Where did you grow up as a child? Richmond, Virginia
What makes you a Scot? Well, I couldn’t be more excited about joining the Alma community. And of course I’m in the 12th generation of my family out of Abernethy, Scotland.
A favorite childhood memory: Visiting family in Texas, I attended my first major league baseball game, watched the first triple play in Texas Rangers history and rode home on the back of my uncle’s motorcycle. That night was a 12-year-old boy’s version of heaven.
A favorite college memory: Playing the long-winded part of Jerry in Edward Albee’s Zoo Story.
Student organization: Longwood Players.
What professional sports do you watch? Bicycling.
Will Lance Armstrong win another Tour de France? He doesn’t have much chance against the young guys at the top of the sport. But I hope he races until he’s 50: it’s good inspiration for aging cyclists like myself who would like to believe that, on a good day, we can still ride as if we were 20 years younger!
What are the top songs on your iPod? The top 10 comes entirely from Glenn Gould’s 1955 interpretation of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” After that come Radiohead’s “There, There” and Vic Chesnutt’s “Gravity of the Situation,” and a half dozen Ryan Adams songs. Then there are more “Baby Einstein” tunes than I should admit in public.
What books are you reading: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea by Alistair McGrath, Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, and Daniel Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School?
What magazines do you subscribe to? The New Yorker, Atlantic, Harpers, Scientific American, Canoe and Kayak, Velo News.
Do you have a favorite movie: As a recovering art film snob, I know I’m supposed to answer Citizen Kane to that question. But I’m a rank sentimentalist, and the real answer is Casablanca.
What are your hobbies? I have two young children, so I’ve nearly given up hobbies. But I’m a competitive cyclist and occasional triathlete. My great passion is for whitewater kayaking, and I’m looking forward to time on the water in the UP.
How has parenthood changed your life? How hasn’t it? It gives one perspective on everything, I suppose. I’m sure the hymns I’ve always known have never meant more for me than they do now, when I often sing my daughter to sleep with them. She is not yet two years old and the other night asked me to sing “Shall We Gather By the River.”
If you could have a dinner with four famous people who lived at roughly the same time in the past, who would they be? Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson. That could be quite the raucous dinner party: better lock the wine cellar!
Why Alma? I was so impressed with the community when I visited. Alma is a perfect match for my values. I have admired Alma for as long as I have been a college professor, and I am deeply honored by the board’s invitation to join this community.
What’s it like to be transitioning to a presidency? I’ve been living in two worlds. These months have given much time for reflection and preparation. I’ve been reading every book about college presidency I can get my hands on and talking to a number of presidents across the country. President Tracy has been a terrific guide in my introduction to Alma, and I know that I have big shoes to fill.
Why the liberal arts? The world has never needed liberally educated citizens more than it does today. Alma prepares students who will, in the famous words of George Bernard Shaw, “dream things that never were and ask, ‘why not’?”