On January 13, Clark’s Board of Trustees announced alumnus David Fithian (’87) had been selected to become the university’s next president. He will assume the position on July 1, filling the shoes of President David Angel, who announced his intent to retire a year ago.
In an interview with the Scarlet, Fithian expressed intentions to be “bold,” but remained vague about specific plans for his presidency.
“I think it would be inappropriate to layout a bunch of plans without the opportunity to talk to a lot of people at Clark first, but I intend to think big about the opportunities there,” he explained.
While Fithian is still looking for more insight from the Clark community, he said he has already started to gain a sense of Clark’s aspirations from the presidential search committee. “The sense that I have already is that Clark is due for a number of investments in the overall student experience,” he said, mentioning improving services for mental and physical health, dining and residence, and careers and research.
Associate provost and dean of faculty, Esther Jones, echoed this aspiration for growth. She told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that, under Fithian’s leadership, Clark has the potential to become a “global force to be reckoned with…bigger, bolder, and better than ever before.”
Fithian has studied and lectured at Yale University, and held senior positions at both Harvard University and the University of Chicago. He emphasized that his experience with these larger institutions will inform his bold ambitions as president.
“It won’t be hard for me to adjust to the scale of Clark,” he asserted. “I’ve had a lot of exposure to people thinking big and thinking about how to transform institutions.”
Fithian will be the first president to have also attended Clark University as a student. He graduated in 1987 with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and English. As a student, he focused on academic life and research with faculty, but also dabbled in community service as a Big Brother through the Big Brother, Big Sister program in Main South.
While he remembers appreciating the urban community during his undergraduate years, he also acknowledged that both Clark and Main South have grown and changed considerably since the 1980s.
“It’s a deeply familiar place, but I am absolutely not going to assume that I have the information I need to come in and make plans for Clark,” he said.
He praised President Angel’s work in maintaining strong connections with Worcester and said he hopes to continue to build on that foundation.
Students have expressed a range of opinions about the new president, many of which focus on Fithian’s plans for action. “I’m excited to see what initiatives he takes in regards to the growing need for student mental health services on campus,” said Dave Astill (’20).
Alexis Marston (’20) stated that she would like to see Fithian teach a class like David Angel has done. “If he gets involved and gets to know the students because I think Clark is very invested in community.”
Students have also referred to Fithian’s identity as an indicator for his potential work as president. “I think it’s great we have a president who is no doubt an advocate for our LGBTQAI+ members of both Clark and the world,” Astill said.
“I would’ve liked to see someone a little more diverse as president,” remarked Marston. “Clark really emphasizes diversity and inclusion, and I’m not sure that choosing another white man was the move.”
Fithian addressed some of these concerns in his interview with the Scarlet, saying that he could not judge the process of the selection committee, but is extremely dedicated to “ensuring that programs on diversity, equity, and inclusion are well-supported and well-funded.”