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The Westminster Bi-Line

The Westminster Bi-Line

Clarkson to retire at the end of 2013-2014

From three new principals to a new schedule to a new dining experience, Westminster is in a period of serious transition. Beginning in the fall of 2014, the school will be shaken once again with the arrival of a new president.

Current president Dr. Bill Clarkson has spent the past 21 years leading the school through many changes, but as he approaches his 66th birthday he knows it is time to pass over his power.

“My intention was to retire at the end of this year,” said Clarkson, “but last year the board came to me and asked me to stay an extra year to help further the transition of the new principals and strategic plan.”

In 1991, when Clarkson first took on his presidency, Westminster looked extraordinarily different than it will when he steps down in 2014.

“Whether you worked in buildings and maintenance, in the kitchen, in the faculty, trustees, if you were not a Christian you could not work here,” said Clarkson. “It took about two and a half years to deal with that issue because the atmosphere was so contentious that you could cut it with a knife.”

After Clarkson and the Board of Trustees’ hard work, the school’s contenious atmosphere changed in Clarkson’s first two years as president.

In 1991, “a teacher [might have said] to a student, ‘Well, I’m thrilled that you’re in my class and I love your being at this school, but you will not be saved unless you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.’ That is not Christ-like and it is not acceptable,” said Clarkson. “So we’ve shifted away from some of that mindset, at least publicly…It’s been at the very forefront of my work to become a more caring, inclusive, loving community within the school.”

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Clarkson pursues this goal both as the president and as an Old Testament bible teacher.

“He always has us question the social norms in Bible class and allows us to discuss our own views,” said senior Bailey Johnston. “That quality – his desire to question everything and never settle for the easy route – makes him such a great president.”

In order to find a new president with a similarly open-minded attitude, the search committee has formed a specific and strategic plan.

“We’ve hired a search consultant out of Boston, Carney Sandoe, and the first step will be for them to reach out to all of their contacts and start to put together a list of potential candidates, which could include both external and internal candidates,” said Chair of the President Search Committee, Mike Egan. “We will also be working with them to put together a job description of what traits and qualities we are looking for in our next president.”

The Search Committee is working alongside an Advisory Committee made up of alumni, faculty, and students to discuss the qualities necessary for a president. However, input from all areas of the school will be gathered for a thorough search.

“We will be doing an online survey asking what qualities are necessary for our new president that we will be sending out to alumni, parents, faculty, students, etc.” said Egan. “We will also be doing a number of group-type settings, assembling from the bottom up the view from the Westminster community to see what they think the next president of our school should look like.”

The school will form its own job description for the president, but Clarkson has a few required qualities in mind.

“The new president needs to understand the history of this school and the spirit of the school and the mission of the school, and cannot wait to become part of a community like this,” said Clarkson. “It needs to be someone who loves working with faculty, loves working with parents, loves working with trustees, loves working with foundations, loves working with alumni, loves working with students, loves it all as I do.”

Once the next president is identified, the next step is to create an easy transition between the presidents.

“Once [the new president] is identified in the fall, the ‘on boarding process’ will begin, which is designed to ensure that the new president will have a chance to meet all the important constituents of the school,” said Egan. “This two-phase process is an enormous task to ensure a smooth transition for all parties.”

As the search begins, Clarkson will continue his current work at school and will further lie out the foundation for the new president.

“My goals [for my last year] are to advance the strategic plan and to make sure everything is on a solid footing and ready to go for the new president,” said Clarkson. “Other than that, I want to enjoy [my remaining time students and colleagues].”

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