September 4, 2003


National search for new president planned—
Final year for Straumanis as Antioch College president

Joan Straumantis


For the first time in nine years, Antioch College will start this fall its national search for a new president, who will succeed Joan Straumanis when her contract ends next June.

Straumanis, who came to Antioch in February of 2002, said she does not plan to reapply for the job.

“My expectation was that I would give the college two and a half years,” Straumanis said. “This was a very challenging job, and I have no need to stay longer. Perhaps I would have if asked.”

Antioch College is currently in the process of regrouping, according to Dan Kaplan, president of the Antioch University Board of Trustees. This year the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency that legitimizes the college’s ability to grant degrees, renewed Antioch’s accreditation, but also outlined some improvements the college would need to make for future assessments in 2006 and 2012.

Partly in response to those recommendations, the Board of Trustees established a Renewal Commission in June to find ways to renew the college. The commission will focus on attracting and retaining more students and solving budget problems, Jim Craiglow, the Antioch University chancellor, said in a phone interview from his office in Keene, N.H.

“From the perspective of being able to hire a president through a national search, coming in on the ground floor now is easier than having someone come in in 2005 when we’re asking someone for renewal outcomes,” Craiglow said.

Both Kaplan and Craiglow also said that the university decided to stick to the plan laid out when Straumanis was hired and conduct a national search for her successor.

The last nationwide presidential search concluded in 1994, when Jim Crowfoot was hired.

Craiglow praised Straumanis’s leadership and initiative during her tenure at Antioch.

“Joan has been a strong advocate for the college,” he said. “She’s done well on the external boundary, contacting alumni and friends of the college and working hard to demonstrate that Antioch has a strong and cohesive management team.”

The college approached Straumanis about replacing former President Bob Devine, who resigned unexpectedly in the fall of 2001. She was working for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., at the time and, as a 1957 Antioch graduate, wanted to help the college in an emergency situation, she said when she assumed office.

As the president of Antioch College, Straumanis has focused on smart fiscal management and raising the endowment, which since June 2001 has increased from $19 million to over $27 million. The college has also made headway against its deficit, Straumanis said.

“When I first came I focused more on finances, and I’ve not had the luxury of relaxing that,” said Straumanis, who is the first woman to lead the college. “But we’re concentrating more this year on student life.”

With a new housing director on board this year, the college will work to improve dorm life and continue to invest in dormitories, she said. Community Government also formed the Permanent Retention Council (PretCil), and extended training for hall advisors and support for first-year students.

According to Cheryl Keen, dean of community learning and professor of self, society and culture, both students and faculty seem to appreciate their current president.

When Straumanis announced at a community convocation Aug. 13 that this would be her last year as president, students and hall advisors expressed disappointment, Keen said.

“I heard them say she’s got a hard job and that she’s doing a great job with it,” Keen said.

Though faculty members wonder whether Antioch would benefit by having a new president to represent a fresh image for the college, they believe that Straumanis has done well, Keen said.

“We are delighted with her commitment to the school and what she’s done in a fiscally tough time,” Keen said.

Antioch University leaders plan to launch a nationwide advertising search for a new president no later than late October, Craiglow said.

He couldn’t reveal yet what kind of leader Antioch is looking for, saying that he preferred to get input from faculty, staff and administrators to reach a consensus on the most important leadership attributes the new college president will possess.

Straumanis has her own ideas about the necessary qualities for the person who will fill her shoes.

“A school with such limited resources needs to be very well managed,” she said. “We’ll need someone with strong management skills, someone with a lot of energy, and we’ll need someone who understands the institution and its uniqueness.”

Though she has no immediate plans for retirement, Straumanis decided not to seek another term as the college president, saying Antioch deserved long-term stability.

“A national search would suggest someone who would be there for many years, and I can’t promise that,” she said.

But Straumanis hardly considers her term over at this point. She said she is focused on Antioch’s sesquicentennial events and celebrations happening this fall and will be planning a campaign to further strengthen the endowment.

“I would greatly regret if anyone thinks of my presidency as losing energy or waning,” she said. “I expect it to be strong until the last day.”

—Lauren Heaton