Students studying outside the library

President Dunlap announces retirement effective in 2013

Leader will return as Chapman Family Professor in the Humanities

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President Benjamin B. Dunlap, Wofford's 10th president, has served since July 1, 2000.

SPARTANBURG, S.C.Dr. Benjamin B. Dunlap, president of Wofford College since 2000, announced this morning (Tuesday, May 15, 2012) at the college’s board of trustees meeting his plans to retire in June 2013.

Dunlap, only the 10th president of the college, will retain his appointment as the Chapman Family Professor in the Humanities, and after a year-long sabbatical, will return to teaching at Wofford. 

Dunlap made this statement to the campus community, alumni and friends: 

“At this morning’s meeting of the board of trustees, I announced my plans to retire as president of Wofford College as of June 30, 2013 — that is, a little less than 14 months from now. I’m making the announcement so far in advance in order to give the Board plenty of time to conduct a national search for my successor. 

“I have retained my appointment as the Chapman Family Professor in the Humanities, and, after a year’s sabbatical leave, I intend to return to teaching at Wofford. I also plan to devote more time to other continuing commitments, such as my role as senior moderator for the Aspen Institute and for the Liberty Fellowship of South Carolina.

“As only the 10th president in the college’s long and storied history, I have had an exhilarating turn around the track for which I especially want to thank Joab Lesesne, who ran such a brilliant lap ahead of me, and all the faculty, staff, alumni, students and trustees who paced me every step of the way. Needless to say, I feel fortunate to be able to pass the baton while I’m still in full stride, and I will be as interested as the rest of the community in discovering who the person is to whom I’ll pass it.”

J. Harold Chandler, chairman of the board of trustees says, “There is only one Bernie Dunlap, and Wofford is fortunate to have had him as our leader for the past 12 years. His contributions are immeasurable. Bernie has lifted our sights on many fronts, which will continue to benefit Wofford for years into the future. And, speaking of the future, we at Wofford are more excited than ever as to what can be accomplished. But for now, our profound gratitude goes to Bernie and his wife, Anne, for their wonderful service to our college.”

Dunlap became president of Wofford on July 1, 2000, following the retirement of Dr. Joab M. (Joe) Lesesne Jr., who had been president for 28 years. Dunlap was inaugurated on April 24, 2001, during ceremonies that also marked the dedication of the Roger Milliken Science Center. He has been at Wofford since 1993, when he was appointed as the Chapman Family Professor in the Humanities.

Dunlap enhanced the international visibility of Wofford during his tenure through a variety of activities, including his noteworthy TED Talk in 2007 on the “Passionate Life of Sandor Teszler,” his continued role as senior moderator for the Aspen Institute and for the Liberty Fellowship of South Carolina, and his appearances throughout the country as a valued and sought-after speaker.

Dunlap made a commitment to build a larger, stronger faculty, and his presidency has seen an increase in full-time faculty members from 84 in 2000 to 127 this year; student enrollment also increased from 1,100 to 1,550. A number of endowed professorships were established, including the John C. Cobb Endowed Professorship in the Humanities. Several faculty members have been recognized with national honors during this time.

Under Dunlap’s leadership, Wofford has averaged $12 million per year in gift income, far more than ever before.

He oversaw the major renovation and restoration of the historic Main Building and the renovation and restoration of the Glendale mill office into the Goodall Environmental Studies Center at Glendale Shoals. He also led the college’s construction of the Wofford Village senior student apartment-style housing complex, with the opening in the fall of 2011 of the Michael S. Brown Village Center that houses the Mungo Center for Professional Excellence, the Grand Galleria, classrooms, meeting spaces, a fresh marketplace, and loft-style housing. The Wofford Village now houses all members of the senior class and is the site of numerous campus events, including outdoor concerts, senior class parties, cook-outs and more.

Many “green” construction and renovation projects have taken place on campus under Dunlap’s leadership, with the Goodall Environmental Studies Center being the first academic building in South Carolina to receive the LEED Platinum certification. He also signed the Presidents Climate Commitment.

Dunlap has overseen success in Wofford athletics, following the transition to the Southern Conference and Division I athletics, with championships in football, men’s basketball, men’s soccer and baseball.

In academics, he led the college in enhancing and creating new studies abroad opportunities for students, and the college is second in the nation in the Open Doors survey for students receiving credit for study abroad experiences. The college also created new majors in environmental studies, theatre and Chinese Language and Studies under Dunlap.

After graduating summa cum laude from Sewanee: The University of the South in 1959, Dunlap attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard University as a graduate student, receiving his Ph.D. in English Language and Literature in 1967. From that year until 1993, he held academic appointments at Harvard and the University of South Carolina, where he was awarded both the USC Teacher of the Year Award and the university’s Russell Award for Distinguished Scholarship. During that time, he twice served as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Bangkok, Thailand, and Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was also a member of the inaugural class of U.S.-Japan Leadership Fellows in Tokyo.