The father of interim Dean of Arts and Sciences and physics professor Eugene Tracy wanted his son to learn practical and employable skills in high school. As a result, Tracy studied to be a draftsman — albeit one aspiring to something greater.
During his presentation Tuesday as part of the selection process for the new dean, Tracy emphasized the significance of his liberal arts education at Johns Hopkins University, like that provided at the College of William and Mary, in shaping his life. He asserted that renewing the College’s liberal arts spirit is the key to its future success.
“The liberal arts is a form of education that acknowledges the hunger to connect — to truly connect with other human beings in heart and mind,” Tracy said. “It speaks intentionally to the nature of creativity, of beauty, of being and doing and ways of knowing things.”
Discussing the importance of Arts and Sciences at the College, Tracy was quick to emphasize that they are a large component of the College’s overall operations.
“Ten thousand people come to work here every day, and the lion’s share are in Arts and Sciences — three-fourths of the students, 70 percent of the faculty,” Tracy said.
However, some members of the faculty raised concerns that Tracy emphasized the image of a liberal arts university without devoting enough attention to the question of funding its activities — anxiety perhaps exacerbated by decreasing levels of state support and the increasing strain on the College’s resources.
“Obviously, especially for the challenges of reallocation [of funds], one of the ways to help with [finances of Arts and Sciences] may be to have more money coming in,” English professor Suzanne Hagedorn said. “Despite the fact that we seem to be poster children for the liberal arts, in our overall campaign I do not think enough of the fundraising is directed at arts here.”
Another faculty member voiced further concerns about the misallocation of funds away from growing needs within Arts and Sciences, particularly with regard to the activities of the Campaign for William & Mary, a project raising funds for the College.
“At the end of the talk, I was left with questions about how the priorities were going to be set for what [funds] were reallocated to what,” classical studies professor Barbette Spaeth said. “[Tracy] talked about raising money to solve the whole reallocation problem … but how [is he] going to structure doing the whole reallocation?”
However, Tracy stressed there is more to the position of dean of Arts and Sciences than simply moving money around. He emphasized concerns that the College may have become too focused on finances alone.
“It’s not just about money,” Tracy said. “Money is important, but it’s also about spirit. First, we need to regain our self-confidence. … We seem to be timid about dreaming big dreams these days. We seem to think we are stuck with little ones. …We are going through a few tough years, but that is no reason to not dream big dreams in the longer term.”
Tracy continued to focus primarily on reshaping the mentality of the College. He said he believed that the attitude of many administrators and faculty is not best for the achievement of the goals of Arts and Sciences, which he outlined repeatedly.
“[We must] finally and fully embrace what we have become: a leading liberal arts university with a serious research agenda,” Tracy said. “Goal one: Re-commit ourselves to the liberal arts. Goal two: Promote the creative life of our people.”