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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.

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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