A Message from Dr. Johnson

Dear Albion Community,

I know many of you will be reading this from your homes while others will be on the front lines performing essential roles in healthcare, public service and essential businesses. Let me begin, then, by saying thank you for playing whatever part is yours to play in this unprecedented time. As Brits know well, your strength lies in your commitment to each other, to your diverse and intrepid community. I cannot wait to meet you all, to become part of that community, and to share in the tenacity and zeal that fuel the vibrant intellectual and social life of Albion.

I want to start by saying thank you for selecting me to become the 17th President of Albion College. I am honored to be appointed in a moment of tremendous opportunity and challenge. I am humbled to be charged with leading an institution with a rich history and promising future. I am eager to partner with you to magnify Albion’s strong reputation among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges in bold new ways we will discover together.

The warmth and generosity of the search committee—students, faculty, staff and community members—made it easy to imagine a new home in Albion for my family and me. Shannon and I are looking forward to sharing the Albion Malleable Brewing Co., baked treats from the Foundry Bakehouse and Deli, and enchiladas and wet burritos at Lopez Taco House with my son Noah and daughter Savannah. We are eager to enjoy movies, performances and community events in the beautiful Bohm Theatre, and lazy afternoons with a warm cup and a good book in a comfy chair by the fire at Stirling Books and Brew. Most of all, however, we are eager to get to know you.

The Moment We Face

You, all of you—students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members—have chosen to invest in Albion, to make it your home, to nurture and sustain it—the College and the City—through challenging times. Even before the current COVID-19 moment, residential liberal arts colleges like Albion were being seriously tested. Our interconnected, always “on,” instant-gratification world has eroded the public understanding and appreciation for the essential institutions of vibrant democratic life. It has transformed national government into reality television, each side looking for the next sound bite to capture the instant-gratification moment in the public’s very short and fickle attention span. It has transformed communities into places where we merely sleep, while main streets die and our traditional gathering places—churches, coffee shops, bowling alleys and parks—fall into disrepair. It has replaced science with pundits and social media “polls,” leaving us with a diminished ability to make wise choices as a society. It has focused the public’s attention on the short-term economic utility of higher education—the employability of students in today’s economy and immediate commercialization of new knowledge generated in our colleges and universities.

This is the moment Albion, and all residential liberal arts colleges, are facing. Like good government, or resilient communities, the residential liberal arts model of higher education is deliberate; it is deep; it is authentic; it is rich with texture, nuance and flavor. It is not instant.

Let me be clear, while the activity that takes place inside residential liberal arts colleges is slow and deep, these colleges historically have been the innovators of new practice, new program models and new approaches to higher education. It is precisely the depth of practice, the authenticity of the intellectual community, and the appreciation for nuance, texture and flavor that have made residential liberal arts colleges the seedbed of innovative practices. This unique blend of daily intentionality and richness—with the foresight, preparation and imagination to innovate for the next decade, rather than merely adapt to the current market demand—is the super power of a residential liberal arts college. The results of this approach are indisputable.

Over the course of their lives, liberal arts students emerge and surpass their peers in earning power, general life happiness and leadership positions. Flexibility of the mind, appreciation for the humanity of others, and the ability to approach problems with a critical perspective and diverse set of intellectual, aesthetic and emotional tools become success in work and in life. Albion is exactly this sort of place, and Albion alumni are these sorts of alumni. The world needs Albion alumni.

  • Alumni like Jim Wilson, ’77, who advances our understanding of life through groundbreaking genetics research;
  • Alumni like Rev. Faith Fowler, ’81, who has dedicated her life to serving the underserved in Detroit;
  • Alumni like Craig Kirby, ’85, who has served his country by creating policy in the White House;
  • Alumni like Skot Welch, ’90, who champions the advancement of diversity and inclusion policies in the workplace;
  • Alumni like Amy Elaine Wakeland, ’91, who is a champion for her city through her advocacy for women, children and families;
  • Alumni like Mallory Brown, ’08, who advocates for global connectedness and raises awareness—and funds—through powerful storytelling;
  • Alumni like Alena Farooq, ’18, who as a student connected with Albion residents about their city parks and is now in the opening chapters of her own success story.

Our Opportunity to Grasp

Boldness, tenacity and passion in the pursuit of public purpose: this is Albion. In recent years the College has opened the community further to include new voices, new perspectives and new ways of being and doing that enrich the life of Albion. In recent years the College has increased equitable access for deserving students and at the same time sought more meaningful connections to members of the wider community in the City of Albion. In recent years, faculty have championed new approaches to liberal education through the Wilson, Ford, and Gerstacker Institutes; the Shurmur Center for Teacher Preparation and the Center for Sustainability and the Environment; and the Brown Honors Program. In recent years, faculty, staff and community members have supported new approaches to student learning through FURSCA and programs like Build Albion Fellows and the Albion Big Read. These new approaches, together with renewed richness that diversity and inclusion bring to the College community, strengthen Albion.

The unprecedented support of generous alumni has made all of these innovations possible. The leadership of President Ditzler has prepared the Albion community to boldly claim opportunity in this moment of adversity, to turn into the challenges we face with tenacity, and to use our passionate commitment to public purpose to guide our next decade of innovation and impact. This is the way of a Brit: to walk in the world with a bias for action, to carry equal supplies of optimism and determination with you, and to meet challenges collectively, with others in our communities who know and cherish the public purpose of institutions, governments and businesses. Brits find ways to bend the disillusionment of the moment, bend the technology of now, bend the new epoch of interconnectedness, and bend instant gratification into the slow appreciation of a more promising, more just and more equitable future, and into collective movement for public purpose.

Albion’s future is bright. I am confident, fortified with these knowings, supported by the foundations of diversity, inclusion and community, and fueled by Albion’s boldness, that the future is indeed bright for Albion, and for all the communities that will become home to generations of new Albion alumni, just as past generations of those alumni have brightened their own communities.

Shannon and I are honored to become part of the Albion community, to add what we can to this important work, and to get to know each and every one of you. Together we will welcome the future. Together we will make it bright.

Mathew Johnson