Tuesday was the last day on the job for Dartmouth College President Jim Wright. A man who started as a miner in the zinc mines of Illinois; he joined the U.S. Marines and then was first in his family to go to college. He thought he'd teach history but he became administrator of one of the top schools in the Ivy League.
Wright: I was lucky to have nuns and Marine Corps drill instructors teach me a sense of responsibility and a sense of discipline perhaps. But there are a lot of people who don't have the chances I have had and so I think it's crucial NOT to exaggerate or romanticize one's own background and think 'look what I've overcome.' I overcame this with a lot of people and therefore I feel a responsibility to help others.
Marselis Parsons: Looking back, Mr. Wright, is there anything you regret?
Wright: As president? Yes! Well I have tried to... uh... Well I regret this last year, you know, I'll start with that. With the budget downturn that we had, it was very difficult. I never expected to spend my last year as president having to significantly reduce expenses.
Parsons: Some critics have said that you should have cut salaries rather than laid off people; that there should have been an across-the-board cut.
Wright: Sure, critics have said that and I think it is NOT the way to run an institution like this. And I'll tell you why, and I say it with some discomfort... We have worked very hard to make our staff and faculty compensation competitive; there IS a marketplace. So the question is do we reduce salaries and is it permanent? Does that mean that forever more we are always going to be more than 5 percent more below the market? And of course we can't do that because every time we make a new hire, every time we try to retain someone, the market is going to remind us again what it is we have to pay and we're going to end up with significant disparities. And so somebody has to do catch up. And in a few years that catch up-- the demand for that catch up-- is going to become even more profound for my successor and others who have to deal with that. You simply cannot run a place strategically that way.
Wednesday Jim Wright hands over to Jim Yong Kim and we will have some parting advice from the old president to the new.
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