Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Championing the liberal arts

Ronald A. Crutcher reflects on 10-year presidency

At the end of this academic year, President Crutcher will leave Wheaton. Here, the Quarterly notes his contributions to the college and the world of higher education, through images, comments from the Wheaton community, and a recent interview in which he discusses the enduring value of the liberal arts. 
2005: Wheaton Trustee Emerita Patricia King ’63 places medallion on the president at his inauguration. (Michael Dwyer photo)

2005: Wheaton Trustee Emerita Patricia King ’63 places medallion on the president at his inauguration. (Michael Dwyer photo)

“Mentoring is important to me and to Betty,” the president says, leaning forward over the table in his Park Hall office.

“It’s important to me because I wouldn’t be the person that I am today were it not for Elizabeth Potteiger, my cello teacher, who was one of the first persons outside of my parents to be a mentor to me,” he says. “As a result of getting to know her and studying the cello with her, I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to do for others what she had done for me.”

2011: President Crutcher and Betty Neal Crutcher host a holiday gathering with the students they mentor. (Nicki Pardo photo)

2011: President Crutcher and Betty Neal Crutcher host a holiday gathering with the students they mentor. (Nicki Pardo photo)

The president has told the story before in explaining his motivation for organizing a mentoring group each year, scheduling individual meetings and regular group sessions with as many as 40 students. His wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, who earned her Ph.D. studying models for cross-cultural mentoring, also has led her own mentoring group.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity,” he says. “It’s my way of staying connected to students and their concerns.”

2007: President Crutcher rehearses with Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Owen Young in Cole chapel.

2007: President Crutcher rehearses with Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Owen Young in Cole chapel. (Nicki Pardo photo)

The mentoring group reflects an essential belief that has been evident throughout his tenure at Wheaton as well as throughout his career: a liberal arts education that is personal and rigorous transforms lives.

His conviction about the worth of the liberal arts drove President Crutcher to lead a campus-wide strategic planning process that developed a holistic vision for building on the college’s distinctive Connections curriculum. The plan, Wheaton 2014: Transforming Lives to Change the World, has served as a blueprint for his presidency. It included major projects, such as Go Beyond: Campaign for Wheaton, the fundraising effort now in its final year, and construction of the Mars Center for Science and Technology, the largest building project in Wheaton history.

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A view to a thrill

Elliott Mazzola ’09 thrives on adventure

Skydiving over Lodi, Calif., on his 96th jump

Elliott Mazzola ’09 skydiving over Lodi, Calif., on his 96th jump, and above, on Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France.

Even in the death-defying world of extreme sports, there are few wake-up calls like nearly being swallowed by a glacier.

For Elliott Mazzola ’09, it happened in August 2012, when he and a climbing partner were traversing the more than 100-mile Haute Route, an alpine trail whose 23 ice sheets stretch between Chamonix, France, and Zermatt, Switzerland.

The pair were hiking “off rope,” confident they were safe from the glacier’s hundreds of crevasses—perilous cracks, sometimes hidden by fresh snow, that can plunge unwitting climbers more than a hundred feet into nothingness.

That’s when the ground gave way under Mazzola.

“My foot went all the way through and all I saw was this void beneath me. It was a really dumb mistake on our part, and luckily nothing came of it,” he recalls, noting that alpinists are supposed to scan the terrain hundreds of feet around them for gaps not covered by snow, evidence that a crevasse is near. “You kind of laugh it off, but it could have been the end.”

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“Grace, integrity and devotion”

Wheaton community pays tribute

Dale Marshal-8“One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed retirement so much is that I knew Wheaton was in wonderful hands. Ron Crutcher is a fine human being and a savvy academic and artist. Don and I look forward to continued friendship with Ron, Betty and Sara.”

—Dale Rogers Marshall, former Wheaton College president

 

Championing the liberals arts: Ronald A. Crutcher reflects on 10-year presidency

Homecoming camapign meeting“President Crutcher has led our college with great success, grace, integrity and devotion. The trustees are most grateful for his leadership and thankful for his contributions. The goals that we set for his presidency—in consultation with the college community in 2003–2004—centered on our shared desire to strengthen Wheaton by building on its distinctive liberal arts curriculum, enhancing its academic reputation in the wider world and fully enlisting the active support of our extended community. Wheaton has made enormous strides forward in those areas, thanks to President Crutcher’s dedication to advancing the college. So much has been accomplished under his tenure.”

—Thomas Hollister, chair, Wheaton Board of Trustees

 

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Making matters

Labs engage campus in creative hands-on learning, collaboration

WHALE LabLast semester, when William Cohen ’13 needed to tackle a term paper for his “Philosophy and Literature” course, he found help in an unexpected place—a box of Legos in the Wheaton Autonomous Learning Laboratory (WHALE Lab), courtesy of founder Professor Tom Armstrong.

“I spent a lot of time building things with Tom’s Legos,” says Cohen, who majored in English with a minor in studio art and computer science. “I find that focusing on some sort of immediate, often mechanical or tactile problem (such as building something with Legos), lets me work through larger, abstract problems. Some sort of organic problem solving happens when I’m otherwise occupied.”

Scattered about the WHALE research lab and FiberSpace, those Legos may seem like toys—well, they are—but they also are important brainteasers, notes Armstrong, assistant professor of computer science. “The goal is to create an environment of play and experimentation, to remind students, staff members and faculty that whimsy is important in fostering the joy of learning, and to encourage everyone to think differently about what ‘college’ is,” says Armstrong, who also founded FiberSpace. [Read more...]