Jonathan Veitch will end his tenure as Oxy's 15th president in 2020.
Jonathan Veitch announced today at the Board of Trustees’ regularly scheduled quarterly meeting that he will step down in June 2020 after a successful 11-year tenure as Occidental College’s 15th president.
In declining an offer from the board to extend his contract, Veitch called his tenure “a rewarding experience in nearly every way—at once challenging and deeply satisfying” in an email message to the Oxy community. “However, after a great deal of reflection I have concluded that it is time for me to pass the baton.”
“Few Occidental presidents have accomplished more,” Board Chair Susan Mallory ’76 M’78 said in her own email message, noting that only three have served longer in the college’s 132-year history. The Veitch years “put Oxy on a trajectory to take full advantage of its location in the global city of Los Angeles and become the country’s preeminent urban liberal arts college.”
Veitch’s announcement gives trustees plenty of time to mount a thorough national search for Occidental’s next president and for a smooth transition, Mallory said. After stepping down in June 2020 Veitch will take a year-long sabbatical leave and explore the history, tradition and value of the liberal arts.
Today marks 10 years—almost to the very day—since I accepted the position of President of Occidental College. While a decade is a relatively brief moment in the life of a 132-year-old institution, it is certainly a substantial period of time in the life of an individual. My experience here working on behalf of such talented and engaged students has been rewarding in nearly every way—at once challenging and deeply satisfying. Occidental is an institution that matters enormously, and it has been a privilege to steward this very special place over the past decade. However, after a great deal of reflection I have concluded that it is time for me to pass the baton to Occidental’s 16th president when my contract ends in June of 2020.
I have chosen this moment to share the news with the Occidental community in order to allow ample time for our trustees to consult with faculty, staff, students and alumni in the spring, and mount a successful national search for my successor in the fall. In the meantime, we have a great deal that needs to be accomplished over the next 18 months to achieve our goals. I intend to make all of it count.
The timing is propitious for another reason. The College is in a very strong position: We have a dynamic faculty (reinvigorated by a new generation of faculty hires); a record number of student applications, accompanied by increasing selectivity; an excellent administrative team in place; an outstanding, deeply committed staff; a successful track record of fundraising; and prudent budgetary practices. This success is underpinned by a strategic vision that embeds a first-class liberal arts education in a dynamic city that serves as a laboratory for democracy. I’m proud of what we have accomplished together, and I look forward to seeing what Occidental will become in the years ahead.
This considerable momentum has given us the confidence to enter into a comprehensive campaign, the chief goal of which is to increase funding for student scholarships. To date we have raised more than $110 million, which puts us well on our way to our overall campaign goal. This is proof that we can raise a significant amount of money from our alumni and friends who share our deeply-held belief in the transformative power of a liberal arts education. Our fundraising success thus far has allowed us to build up our endowment, increase scholarship support, launch the Obama Scholars program and renew several facilities on our beloved campus.
After stepping down in 2020, I plan to take a sabbatical, and I look forward to being a more conventional parent as our youngest child goes through high school. I first became a professor because I was attracted to a life of contemplation. The life of a college president is many things—some of them quite rewarding—but it isn’t that. I have missed the opportunity to read deeply and to write about the things that matter to me. Initially, I will devote my energies to a reflection on the history, tradition and value of the liberal arts, with special attention to their importance as a compass for democracy. Thereafter, who knows? But that open-endedness sounds inviting!
There will be time for a proper goodbye to the many people to whom I am most indebted. But for now I want to say how grateful I am to the Board of Trustees for their unflagging support (especially Board Chairs Susan Mallory, Chris Calkins and John Farmer). Oxy is an extraordinary place with many, many extraordinary people who contribute daily to its success. I have witnessed first-hand the way Occidental changes lives; it has certainly changed mine. Thank you all, very much.
To the Occidental Community:
You have just heard from President Veitch regarding his decision to not extend his contract in 2020. On behalf of the Board, I would like to add a few words of appreciation for Jonathan’s remarkable service to the College.
At a time when the average tenure for college presidents has dropped to less than seven years, Jonathan’s term—which will total 11 years in 2020—is noteworthy. Only three Oxy presidents have surpassed this mark: Remsen Bird, Arthur Coons, and Richard Gilman. The Board encouraged Jonathan to extend his contract, but he declined the offer. We fully support Jonathan’s decision and are immensely grateful for his contributions to Occidental.
Few have accomplished more during their tenure. We have successfully pursued the ambitious agenda Jonathan laid out in his inaugural speech, driven by the consensus behind our 2012 strategic plan which put Oxy on a trajectory to take full advantage of its location in the global city of Los Angeles and become the country’s preeminent urban liberal arts college.
Under Jonathan’s leadership, we have made particular progress in significantly improving our campus facilities to enhance the learning environment for our students. He championed the renovation and expansion of Swan and Hinchliffe Halls; the creation of the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs; Samuelson Alumni Center; and expansion of the Hameetman Career Center to help students translate their liberal arts skills into successful careers. By the time Jonathan steps down, we will have added the Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences, Oxy Arts on York, the De Mandel Aquatic Center and the McKinnon Family Tennis Center to the list.
These achievements would not have been possible without Jonathan’s passion, creativity and considerable skills as a fundraiser. During his tenure, we have had nine years of balanced budgets, a 60 percent increase in the size of the endowment, and significant progress in raising faculty salaries. Now, thanks to Jonathan’s persistence and vision, we also have our new Obama Scholars Program with the full backing of one of our most famous alumni.
Of course, Oxy has experienced its share of challenges during the past 10 years. Important national action to address sexual misconduct as well as diversity and equity have engaged the Oxy community in fundamental and often difficult ways. While a U.S. Department of Education investigation found that Oxy was in compliance with Title IX, mere compliance is not enough. We remain committed to building on the progress we have made in addressing both Title IX and diversity and equity issues.
As a result of Jonathan’s leadership, Occidental’s fundamentals are strong. We are growing the number of tenure-track faculty. Enrollment results are healthy. The endowment is consistently exceeding its performance benchmarks. Our fundraising has shown major gains, and we have a talented and committed senior leadership team in place. I can’t think of a better scenario for our next president, or a better launching pad for the public phase of our comprehensive fundraising campaign later this year. Jonathan and his leadership team are confident we have the momentum and the infrastructure in place to move ahead with the campaign, and the Board is in full agreement. There is much work to be done over the next 18 months, and Jonathan has made clear his commitment to making every minute of it count.
We will now begin the important task of identifying Oxy’s next president. This will be a thorough, transparent and inclusive process. Beginning this semester, we will seek input from the Oxy community as well as the active participation of key stakeholders in the search itself. We are grateful to Jonathan for the timing of his announcement, as it has given us ample time to complete this process and to ensure a seamless transition.
There will, of course, be time for us to gather and acknowledge Jonathan’s legacy. Today the Board and I want to express our profound thanks to Jonathan for his remarkable stewardship of the College we all love.
Susan Howell Mallory ‘76, M’78
Chair, Occidental College Board of Trustees