IWU welcomes new president

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Crystal Ocampo, Staff Writer

 

On Monday, Sept. 14, over 150 people made their way to the Hansen Student Center to witness the introduction of Illinois Wesleyan University’s 19th President. The audience members spoke excitedly to each other, speculating and sharing opinions.

“I am really sad to see President Wilson go, but I am excited to see what the new president will do in regards to diversity programming,” junior Sophie Popovich said.

The faculty, staff and students quickly focused their attention on President and Mrs. Wilson, George A. Vinyard ‘71 and a few others, as they made their way to the stage, which was decorated with green and white flowers and balloons.

They shared the stage with our beloved concrete pineapple, a symbolic promise that all are welcome at Illinois Wesleyan, making it an appropriate welcome to our new president-elect and his family.

The event commenced with a brief speech by George Vinyard, Chair of the Board of Trustees. He welcomed everyone present to this “auspicious occasion” since a presidential search had only occurred five times in the past, with each president serving at least a ten year term. “Each president has left the university better than before,” Vinyard said. He went on to thank President Wilson for continuing that tradition and for serving the university so loyally.

Vinyard also thanked Carl Teichman, director of Government and Community Relations, Jean Baird, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and the other members of the Presidential Search Committee. The Board of Trustees unanimously made the official, presidential decision on Sept. 9, 2015.

Baird took the stage to introduce our president-elect, and she also expressed thanks to several board members. She then addressed the four key qualities and skills that were the guiding factors in the search.

“The first thing we looked for in our candidates was someone who had experience in strategic leadership and was a visionary. We also looked for someone skilled in organizational capacity, communication and community outreach and someone who had leadership experience in higher education.” Baird was pleased to introduce a candidate who possessed all those qualities – Eric R. Jensen.

As he made his way to the podium, the crowd warmly applauded him. “My wife, Elizabeth, and I are thrilled beyond words,” he said. “We are very proud we are to be here.”

He continued explaining why he had chosen IWU. “It felt like home, walking around. It’s about the people. The people I had the chance to meet were dedicated to the liberal arts mission and I hope to continue that shared purpose.”

Jensen then sincerely thanked former President Wilson and his wife for the gracious welcome and that he planned to hold President Wilson to his promise of helping his successor during the transition. Jensen said he hopes to meet every student, faculty and staff member, alumni, and the community during his term and to help create “an increasingly unique Illinois Wesleyan University.”

Jensen believes IWU is the perfect place to breed “problem solvers” because it “provides an environment that creates those kinds of people.”

“Everybody I’ve talked to loves this university and is proud of it—but they also see where there is room for improvement. And that’s a good thing. There’s always room for improvement,” Jensen said.

President Wilson then presented a hysterically over-sized key to the Jensens and said, “You might need keys to the building. Though this might not actually open any doors on campus, but if you present it anywhere, you will surely be able to get in.”

Jensen was provost of Hamline University from 2012 to 2015. Hamline is a liberal arts university located in Saint Paul, Minn., with around 2,200 undergraduate students on campus. Prior to his career at Hamline, Jensen received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He was an economics professor at the College of William and Mary.

In his free time, President Jensen enjoys playing golf as well as the guitar, bass, mandolin and many other instruments.

Jensen displayed his light-hearted sense of humor, saying he most looks forward to “not having to fly on the plane from Minnesota to Illinois. My shoulders hit the ceiling!”