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Earlham at Dusk

I only interacted with Earlham College President Alan Price a few times over the last year, and I found him to be an intensely thoughtful, passionate and dedicated leader excited about the future possibilities for the college and its place in the Richmond community. Last week’s news that Price is leaving Earlham after only one year is a real loss for all of us here. I wish him the very best.

As an alumnus (and spouse of an employee), I feel concern for what the campus faces in the months and years ahead.

It’s clear from the nature of the announcement that it wasn’t the way anyone wanted or expected Price’s work here to end; all signs point to an involuntary dismissal. It comes at a time when Earlham and many other institutions of higher education areĀ struggling greatly with business models and financial viability. There have been major changes in leadership, faculty and staff over recent years, including the departure of people who were anchors of the college’s intellectual and truth-seeking Quaker identity. The sudden departure of a president and questions about the process involved do little to assure us that there is a solid or widely embraced strategy in place for rebuilding a thriving version of the school.

From the Richmond community’s perspective, this is all a reminder that we should not take it for granted that Earlham will be here forever. One only has to look a few miles down the road at Yellow Springs, Ohio to see the struggles that arose when Antioch College closed in 2008. As (among other things) a major employer, longstanding source of much needed diversity, and provider of substantial volunteer labor to local not-for-profits, the closure or significant scaling back of Earlham’s operations here would be devastating to the local economic and cultural landscape.

Now more than ever, the people of Richmond should be asking out loud how we can help Earlham (along with IU East, Ivy Tech, Purdue, Bethany Seminary and the Earlham School of Religion) to succeed, and how we can position the area as an attractive and unique place for college students to spend time.

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