WATERVILLE — David A. Greene, executive vice president at University of Chicago, will take office July 1 as Colby College’s 20th president.

Greene, 50, will succeed William D. Adams, who has been president since 2000 and will remain in his position until June 30, 2014.

The announcement was made today by Robert E. Diamond, chairman of Colby’s Board of Trustees, who hailed Greene as an innovative leader and champion of the liberal arts who is the ideal person to usher Colby into its third century. The college was founded in 1813.

Diamond called Greene bold, ambitious and strategic, and said he is a team builder with a terrific energy.

“It’s a wonderful next step in the Colby leadership,” Diamond, a 1973 Colby graduate, said from campus today.

As Chicago’s executive vice president, Greene helped to expand the faculty, create new academic institutes and centers, develop a civic engagement plan and make major investments to infrastructure in support of research and teaching, according to a Colby news release.

He also recruited senior leadership in areas including finance and administration, alumni relations and development, communications, student and campus life, admissions and financial aid.

“At the University of Chicago since 2006, Greene oversaw a master plan for campus growth that included $3.5 billion in capital projects, provided leadership for the university’s fundraising efforts and played a key role in strengthening and diversifying the university’s applicant pool through strategic admissions and financial aid plans,” the release said.”He also helped create several partnerships and institutes that have extended the university’s reach and impact, including initiatives to support scholarship and teaching in China, India and Latin America, among other locations.”

Before going to Chicago, Greene was vice president at Brown University, where he helped the president develop a long-term strategic plan. He helped make significant improvements and additions to campus facilities and develop a broad range of new student services.

He also helped develop programs that enhanced the academic dimensions of residential and campus life, according to the news release. He played a similar role at Smith College, where he helped oversee planning that resulted in expansion of programs and facilities there.

Greene holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Hamilton College, as well as graduate degrees from Harvard University, including two master’s degrees and a doctoral degree in administration, planning and social policy. His research interests include the influence of social and political movements on higher education.

A committee made up of Colby trustees, faculty, students, administrators and alumni spent several months searching for the next person to lead the college of 1,863 students and 216 full- and part-time faculty members.

Committee chairman and Colby graduate Michael Gordon said today that the college is in good condition — strong financially and strong in terms of its student body.

“Because of that, the search attracted a lot of very good candidates interested in the presidency,” Gordon said. “As Bob said, Dave made a terrific impression on us with his energy and enthusiasm and strong belief in liberal arts colleges.”

Diamond said the search was daunting because the college has had great leaders in its last three presidents — Robert Strider, William Cotter and Adams, all of whom served lengthy terms.

“This is not something that Colby has to do very often,” Diamond said.

Greene’s ties to Maine

Greene took time this afternoon from a hectic schedule of meeting Colby students and staff members to talk about his ties to Maine, his love of the state and his plans for Colby.

“My mother’s family came to this country through Maine and settled in towns not far from here — Madison, Millinocket,” Greene said.

His family has a photo of his aunt with former U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who was from Skowhegan.

While his mother’s family ultimately settled in Massachusetts and he grew up in Worcester, Maine always has held special importance for Greene and his family, who vacationed here.

A poignant memory for Greene is of traveling to Maine with his six siblings and parents, both educators. They were in the family station wagon with their clothes packed in garbage bags strapped to the roof, he said.

When they hit the bridge between New Hampshire and Maine, a heavy crosswind tore the bags to shreds, he said.

“Our clothes were all over the highway, and my oldest brother and father went around and collected them,” he recalled.

For the rest of the trip, the family all held piles of clothing and ripped bags.

“It was an important lesson about learning preparation and packing,” he said.

While attending Hamilton College, Greene worked three summers in Ogunquit, waiting on tables and doing other jobs. He needed to give $3,000 of his earnings each summer to his father to help pay for college tuition.

He majored in history and thought he’d probably become a teacher. His experiences, however, took him in a slightly different direction; and he learned from his father that one can make a huge difference in people’s lives by working in a college setting.

His father was a high school teacher who later went back to school and earned a doctoral degree at Boston University. David was there when his father received the degree. It was a powerful moment, he said, showing the result of persistence and the importance of setting high standards.

“He was a college professor, a college president. We spent a lot of time on campuses,” he said. His father, Richard Greene, was president of St. Thomas University in Miami, then later president of Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt.

The younger Greene began to see that he, too, could make a difference in people’s lives by working at a college. At the same time, he could address issues that were important to him, such as equity in education and providing the best possible environment in which students could learn and a faculty could teach.

Greene said he plans to start a conversation with the Colby community about what is needed and build on the college’s accomplishments. He also hopes to continue the relationship the college has with the city of Waterville and explore ways to build on that connection.

“What I’d like to understand is, where is Waterville great? How can it continue to be a great city? How can Colby contribute to that?” he said.

He said the people he has met here are warm and welcoming and the area is beautiful.

“It’s just spectacular. There’s a warmth to it that’s infectious. People care deeply about this place,” he said.

Greene plans to move to the president’s house on campus July 1, 2014, with his wife, Carolyn, daughters Madeline, 15, and Nora, 13, and son, Declan, 12.

Adams moving on

Adams is scheduled to retire June 30 after 14 years as president.

During his tenure, he led an ambitious $376 million capital campaign, which funded construction of new buildings, expansion of the college on the Colby Green, and other projects. He also oversaw growth in programs such as environmental studies and the visual arts on campus.

Adams announced in January that he would retire at the end of the 2013-14 academic year. He said he plans to complete a book about French philosophy and art and in doing so will return to Paris, where he once spent time as a Fulbright scholar.

After retiring, he and his wife, Lauren Sterling, plan to divide their time between their homes in Belgrade Lakes and Portland and to stay involved in the Waterville community.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]