William C. (Will) Dudley, provost and professor of philosophy at Williams College, will be the next president of Washington and Lee University.
W&L’s Board of Trustees unanimously elected Dudley as the university’s 27th president during its meeting in Lexington today (Feb. 12, 2016). Dudley will assume his duties on Jan. 1, 2017, succeeding Kenneth P. Ruscio ’76, who announced in May 2015 his intention to step down from the presidency, and who will remain in office until Dec. 31, 2016.
“Will Dudley possesses a blend of experience in, and commitment to, the distinctive liberal arts education that we prize at Washington and Lee,” said J. Donald Childress ’70, of Atlanta, rector of the board and a member of the search committee. “We were fortunate to attract an extraordinarily strong pool of well-qualified candidates for the presidency, and Will emerged as the unanimous choice of the committee, which was impressed by his intellect, his skills as a communicator, his many achievements both in the classroom and the administration at Williams, and his passion for the power of the liberal arts.”
Craig Owens, a W&L trustee from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and a 1976 graduate of the university, chaired the 15-member search committee. Owens praised the committee for its dedication to the process.
“We knew at the outset that we faced a difficult task in finding someone to succeed Ken Ruscio as president and maintain the university’s strong momentum,” said Owens. “Will impressed us all with his record of achievements as a teacher and scholar and with his collaborative leadership style. We are pleased to introduce him to the university community, and we are confident he will serve W&L well.”
As Williams’s provost since 2011, Dudley has overseen operations that directly support the college’s academic mission, allocating budgets and positions and undertaking strategic initiatives. He supervises the directors of Admission, Financial Aid, the College Libraries, Information Technology, the Science Center, Institutional Research, the Williams College Museum of Art and the Zikha Center for Environmental Initiatives. He has been intimately involved in aligning fundraising efforts with the college’s needs, including establishing priorities for Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams, which was launched in October 2015 with a goal of $650 million.
A native of Virginia, born in Charlottesville and raised in Arlington, Dudley received his B.A. in mathematics and philosophy, magna cum laude, from Williams in 1989, and an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in philosophy, from Northwestern University. He joined the Williams faculty in 1998. His area of expertise is German idealism, from Kant to Hegel. He is the author of two books, “Understanding German Idealism” (2007) and “Hegel, Nietszsche and Philosophy: Thinking Freedom” (2002). He is also the editor of volumes on Kant and Hegel and has published numerous scholarly articles.
“I am honored to be asked to lead Washington and Lee,” said Dudley. “It is an extraordinary liberal arts institution, and I am inspired by its long tradition of excellence, spanning more than two and a half centuries, and by its commitment to the idea that we most truly honor our past when we draw upon its strengths in innovative ways that serve the future. I admire its faculty, accomplished scholars who engage with students not only as teachers but also as mentors and friends.
“Washington and Lee students are to be commended for their dedication to the Honor System. The culture of trust, respect and freedom that it sustains is deeply appealing to me and critically important at this particular moment in American higher education.”
As an undergraduate at Williams, Dudley was captain of the water polo team, a member of the swimming and diving team, and the recipient of a Herschel Smith Fellowship to study at Cambridge University from 1989 to 1990. He worked from 1990 to 1993 for AES Corp. before pursing graduate studies at Northwestern.
He has received fellowships from the Williams College Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Humboldt Foundation. He served as the Gaudino Scholar at Williams from 2010 to 2011, a presidential appointment to lead the Robert L. Gaudino Memorial Fund and to encourage curricular innovation and experiential learning at the college.
Dudley serves as a trustee and vice-chair of the board at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the public liberal arts college for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. He received a gubernatorial appointment to that board in 2010 and became the vice chair in 2015. He also served as president of the Williamstown Community Chest from 2007 to 2009 and served on the board of that non-profit for six years.
He is the father of two children, Nicholas K. (Cole), 17, and Elizabeth K. (Ella), 15.
In addition to Owens, the chair, and Childress, rector of the board, the 15-member search committee comprised Dana J. Bolden ’89, W&L trustee, Atlanta, Georgia; Johanna E. Bond, W&L professor of law; Mary C. Choksi, W&L trustee, Washington, D.C.; Blair Hixon Davis ’94, W&L trustee, Irvine, California; Waller T. Dudley ’74, ’79L, W&L executive director of alumni affairs and emeritus trustee; James D. Farrar Jr. ’74, secretary of the university and senior assistant to the president; Mason Grist ’18, president of the W&L Executive Committee of the Student Body; Janine M. Hathorn, W&L athletics director and professor of physical education, athletics and recreation; Helen I’Anson, John T. Perry Professor of Biology and Research Science at W&L; Michael R. McAlevey ’86, W&L trustee, Cincinnati, Ohio; Marshall B. Miller Jr. ’71, W&L trustee, San Antonio, Texas; Angela M. Smith, W&L’s Roger Mudd Professor of Ethics, professor of philosophy and director of the Mudd Center for Ethics; and Robert A. Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at W&L.