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Bloom Will Leave Presidency in 2009

By Nancy Nowicki Nicely


Alfred H. Bloom announced in May that he will resign on Aug. 31, 2009, after 18 years as Swarthmore’s president.

On May 9, after making his intentions known to the Board of Managers, Alfred H. Bloom informed the Swarthmore community that he will conclude his tenure as president on Aug. 31, 2009, ending his remarkable 18-year era. When Bloom leaves office, only two previous Swarthmore presidents—Joseph Swain (1902-1921) and Frank Aydelotte (1921-1940)—will have served longer. According to a 2006 survey by the American Council on Education, the average tenure of a contemporary American college president is 8.5 years.

Signaling his respect for the College’s faculty—and his roots within that body—Bloom made the first public announcement of his decision at the weekly faculty meeting on May 9. He received an extended standing ovation.

From 1974 to 1986, Bloom served as a member of Swarthmore's faculty in psychology and linguistics and as director of the Linguistics Program. He also, for several years, coordinated Asian Studies and from 1985 to 1986 served as the College’s first associate provost during which he, along with current Provost Connie Hungerford, coordinated a comprehensive review and restructuring of the College’s educational program. Following five years at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., as dean of faculty, vice president for academic affairs, and then executive vice president, Bloom returned to Swarthmore in 1991 as its 13th president.

Bloom shared in a letter to alumni (see: that he “held the dream job in American education for 17 years, and every moment of this time has confirmed my conviction that Swarthmore is the finest undergraduate institution anywhere.”

Board members were quick to note Bloom’s exceptional tenure as president.

Board Chair Barbara Mather ’65 said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have had President Bloom’s leadership for these last 17 years. The College’s achievements during his tenure have affirmed its leadership position in liberal arts education with a mission centered in academic excellence, analytic rigor, ethical intelligence, and concern for the broader conditions of humanity.”

Board member Sam Hayes added that Bloom has been one of the strongest leaders in the College’s history: “Al has been an extraordinarily productive leader for Swarthmore, further cementing the College’s position as one of the preeminent liberal arts colleges in the country. His positive influence on the College has been the most important since Frank Aydelotte, and he will be sorely missed.”

Bloom has also been a gifted enthusiast and fund-raiser on behalf of the College, raising more than $362 million in gifts in the last 17 years. Board member Larry Shane noted that: “Al has always had a clear vision of what the role of Swarthmore College should be in the field of liberal arts education. He has been a tremendous leader and has inspired faculty, students, administration, Board, and alumni to do what Swarthmore needed to do to be such an outstanding institution. No one has ever had more enthusiasm for Swarthmore College and no one has ever been a better fund-raiser for the institution. Due to his boundless energy, enthusiasm, and insight, he has brought Swarthmore to new highs in academics, athletics, a sense of social responsibility, and its ratings nationally and internationally.”

And Board member Eugene Lang remarked on the personal traits and leadership style that account for Bloom’s success in the last 17 years: “(Al) understands and appreciates all of the prerequisites and prerogatives associated with higher education, including working respectfully and thoughtfully with alumni, faculty, students, and staff. He always encourages new ideas and, in this spirit of welcoming new ideas, we have advanced enormously as a college. Al welcomes ideas, discusses them fully with all interested parties, and as a result, things happen. I don’t think the College has ever been so happily adjusted and so well supported as it has under his administration.”

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