From the President department heading
Illustration of John C. Bravman, President
Illustration: Joel Kimmel

The Power of Connection and Purpose

Fall offers a special opportunity for me to reflect upon my role as the leader of this great University. Each crisp September, I look forward to moderating the Presidents Dinner at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. — Bucknell’s annual gathering of about a dozen other leaders of highly selective liberal arts colleges and members of the national media. Now in its sixth year, it’s an evening of thought-provoking discussion with my peers on the most pressing issues we face as presidents. I come away invigorated — and even more keenly aware of the magnitude of our shared charge to create impactful, equitable educational opportunities.
This job is a great privilege but daunting even in the best of circumstances. The pandemic presented unimagined challenges that — quite understandably — accelerated career changes or retirement for even the savviest and most experienced higher ed leaders. It is not surprising that the average term of service for a university president is now just 5.9 years, according to a 2022 survey by the American Council on Education. In my 14th year in office, I suppose I’m a bit of an outlier — a distinction that will only continue, as the Board has asked me to serve as Bucknell’s president until at least 2028. Despite the demands of the vocation, I remain dedicated to doing this work, in this place, for two reasons.

First, I draw great energy from the strength of connections among Bucknellians — on campus, around the world and across generations. In fact, the clear devotion of Bucknell students, alumni, families, faculty, staff and friends to the University was a key reason I left Stanford to take this opportunity. This is a community of people as passionate as I am about a model of undergraduate education that is highly engaged and personalized. They self-select when they choose Bucknell, and they remain committed to the institution — and each other — for a lifetime.

These Bucknell bonds are evidenced on campus in hundreds of student organizations, as well as in the academic connections forged across departments and colleges by faculty in pursuit of ever more interdisciplinary teaching and learning opportunities. Far beyond Lewisburg, Bucknell connections thrive in our alumni, family and career networks and events, as well as in more casual settings — when I travel, I’m frequently recognized by Bucknellians who are eager to tell me how much Bucknell means to them.

The other reason I’m so dedicated to this role is that I have seen how Bucknell makes a lasting and essential difference in an increasingly chaotic world through the distinctive education we provide to our students. My faculty and staff colleagues take extraordinary care to create the most individualized, high-impact learning experience possible, and to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive when they leave our tutelage. Every year at Commencement, I remind our graduates just how deeply Bucknell faculty and staff are invested in their holistic education, how proud we are of their accomplishments, and how fervently we wish for their personal and professional success.

We hope our teaching and mentorship prepares students to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. Many alumni stay in touch, giving us gratifying glimpses of the long-term effectiveness of our work, but as the demands of careers and families take over, most do not — and that’s where faith comes in. We must believe that we are transforming society through our students, even if we might never see most of the fruits of our labor. I believe in Bucknell — deeply — and I’m looking forward to all the challenges and joys that the future holds for us. That’s why I do what I do.

John C. Bravman digital signature

John C. Bravman