An open letter of appreciation

It may well be only in hindsight that we will all truly appreciate what John Williams and Michael Cairo did for Transylvania University over the past year.

They were both asked to serve — they did not seek the roles of president or dean. They both gave up a year for which they already had detailed plans. Neither could have predicted or anticipated the unprecedented challenges they would face from the pandemic and its myriad ripple effects. They did not flinch, they did not whine, they did not say, “Hey, I didn’t sign up for this” — or, if they did the latter, it was with smiles on their faces.

Individually, and as part of a team of dedicated campus leaders, Dr. Williams and Dr. Cairo brought steady, calm, focused and thoughtful leadership at a time when it was most needed. They listened, they reflected, they sought counsel, they made decisions. They embraced Transy’s culture, values and community of learners. They took actions based on principle and concern for the welfare of our people. As we all know, we don’t get to encounter fine and selfless leaders every day. We have been truly blessed by the work of these two gentlemen.

On a personal note, I am deeply grateful to John and Lucy Williams for their generosity of spirit in welcoming me, Laura and our children, Josh and Anna Louise, to the Transy family. They have gone out of their way and beyond the call in making us feel comfortable in our new home and in our new roles. John had been incredibly thoughtful in sharing his time, thoughts and insights. He has included me in meetings and correspondence time and time again because he wanted to make the transition a smooth one and because he wanted to give me every chance to hit the ground running toward a successful presidency. It was not merely a personal favor — his deep commitment to this university would have led him to bestow his knowledge and candor to whomever would take the reins on July 1. In my personal and professional experience, that gift is incredibly rare, and I value it immensely.

These past months have meant many adjustments for all of us, and the coming months will, as well. In the midst of all of that, I hope you will take a moment to reach out to Mike and to John to simply say, “Thank you.”  Their work — and the spirit in which they approached it — will continue to benefit Transylvania University for a long time to come.