Anne Harris Transitions to Serving as Acting President
Earlier during the spring semester, I had occasion to quote Julian of Norwich’s saying, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” — not as a passive hope for a better future in isolation, but rather as an active resolve to create one in community. Ever since the Board of Trustees appointed me to take on the role of acting president, I have considered how essential imagining and creating a shared future is to our community as we work together in new ways to advance educational excellence and serve the common good under some of the most challenging circumstances many of us have ever experienced.
I do not want to let today pass without extending words of gratitude and of welcome to two remarkable individuals also making transitions today: Dr. Lakesia Johnson and Dr. Schvalla Rivera. We owe Lakesia our deepest thanks for her transformative work and dedication as the Assistant Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer over the past five years. And each of us will be inspired by Schvalla, whom we are pleased to welcome to our community as she takes up that mission and its work in relation to the many identities and lived experiences of Grinnell College. Their efforts and partnerships across campus and community to change the world through education are vital to the work we all must do to challenge systemic racism, anti-blackness, and white supremacy.
I am humbled to take on the responsibilities that Dr. Raynard Kington so ably discharged for more than a decade. I am grateful for the time and effort that Raynard and so many others have devoted to helping me prepare for this time of transition, serving as acting president now until Grinnell’s 14th president is on the job.
It is my commitment to you over the coming weeks and months to discharge my role with compassion, flexibility, and resolve. I want to hear and understand your perspectives and will work hard to engage representatives of all constituencies who can shape and will be impacted by the choices and plans we make. We have so much vitally important work to do together as we continue to meet the challenges of the pandemic, as we prepare for fall academic terms on campus and remotely, as we strive to advance our plan of action for racial justice, and as we prepare to welcome a new presidential leader to our community.
I am incredibly grateful for the many generous ways in which Grinnellians support each other, and have extended professional and personal support to me. I am especially thankful for the work of Elaine Marzluff, who has agreed to serve as Acting Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and whose vast experience and generous wisdom will provide sure and strong leadership. And I want to thank both the outgoing and incoming Chairs of the Faculty, Todd Armstrong and Vida Praitis, as well as the Co-chairs of Staff Council, Erika Jack and Sarah Smith, for their collaborative work and ability to connect community members and the issues that shape our shared experience. I am heartened by the committed work of the Division of Student Affairs under the leadership of Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Moschenross, and the thoughtful engagement of Student Government Association President Lana Katai, and her leadership team and partners, who work collaboratively and actively to represent and inform our student body. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the advice and support provided to me by our Trustees, alumni, and members of the greater Grinnell community. All of you have helped empower me to move forward with great optimism for Grinnell College’s future.
Over the course of the upcoming extended holiday weekend, I hope that most of you will be able to take pause to relax, spend time with family and friends, and renew yourselves. My wish for all when we return to the work at hand on July 7, is that you will also find meaning and fulfillment in the well-being and excellence of our community that, together, we hold in trust.
All the best,
Anne F. Harris