By editorial board • 

Linfield’s new leader seems like a good fit

Accelerating at a blistering pace, technology has wreaked havoc on retailing; turned government upside-down and culture inside -out; made uncertainty the only real remaining certainty. Along the way, it has severely disrupted our traditional methods of communication, transportation and, yes, even education, both higher and lower.

Against that backdrop, Linfield College has just entrusted its future to Miles Davis, dean of the school of business at Virginia’s Shenandoah University, who is almost universally described by colleagues as affable, unflappable, entrepreneurial and charismatic.

We see in Davis a person willing to ride the winds of change while infusing others with the courage to join him. And those characteristics seem to us exactly what today’s turbulent times demand.

In a phone interview conducted from a business conference in Phoenix, Davis told reporter Starla Pointer, “Entrepreneurship is imagining a world that is not. It’s asking questions. It’s asking, ‘Why are we doing this this way.’”

With that thought in mind, he said, he’ll be bearing questions when he assumes the helm from Thomas Hellie in July.

When he was named dean of Shenandoah’s business school in 2012, Davis was perhaps even more pointed. He confessed in an initial interview:

“I hate the phrase, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ The problem is that you’re becoming reactionary, you’re waiting for something to break to fix it. I would prefer that we intentionally break something and rebuild it to make it better, because then we’re actively engaged in a process that allows us to see when something needs to be broken.”

With population growth sliding and job growth soaring, a dwindling number of high school graduates find themselves chasing an ever-expanding number of alternative educational and employment options. That is sending ripples through the nation’s entire higher ed system, but perhaps being felt most acutely at private four-year colleges like Linfield.

With college tuition and debt surging ever up, students and parents are being forced to carefully assess cost-benefit ratios. That can make community colleges, state schools, online options, military service and immediate employment all look attractive.

In such a competitive environment, Linfield has to make a compelling case on merit, the only way it can maintain the flow of tuition revenue it needs to make ends meet.

That was not lost on Hellie. In his 2017 State of the College address last fall, he identified boosting philanthropic contributions and student enrollment, the linchpins of college funding, as his top priorities.

By then, Hellie had already announced his pending retirement. That made one of his other priorities helping to recruit someone ready, willing and able to seize the reins upon conclusion of his 12-year run.

Assisted by a recruiting firm, the college’s search committee drew more than 100 candidates. It narrowed the field to seven, four and two, by turn, before settling on Davis.

Our initial impression is that the committee found a good fit between candidate strengths and college needs. Here’s hoping Davis settles in for a long and successful tenure of his own.


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