40 years at Centre prepares Clarence Wyatt to lead Illinois college

agarau@herald-leader.comJune 16, 2014 

After forty years on Centre College's campus, Clarence Wyatt is moving to Illinois to serve as the 14th president of Monmouth College.

Wyatt is currently a professor of history, special assistant to the president, and chief planning officer; he began his Centre career as a student in 1974.

"I love Centre; it's been my home and my wife's home for the last 40 years," Wyatt said. "It's not so much about it being the right time to leave; I would be more than happy to spend my whole career here. Monmouth is just too good of an opportunity to pass up."

Wyatt received national acclaim in 1993 for his book Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War. He has continued to take an interest in Vietnam and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2012 that allowed him to teach Vietnamese and U.S. history at Hanoi University.

Wyatt has helped Centre College achieve a national reputation by writing all of the school's strategic plans since the early 1980s. He also served as co-chair when Centre hosted the vice presidential debate in 2000 and again in 2012. Centre College received further recognition for having the nation's "Happiest Alumni" in the 2012 and 2013 Alumni Factor Guidebooks.

Faculty at Monmouth hope that Wyatt's experiences at Centre will help him lead Monmouth to more widespread renown.

"We are at a turning point we believe; we've made investments over the past 10 to 15 years to really become a top notch institution," said Jeff Rankin, Monmouth's director of college communications. "One of the big things Dr. Wyatt can do is help us achieve a more national reputation. He has the experience to make it happen."

Though his colleagues will be sad to see Wyatt go, they are not surprised that he has been offered the position. Wyatt is the second Centre faculty member to be appointed the president of another college in the past year according to Centre President John Roush.

"The people who work here have a chance to know what good looks like and that makes them attractive to other places," Roush said. "Clarence's greatest contribution to Centre has been to have been a remarkable teacher and scholar. In addition, he has contributed mightily to our planning effort and to the general leadership of the college.

"It goes without saying that we will miss him a lot, but we are thrilled for him to have this opportunity, one that he is well-prepared to accept and execute."

Even after four decades spent at Centre, Wyatt thinks the transition to Monmouth will not be too difficult.

"They are both small, liberal arts schools, and they will face similar challenges over the next ten years," he said. "The commitment to this one fundamental goal of the guided growth of young men and women is the same at both colleges and that's the thing that makes this opportunity so attractive. Although it will probably be a little colder up there."

Wyatt said he is not nervous about the new position, but he does have what he calls "pregame anticipation."

"I know what liberal arts colleges are all about and what makes them tick, but I think every good teacher gets a little pregame anticipation," he said. "But I'm sure Tony Parker and Tim Duncan had some pregame anticipation last night and they seemed to do all right."

Annie Garau: (859)231-1685. Twitter: @agarau6

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