Supporting Statements

I am delighted that Anne Harris has been named the 14th president of Grinnell College. It was a pleasure to work with her over the past year in her role as Grinnell’s vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college. She met every challenge and every opportunity with enthusiasm for the possibilities they offered, the ability to implement effective actions, and a determination to make every decision reflect Grinnell’s core values of excellence, diversity, and social responsibility.

In all her decision-making, her extraordinary intellect is matched by deep compassion and generosity — an exemplary combination in an effective leader. In no instance have her leadership qualities been clearer than in her co-direction of the college’s pandemic response. She quickly developed frameworks for approaching daunting problems, sought out evidence and data to inform decision-making, forged partnerships, guided discussions to consensus, and collaborated with talented faculty, staff, and off-campus consultants to find creative solutions to meet the college’s educational mission within the constraints of a public health crisis. I have never been prouder of Grinnell College, and Anne Harris was and continues to be a key leader and team member in this immense undertaking.

In President Anne Harris, Grinnell College has a formidable leader who is nevertheless approachable, a combination that will make her a great ambassador for the college and an effective problem-solver and community builder on campus. I couldn’t be more pleased to leave Grinnell in such good hands.

— Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD
President Emeritus

The strength of our diverse candidate pool was exceptional. Our candidates came from across the country, from public and private institutions, and included sitting presidents. The fact that the pool wasn’t compromised by the pandemic is a strong endorsement of Grinnell’s reputation and its place in the higher education landscape.

Our partnership with Isaacson Miller was essential to our success. Their assistance in effectively adapting the search process to the restrictions of the pandemic enabled us to confidently move forward according to our original timeline.

The search committee approached its charge with a tremendous commitment of time, thoughtfulness and integrity.

— Trish Fitzgibbons Anderson ’80
Trustee and Co-chair, Presidential Search Committee

One thing I hope everyone will appreciate is the robustness and rigor of the search process which brought to us an outstanding pool of candidates. Each committee member interacted directly with each of the finalists for nearly five hours, and each finalist had engaged with search committee members, in various groupings, for more than seven hours. In the final phase, each candidate spent a full day on campus meeting members of the college’s senior staff and another 90 minutes with an expanded committee that included all members of the Board’s Executive Committee.

I cannot say enough about the members of the search committee, whose 17 members included representatives of faculty, staff, students, and trustees. I am especially grateful to our staff and faculty members, who in addition to their work on the search committee were also deeply involved in planning for the resumption of classes in the fall. Each is to be applauded for their seriousness and dedication, and for the spirit in which each approached our important task. Throughout the process, they were motivated by a clear understanding of our collective obligation to do what was best for the future of Grinnell College and a willingness to place that above whatever personal or parochial inclinations they may have had.

— George Moose ’66
Trustee and Co-chair, Presidential Search Committee

I'm so pleased that Anne Harris was chosen as Grinnell’s next President - I believe she will be able to connect with alumni in a meaningful way — she very much shares a joy and love for our school as well as a willingness to dive into the tough conversations.

— Ryann K. Cheung ’93
Alumni Member, Presidential Search Committee

Over the course of our search for the next president of Grinnell College, I came to see that we needed a leader with a balance of two qualities: a passion for shared and inclusive governance and a pastoral concern for community. We had a tremendous pool of candidates. Each had measures of these qualities. Anne Harris emerged as the candidate with the balance we need in the short and long term.

Grinnell’s rich tradition of shared governance has the potential to create a sense of belonging for students, staff, and faculty alike. We need to nurture and care for our tradition of shared governance, allowing for—perhaps encouraging—change while hewing to core principles so that the potential of deep belonging manifests in our lives together. We need a president who will lead us with transparency, who will engage constituencies across our community in real and meaningful dialogue, and who will share truths that we may not always want to hear. Anne Harris is just the person to help us travel this path.

Anne’s organizational acumen is deeply attuned to the human realities of institutional life. She wants to understand why people feel included or excluded, or why they don’t have a sense of belonging—and to bring them into the fold. This extends from current students to alumni as well as staff and faculty. Her description of past accomplishments in navigating fractious moments in community life, references testifying to her capacity for deep and empathetic engagement, and the search committee’s extended time speaking with her about the challenges facing our College left us with confidence that Anne Harris is the right person to lead us through a turbulent moment into our future.

— Caleb Elfenbein
Faculty Member, Presidential Search Committee

Anne is known for her fierceness and compassion. She believes that liberal arts learning is practice for democracy and links democracy to the expansion of human rights and freedom. In the years to come, she looks forward to working with all constituencies to move wisely through the pandemic, to address head on the systems and practices that hold the College back from achieving racial justice, and to be a champion for staff who do not yet have the same access to self-governance as do other campus constituencies. In Anne, current students and alumni will discover a leader who is joyful in her work, thrilled by both the opportunities and challenges Grinnell College offers, and eager to delve into the challenges that currently keep us from being the best community possible.

— Karla Erickson
Faculty Member, Presidential Search Committee

The Isaacson, Miller team is just delighted to see Anne Harris as Grinnell’s new president.

I have been doing search for 48 years and am a veteran of hundreds of searches. I have rarely seen a more dedicated, hard-working search committee, more ably led and more attentive to rigorous and fair process than this Grinnell Presidential Search Committee. They gave unstintingly of their time and intellect, interviewed as many serious candidates as any committee I can remember and more often than any I can remember. They agonized appropriately, as only Grinnellians can do, over each serious candidate and selected rigorously. It was a search that I shall never forget and I shall treasure the memory. Grinnell has every reason to be proud.

— John Isaacson
Principal, Isaacson, Miller

With Anne we have someone that who already knows us and will continue to grow on that knowledge. Anne knows what needs to be done and I am convinced that she will be able to do the work to repair broken relationships such as those between staff and faculty and the institution and alumni. I believe that she will be a champion and advocate for staff and has proclaimed to be so herself. There is no doubt in my mind that, at this moment in time, Anne is the right choice to lead Grinnell College into the future to make Grinnell College that place where we all want to be and where others dream to come.

— Erica Jack
Staff Member, Presidential Search Committee

I strongly believe that what we need moving forward is a leader who can help us reimagine a new way of being in community with each other, who can acknowledge our weakness, cultivate our strengths, and guide our students, faculty, and staff as we seek not only to strive for excellence, but also to thrive while doing so. My decision came down to the person who convinced me that they have the skill to make tough, strategic decisions, while simultaneously promoting a healthier, even more diverse and inclusive Grinnell. Given her record of leading campus partners through tough conversations and decision-making at DePauw and now at Grinnell, her ability to listen and process the information that she is given, her demonstrated passion for the liberal arts, compassion for the various constituents she encounters, and her vision of a community that must learn, in her words, how to literally “hold the air we breathe in trust,” I believe that Anne Harris demonstrated that she is the candidate who should be the next president of Grinnell College.

— Lakesia Johnson
Faculty Member, Presidential Search Committee

Of the many inspiring and capable candidates that we met during this process, I am confident that Anne Harris is best prepared to meet the moment in which we find ourselves. I’ve found her to be a living example of the possibilities of a liberal arts education. She meets challenge with curiosity; she can acknowledge multiple truths with care; she calls herself and others into meaningful relationship, community, and action.

I was also moved by Anne’s ability to situate Grinnell, and education more broadly, within the larger framework of democracy. I think that Anne’s vision of the liberal arts as a site of practice and preparation for democracy will elevate (what I believe is) the Grinnellian spirit: a commitment to practicing meaningful citizenship within our campus, town, country and world communities.

During the selection process, Anne offered a powerful defense of the principle of student self-governance, telling the committee that: “The principle of student self-governance was codified by Grinnell College President George Gates when he declared that ‘It is 10,000 times better that young people should learn to govern themselves, than that they should be governed in any best way whatsoever.’” I think that self-governance at Grinnell can be characterized in the same way that, in her conversations with the committee, Anne characterized democracy – a rather “fussy” endeavor. I trust that Anne will recognize students not only as constituents, but as citizens, and that she will work to better integrate students meaningfully and appropriately into the institution’s decision-making process; it will be messy, but I believe she knows it is worth the effort.

— Regina Logan ’20
Student Member, Presidential Search Committee

Anne Harris demonstrates a deep understanding of the power that a liberal arts education contributes to a well-functioning society and democracy. Her passionate focus on building civic trust within the extended Grinnell community will serve the College, its current and future students, its staff, faculty and alumni well. Anne calls on us all to be our best selves and, in the process, offers a joyous vision of a Grinnell educational experience.

— Jeanne Myerson ’75
Trustee Member, Presidential Search Committee

Anne knows and loves Grinnell. Her grace, intellect, and passion will make her an outstanding president.

— W. Edward Senn ’79
Trustee Member, Presidential Search Committee

While we were familiar with Anne’s great work as dean, our search dug deep into the skills and experiences required for a successful president. We were impressed with Anne’s thoughtful and human-centered approach to managing complex organizations, her track record of connecting with and inspiring constituents, and the case she makes for the liberal arts to address the world’s most pressing challenges, with a vision for the unique role Grinnell can play.

— Matthew Welch ’96
Trustee Member, Presidential Search Committee

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