Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Bridges plans move to Olympia

After he completes his presidential term at Whitman College, George Bridges will turn over a new leaf as he takes the role of president at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

When Bridges announced his decision to step down from Whitman’s presidency, he did not actively go in search of another presidential position.

“I was not seriously thinking about another presidency. Indeed, I really was thinking about other possibilities, one of which was … to stay here and teach on the faculty,” said Bridges.

Bridges chose to pursue the position of president at Evergreen because of several of the college’s unique aspects, including its lack of a traditional graded collegiate course structure and its commitment to serving underprivileged or nontraditional students.

“The students are interesting, they’re bright, and yet many of them have really struggled just to get to the school and to afford it,” he said. “There’s a high percentage of students that are from very low-income families, and I’ve always enjoyed teaching and working with those students.”

Bridges also cited Evergreen’s involvement with local tribal communities as an attractive feature.

To be offered the position, which attracted a number of highly-qualified candidates, Bridges had to appeal to the Evergreen State College as much as the school attracted him.

“His record of scholarship and advocacy for social justice is a good match with Evergreen’s values,” said Deputy to the President John Carmichael in an email.

“It was clear from our interviews and campus forums, and from speaking with his professional colleagues, that George will be a strong and effective advocate for Evergreen and its bold approach to interdisciplinary teaching and learning,” said Keith Kessler, chair of Evergreen’s Board of Trustees, in a statement released when the college announced their selection.

As Kessler suggests, Bridges has left quite a legacy at Whitman. Bridges credits his time as president of Whitman for his approach to leadership at small colleges, an approach he plans to expand at Evergreen.

Throughout his time at Whitman, Bridges has already faced the challenges of diminished funding and declining applications and enrollment, and he has reversed both of these trends.

“All of those challenges at a very strong college [like Whitman] are the challenges that are being experienced at many public institutions in our state and elsewhere, particularly the reduced funding. I believe that what I can bring to Evergreen, as a part of that community, is knowledge, skills and leadership for how to address those issues,” said Bridges. “I think in a way Whitman has provided me with an education in taking this new position, and I feel very honored to have been appointed the next president.”

As he and his family plan the move to Olympia, Bridges has joked about investing in a waterproof wardrobe. But as he leaves the sunshine of Walla Walla behind, Bridges admits that he will miss the students and alumni, as well as his colleagues at Whitman.

“It’s been an absolute honor to serve here at Whitman. I hope the work I’ve done with the team here has made a difference and improved some aspects of the school and strengthened it,” said Bridges. “At the same time, once you’re a part of Whitman, you don’t ever leave. I don’t ever imagine not being, at least in part, a Whittie.”

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