August 25, 2003

Wagner to greet his fellow freshmen

Michael Terrazas

When the Class of 2007 convenes in Glenn Auditorium tomorrow, Aug. 26, at 4:30 p.m. for Freshman Convocation, they will be greeted by their most high-profile “classmate.”

Jim Wagner, who officially will become Emory’s 19th president when he takes office on Sept. 2, will preside over this year’s convocation at the invitation of President Bill Chace. Wagner, recently named president after a three-year stint as provost at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, also will attend Oxford’s Convocation on Wednesday, Aug. 27.

“I appreciate Bill Chace’s graciousness,” Wagner said of his predecessor’s invitation. “I feel honored and eager to welcome them to the Emory family even as I have been welcomed. It will be interesting to be a ‘freshman’ with the freshmen, and I’ll probably point that out to them, that we’ll be growing together here.”

Though his official start date is Sept. 2, Wagner already has put in several full days of work and would have at least one more were it not for the blackout that affected much of the northeastern United States and parts of Canada two weeks ago. Wagner was supposed to be in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 15, but with Cleveland’s airport—not to mention most of the city—stuck without electricity, the trip was impossible.

“I actually drove to the airport,” he said. “That was a wasted trip.”

Wagner’s wife, Debbie, will remain in Cleveland this academic year as their younger daughter, Christine, finishes high school, and both Jim and Debbie Wagner will log some frequent flyer miles over the fall; Wagner said he will make about one trip a month to Cleveland, and Debbie will travel about as often to Atlanta.

For much of that time, the Wagners will call Clairmont Campus their home; while Lullwater House is undergoing deferred maintenance during September and October, its future occupant will live in one of Clairmont’s graduate/faculty residence halls—in the unit directly below that of University Secretary Gary Hauk.

“He’s got to invite me to all his parties, I guess,” Wagner quipped of his soon-to-be upstairs neighbor. “They’re very fine apartments, and I’m attracted to the opportunity to live on campus—in campus. Part of the reason to take this kind of job is to keep learning, and I hope it will be a learning experience. I hope I won’t just park in the space behind my apartment and walk 75 feet to the door and that’s it. I hope I can have a little time to be part of the Clairmont community.”

Of course, most of Wagner’s time will be spent settling—literally and figuratively—into his new office on the fourth floor of the Administration Building. The first order of business, he said, will be decide on a leadership team for his administration; Woody Hunter’s announcement that he will step down from the interim provostship on Sept. 1 (see story, page 1) means there will be at least one immediate vacancy.

Wagner also said he hopes during his first 30 days to “take a first cut” at forming a vision for Emory and presenting it for comment and criticism from the University community.

“The process would be akin to—and here I’m going to get accused of being a scientist—but akin to proposing a hypothesis and asking our constituencies to test it and see if it rings true,” he said. “If we could do that conjecturing very early on, we can get to work on modifying the statement and move as swiftly as possible toward putting together a strategic plan and begin to implement it.”