawford said. “But she also brings a wealth of experience from outside that will serve the entire community well as we work to implement our strategic plan and move the university forward.”

Bull has longstanding ties to Drew, where she taught for more than 30 years as a member of the economics department. Her husband, Robert, professor of church history, emeritus, taught for 37 years in the Theological School. Camper, her elder son, is a 1991 graduate of the College and is currently serving as president of its alumni association.

“I am deeply honored by this opportunity to give something back to Drew which both trained and nurtured me over many years,” Bull said. “These are exciting and challenging times in higher education but Drew has a clear path for the future guided by the strategic plan. I am confident that, with the commitment and work of the entire Drew community, the university will continue to champion liberal arts, graduate and theological education in its own distinctive way. I look forward to being a part of Drew during this interim period.”

Bull is also an active member of the United Methodist Church. She is currently working with its General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, where she chairs the investment committee, serves with the University Senate and is working with a new international education project.

Steve Wells May 02, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Wonder which of the 43 trustees wanted him out so quickly? While I wasn't impressed with his leadership abilities, he was a very effective, and seductive, speaker.
Hot Tuna May 03, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I only met Dr Weisbuch once, at an alumni function. Seemed like a decent guy. I think that the financial audit did him in. The salary issue to me was a red herring. Don't know why faculty was unhappy, but then again faculty are that way, especially when they are actually required to teach. I think that getting rid of the SAT's was a mistake. Probably a pretext for Drew not getting the best applicants anymore. I applied to Drew in 1966 and was told that a combined score of 1200 (without the bonus points) might get me a spot on the waiting list, which it did. Weisbuch probably took heat for Drew's exorbinant tuition ($216,000 for the full boat) in the face of a 100 point drop in the US News Rankings. My four years at Drew cost my dad $12,000, and thus $216K far outpaces the rate of inflation. Academics was strongly emphasized. Two required semesters of religion or philosophy gave us a moral center. Drinking took place, but we sobered up for class because we didn't want to waste our education. Core curreiculum required grounding in sciences, math, English humanities, etc. The new president needs to get students off the bong and the bottle and back to the classroom
pharmvet May 03, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I only met Dr Weisbuch once, at an alumni function. Seemed like a decent guy. I think that the financial audit did him in. The salary issue to me was a red herring. Don't know why faculty was unhappy, but then again faculty are that way, especially when they are actually required to teach. I think that getting rid of the SAT's was a mistake. Probably a pretext for Drew not getting the best applicants anymore. I applied to Drew in 1966 and was told that a combined score of 1200 (without the bonus points) might get me a spot on the waiting list, which it did. Weisbuch probably took heat for Drew's exorbinant tuition ($216,000 for the full boat) in the face of a 100 point drop in the US News Rankings. My four years at Drew cost my dad $12,000, and thus $216K far outpaces the rate of inflation. Academics was strongly emphasized. Two required semesters of religion or philosophy gave us a moral center. Drinking took place, but we sobered up for class because we didn't want to waste our education. Core curreiculum reuired grounding in sciences, math, English humanities, etc. We learned the required workforce skill of written communication, since everyone had to take freshman composition. Even the science majors like me had to take Intro to Western Lit as sophomores since it made us better rounded. No cafeteria courses, just majors and minors. President needs to get back to basics
Mary Hilton May 05, 2012 at 11:05 AM
This was a power struggle, pure and simple and the winner was Drew's school of theology which means Drew as an institution will draw closer to the United Methodist Church. The chairman of the board of trustees (which at 40 members is too big to be effective) runs an Atlanta investment company. He has a Master's in Divinity from Drew's theological school. The interim president is the former president of a college closely allied with the Baptist Church. She taught economics at Drew when said trustee chairman was getting his divinity degree. She is now on the investment board of the United Methodist Church, so we have a pretty strong religious and career nexus between the interim president and the chairman. Incidentally, the president's husband is a retired professor in the theology school. Even more interesting is that the Drew Board of Trustees does not rotate its chairmanship as many other institutions do making it easier for the chairman to exercise considerable influence. Folks, this was a power struggle between academics and theology and theology won. The Methodist Church did a masterful job of manipulating the faculty union to oppose the president and was the beneficiary of some extremely poor reporting in the Drew student newspaper which printed the brayings of the union without so much as a second look. So, despite being poised on the cusp of becoming one of the country's leading liberal arts schools under Weisbuch, the school's future seem to be as a seminary.
David May 15, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Robert Weisbuch was politely forced out because of his abrasive management style, and broad perception that Drew's academic quality has diminished. Among people I know who work at Drew, the consensus is that he is an intelligent man, but is too idealistic and doesn't know how to work with people. The best example is Drew's decision to drop the SAT. In recent years, a lot of colleges have become concerned that the SAT is poor indicator of academic performance, but have opted to keep it as one method, among many, of assessing applicants. Weisbuch didn't understand this, and within a week of becoming president of Drew issued a unilateral decree that the SAT would no longer be used for admissions. Because Weisbuch hadn't consulted anyone before making this decision, it created a lot of issues, particularly with scholarships, many of which were tied to the SAT. When I started at Drew in 1995, which is not that long ago, it was quite academically oriented, the students were fairly well-behaved, yearly tuition and costs were half of what they are now, and scholarships were abundant. Weisbuch is not the only one to blame, but I cannot in good faith recommend that anyone attend Drew. Its's now $55k per year (total costs), the full academic scholarship that I received no longer exists, and when I last attended a Drew event a few years ago, some students were completely out of control - a person was trying to give a speech, and students were running around the room screaming.
Steve Wells May 15, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Sadly, David is right on target. Drew has been in steady decline for nearly two decades. I first taught there as an adjunct in the mid-'80s and it was wonderful. Seeing what it had become when I returned in 2005 (again as a "part timer"...i.e., "we pay you bupkus but bleed you dry") was both saddening and maddening. $55K...FOR WHAT?
David May 16, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Steve, I completely agree with your observations. Two members of my family (cousins) attended Drew in the '80s, and thought that it was the best school ever. I'm not sure exactly what you experienced as an adjunct professor, but I believe that Drew's decline began toward the end of my time at Drew (1995-1999). The size of the incoming classes became larger, and you started to get more students that weren't really meant for Drew. Class participation decreased, involvment in extracurricular activities decreased, and disciplinary issues started popping up. My understanding is things have really deteriorated in the last ten years, and I cannot imagine why a person would ever spend $55k per year when you could probably get a better education at Rutgers or TCNJ for less than half the cost.
Steve Wells May 16, 2012 at 11:11 AM
It's the micro-management and unjustified arrogance from the Drew administration that got me.
Madison Cyclist May 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Ah, the good old days when Woody would come and visit Soon Yi

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