On December 17, 2009, the Board of Trustees, in a unanimous decision, selected Dr. Roger N. Casey as the ninth president of McDaniel College.
Casey, who is currently the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost of Rollins College in Florida, will replace current president Joan Develin Coley as of July 1, 2010.
“Never in my life did I see this happening,” said Casey, “but I came to see that I thought I could do good. You have to accept the mantle of responsibility, and this place really felt right.”
Casey and his wife, Robyn Allers, visited McDaniel for the first time in early November, after the committee decided he was the leading candidate in the large pool.
“We had every detail of these people’s lives laid out before us and it was clear,” said Mary Lynn Durham, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, “he is so outstanding so many ways, and fulfilled every single one of our search criteria.”
A week from then they returned for a public visit, including two meetings with the faculty, one with staff, one with student representatives, and a dinner with the trustees. He also attended a dinner at the president’s house and the annual tree lighting ceremony.
“After that visit, I had emails pouring in from faculty, saying ‘go get him!’” said Durham.
Casey joined Rollins College in 2000 as Dean of Faculty and promoted in 2006 to his current position. From 1991 to 2000 he was an Associate Dean and professor at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. Casey received his M.A. and PhD in English from Florida State University and his BA from Furman University in his native South Carolina.
“Students will like [Casey] because he speaks at your level,” said Dr. Lewis Duncan, president of Rollins College. “When we have our beginning of the year ceremony, he will often break into a rap song. He wants to break down that barrier.”
Casey, a first generation college student, grew up in a small town, and said that his eyes were opened at age 22 when he first traveled to another country. Since then, he’s been to 69 countries. In 1994, he was named a Fellow of the W.K. Kellog Foundation, which sponsored his travel to 16 of those countries over a four-year period, during which he examined the role of vision in the creation of community.
“I spent a lot of time in Bali, which is a mono-cultural society with one belief system, but lots of poverty. In India I spent half the time with the poorest people and half with the richest. This was before the digital revolution, I hadn’t seen that kind of poverty before,” said Casey.
The most important things for Casey to learn about, he said, are who the students are, where they are coming from, and how to make McDaniel a better college.
“I want to be around at events, to be engaged in the lives of people at the college,” he said, adding that he particularly likes how the President’s office is at the heart of the college in the student center, not offsite a mile away. In fact, one of his first priorities will be improvement to Decker as well as the first year dorms.
Casey and his wife are hugely involved in the arts. He has been a theatrical producer, director, and actor, mostly recently in 2006 in a production of “Devotedly, With Dearest Love: The Letters of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
Allers served as the interim director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins, and they were both extremely pleased to have a reception at the Carroll Arts Center, said Casey, “we will not forget the arts.”
“He and his wife are both very present on our campus, and we will miss him. But he’s ready to president. From everything I’ve heard about McDaniel, it will be a great fit,” said Duncan.
Another passion of Casey’s is studying the impact of “Generation X” and “The Millennials.” He is so attuned to a college students’ generation, in fact, that it drives him crazy when professors tell students to put their phones away while in class.
“It’s the same as telling everyone to put their pencil and paper away. I tell everyone to turn their cell phones on and tell people on Facebook what we’re talking about, take a picture, tweet about it, create buzz,” he said.
Casey has his own twitter, with which he posts quotes he admires, opinions on current issues, and even references to popular culture (i.e. “This just in: Paula Abdul will head up “Death Panels” in this fall’s newest hit on the CDC”).
“I love Twitter because it’s like writing a sonnet. You’re limited to only 140 characters,” he said.
According to Durhman, Casey is already talking with Joyce Muller about improvements to the website and how we can further web-based communication.
“He’s very interested in technology we can use to teach, but that doesn’t replace pedagogical techniques,” said Durham.
Casey also has a Facebook account, and encourages students to friend him, saying “friend in my life is more a verb than a noun these days.”
Although Casey and Allers were in Laos the day his selection was announced, he did write a letter to the members of the McDaniel community, which can be found on the website, along with further biographical information.
A Sampling of Dr. Casey’s Tweets:
“Twain: “Commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject. . . . we shall soon know nothing about it.” Health-care reform?”
“Yeats said that education is not the filling of a pail but rather the lighting of a fire–but is the fire under the pail or in it?”
“Congrembarrassman Wilson still argues the health bill gives illegal aliens equal access to death panels. No. They must work when sick.”
“Greider: we need to build a new economy recycling all the stuff we’ve already made.”
“Nedderman: There are more cures for male impotence than malaria. Isn’t this a problem?”