Edward Wingenbach named eighth president of Hampshire College

Challenges of finances and accreditation loom


Collegian File Photo

By Will Mallas, Assistant News Editor

Following a two-month search for a replacement, Edward Wingenbach has been named the eighth president of Hampshire College as the institution faces financial and structural uncertainty.

Wingenbach, who replaced interim President Ken Rosenthal, was announced as president in a Hampshire College press release on July 17 before officially taking office in early August. Wingenbach previously served as acting president of Ripon College and has 15 years of experience working as an administrator and faculty leader at the University of Redlands in California, according to the press release.

Hampshire College is currently undergoing several challenges as the college enters the 2019-2020 academic year. First announcing its search for a “strategic partner” in January due to financial concerns, the college later decided it would accept a limited freshman class, now expecting a class of only 15 students.

In a speech given to the campus, Wingenbach acknowledged the “trauma” that Hampshire has faced.

“It’s clear that there’s been a lot of conflict, it’s clear that there’s been a lot of pain, some of it self-induced,” Wingenbach said. “Part of the task of the coming months and years is to process that trauma and turn it into action.”

“No one’s ever going to get over what has happened, no one’s going to forget the losses that may persist to this community, but we need to use that as energy and fuel to become the next iteration of Hampshire as the leader of higher education,” he added.

Additionally, Wingenbach outlined some of his goals as president, including hopes of promoting “widespread participation and engagement in a conversation about the future of Hampshire College.”

“And so I’m going to be inviting people to participate in that conversation, and I see most of my role … as president here as helping to structure that conversation in ways that are effective, in ways that make sure everybody can participate and be heard,” Wingenbach said.

As part of his first actions as president, Wingenbach restructured the Hampshire College “leadership team” through placing employees into different roles in the college as well as “working to assess the status of staffing in all divisions and offices,” according to a letter written to the Hampshire campus.

“We’re conducting a search for a chief advancement officer and filling other positions in advancement to accelerate our major fund-raising efforts,” Wingenbach wrote. “I know our office of human resources is busy helping to fill many open positions, led by interim Director Deana Prest, who has extended her appointment with the College.”

Additionally, Wingenbach may face challenges when it comes to Hampshire’s accreditation. The New England Commission of Higher Education, Hampshire’s accreditor, may withdraw the college’s accreditation or place the college on probation. The NECHE determines a college’s accreditation through a set of standards that are “essentially qualitative criteria that measure the institution’s current state of educational effectiveness,” according to the commission’s website.

A joint press release from Hampshire and the NECHE was released on June 7 that announced that NEHCE would defer its decision on Hampshire’s accreditation to November.

“I’ll be focused on the work of ensuring we’re adhering to NECHE’s standards well ahead of their meeting in November,” Wingenbach said in the release announcing his presidency.

“As a community, we’ll develop core principles to guide us, adopt a framework and then we’ll buckle down and focus on securing the College’s future,” he added.

Wingenbach’s selection concluded a search for a replacement to former President Miriam Nelson, who resigned in April after claiming that the Hampshire “community’s feelings about me would be a distraction from the necessary work.” Former Trustee Ken Rosenthal was appointed as interim president and established a Presidential Search Committee. After a two-month search, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees unanimously voted to appoint Wingenbach.

“We welcome Ed to Hampshire, he embodies the many ideals that our students, staff, faculty and alumni bring to our community,” said Luis Hernandez, the chair of the Board of Trustees at Hampshire, in the press release. “We are ready to support him in our important next steps forward and to work together with a sense of renewal and hope.”

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.