Jonathan Veitch has been selected by the Occidental College Board of Trustees as Occidental’s 15th president.
He succeeds Robert A. Skotheim, who will retire on June 30.
Veitch served five years as dean of Eugene Lang College: The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City, where he is currently an associate professor of literature and history. Prior to his service as dean (2003-08), Veitch served as the associate provost and chair of humanities of the New School University, of which Lang College is a part. He joined the New School faculty in 1997, having taught for five years in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. A 1981 Stanford graduate, he received his doctoral degree in the History of American Civilization from Harvard.
"Occidental was looking for someone with proven leadership skills, a deep commitment to and understanding of the liberal arts and sciences, and a talent for attracting support for higher education. After a national search, Jonathan emerged from a very strong field of candidates as the ideal person to lead Occidental from strength to strength," said Dennis Collins, chair of the Occidental Board of Trustees. "As an institution whose history and identity is so closely intertwined with Los Angeles, we are delighted to be able to name a native Angeleno as president – the first in Occidental’s history."
As dean of Lang, Veitch focused on expanding the size and scope of the institution to take advantage of its status as an urban liberal arts college. In five years, he doubled the size of the student body and hired more than 60 new full-time faculty, introduced tenure and enhanced the curriculum, including the creation of institutional partnerships with premier cultural institutions such as the Guggenheim and the New York Historical Society. Veitch also created new programs in civic engagement including college readiness courses for disadvantaged youth, prison reform and environmental projects, and launched new overseas studies programs in Mexico, South Africa, India, and Poland. At the same time, he improved the internal operations of the college, developing an academic advising team and a career services program and boosting fundraising totals from $40,000 to $2 million annually.
"I am honored to become president of Occidental, a college with a distinguished record of national leadership in the liberal arts and sciences," Veitch said. "For the last quarter-century, Occidental has led the way in undergraduate research, particularly in the sciences, and in creating a rigorous, thoughtful, and diverse approach to education."
"One need only look at Occidental’s most famous student, Barack Obama. Our new president demonstrates the very best qualities of a liberal arts education. It is evident in so much of what he says and does, and how he thinks," he said. "Indeed, our 44th president not only embodies the excellence and diversity that Occidental strives for, he exemplifies the urgency and centrality of a liberal arts education as we face the challenges of the new century. This is why I regard the liberal arts and sciences as essential equipment for living, and why I am so excited to be given this new opportunity."
Veitch has served as a visiting professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education and Doshisha University in Kyoto; an outside evaluator for the New York Council for the Humanities; and as a Fulbright senior specialist in Kazakhstan. The author of the award-winning American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), Veitch’s fields of academic specialization include 19th and 20th century American literature and cultural history, and American film. His latest research has focused on the history of higher education in the United States. Veitch currently lives in New York City with his wife Sarah and their three children.