New university president announcement, moments before Mock Con hits the stage

W&L President-elect William Dudley

W&L President-elect William Dudley. Photo courtesy of the W&L Communications department

Leslie Yevak

William C. Dudley will take the reins as Washington and Lee’s next president starting Jan. 1, 2017.
Rector of the Board of Trustees J. Donald Childress announced the change in leadership on Friday, Feb. 12,  just one hour before the university’s 26th Mock Convention kicked off.
The Board of Trustees unanimously elected Dudley a few hours before the announcement. But his selection was the result of months of work by the university’s search committee. Members of the committee began the national hunt last summer when President Ken Ruscio announced in May 2015 his intention to step down from the presidency.
Dudley said one of the first things he hopes to do is become familiar with the university community and its customs, including the speaking tradition.
“I’ve begun to get to know the people, and it’s the most important thing that I’m going to do at the beginning,” Dudley said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”
Dudley graduated from Williams College in 1989 with a B.A. in mathematics and philosophy. He received an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in philosophy, from Northwestern University, before returning to his alma mater as a professor of philosophy in 1998.
But as a native of Virginia, Dudley said W&L is not new to him.
“I’ve known my whole life the reputation of Washington and Lee,” Dudley said. “The outstanding reputation of excellent liberal education, and excellent legal education.”
Executive Committee President Mason Grist, ‘18, said he is excited to have a new president to welcome in the upcoming changes to W&L.
Dudley will take the seat just a few months after the new third-year housing development welcomes its firsts group of students.
“We’re starting a lot of new things at W&L,” Grist said. ”So it’s sort of good that we’re gonna have a new, fresh perspective to look at that.”
Dudley shares a commitment to the distinctive liberal arts education prized by the W&L community, Childress said. Dudley currently serves as provost and professor of philosophy at Williams College, a similarly small, private liberal arts college in Williamstown, Mass.
Dudley said his involvement in administration at Williams College set the stage for his eventual presidency and he is excited to become such an integral part of this university.
“I’m frankly very, very humbled by the trust that you all are placing in me,” Dudley said. “I will give you everything I have in my service of this place that you love, and that I know I’m going to come to love too.”
Jack Jones, ‘17, said he was pleasantly surprised to find out the next president was an outsider of the university.
Diana Banks, ‘17, said she agreed and applauded W&L for keeping the selection a secret.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting to know who he is, especially since he’s coming over from another university,” Banks said. “Kind of welcoming him into our community, and helping him get to know it in a way that will let him understand what this job is asking him to do.”
Ruscio said he is excited to welcome Dudley to the stage as the university’s next president, and looks forward to working together in the coming months towards a smooth transition.
But Ruscio said there’s one detail he is a bit weary about. As a Dallas Cowboys fan himself, he’s not so sure about Dudley’s team of choice, the Washington Redskins.
“So we already know that we have a challenge set out for us,” Ruscio said. “But we’re going to work it out.”
Ruscio will only have four months off the job before assuming his new position as President of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges in April 2017.
“I look forward to representing and advancing higher education in the commonwealth, especially the independent sector,” Ruscio said in an email to the university community Feb. 17. “My time at W&L has surely helped me understand the role of private colleges in this country and only deepened my commitment to their success.”
Before leaving Lexington last weekend, Dudley said he was excited to get the chance to experience Mock Convention weekend. He said he trusted the W&L community to correctly predict the Republican nominee.
“I can’t wait to see who the nominee will be, [because] I’m very confused and have no idea,” Dudley said Friday. “But I know that the students have it figured out.”
On Saturday, the 56 state and territory delegations selected Donald Trump as their Republican nominee prediction for W&L’s 26th Mock Convention.