Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

Director's Corner

DeniseThe man behind the title

You know how it is when you have something you’re really excited about and then you get the opportunity to show it off?  You’re obnoxiously chatty about it, practically gushing and generally dying for everyone else to get a chance to check it out?

Well that’s how I felt earlier this week in New York as we launched the first in a series of events we’ll carry out in our major markets over the coming year. The event, designed to provide the opportunity for alumni and current parents to meet our new president, Steve Thorsett, in a conversational and relatively informal setting, seemed to be a hit. Alumni representing classes from 1965 through 2010 mingled and chatted before we moved in to a room where President Thorsett provided some brief remarks and answered questions about Willamette and what he’s observed in his first nine months. It was followed by a wine and cheese reception, allowing people to ask questions they may not have had a chance to, and to generally get to know the man behind the title.

For me, this was a real treat, having had the opportunity to work closely with President Thorsett over the past few months. As I introduced him to others in the room, I took the opportunity to do it from my perspective as an alumna — not as someone who gets paid to do it — and here’s what I wanted to share: 

  • This is the guy you hope you will get to lead your alma mater. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, listens and really, truly wants to be here. About three seconds in to any interaction with him, you can see that he’s genuine, funny and is clearly paying attention to what has made Willamette a success all these years and where the opportunities are for the future. 
  • He’s a man who dreams big and has the patience to do it what it takes to reach those dreams, no matter what challenges may arise.  For example, he’s been working with a team to launch an x-ray satellite since 1994, and the launch was just delayed again last week. When I asked him about it, he just shrugged and said that was the way it sometimes goes and they’ll hold off until the next opportunity, never doubting for a second that it would actually happen. Seriously? I can hardly wait for my toaster in the morning.

So to all of you who haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet our cool new president, I say this: If we’re coming to your city and you get the chance, it’s worth it. In every conversation and interaction you get a little glimpse of the future for Willamette and I’ll bet ya a dollar you’ll be so excited you won’t be able to stop telling everyone about it, either.

Denise Crawford Signature

Denise Callahan '95, MBA'00
Senior Director of Alumni Relations