Warren Wilson College president announces resignation

photo courtesy of Warren Wilson College
photo courtesy of Warren Wilson College

Press release from Warren Wilson College:

Steven L. Solnick is stepping down from his post as Warren Wilson College’s seventh president to become the newest leader of The Calhoun School, an independent day school in New York City. Solnick, who assumed the presidency in July of 2012, will remain with the College until June 30, 2017.

“This decision was difficult for me because I believe deeply in the mission and values of Warren Wilson College, and I know it has a bright future,” Solnick wrote to campus community members. “I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for the trust it placed in me and the unwavering support it has shown since my arrival. I am also grateful to the exceptionally talented members of the College’s Cabinet for their dedication and support, to each and every one of the faculty and staff for all they do for the College and its students, and to the students whose intellect, talent and dedication to Warren Wilson’s core values inspire us all.”

While mixed emotions set the tone for his transition, Solnick said his new role presents a rare opportunity to live and work in the New York City area closer to family. He also noted his enthusiasm for Calhoun’s mission and core values, which are similar to those found at Warren Wilson College.

In addition to Solnick’s letter, William “Bill” Christy, chairman of the Board of Trustees and a 1979 graduate, addressed the campus via email.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank Steve Solnick for his 4+ years of service as president of Warren Wilson College,” Christy wrote. “Steve has displayed intellect, vision and leadership during his tenure. As our president, he has helped the College and the Board to focus on academic excellence, expand our applied learning model, refinance the debt of the College and redeploy our endowment in alignment with our core values. In addition, he has led the formulation of the new strategic plan which the Board believes is a roadmap for future sustainability of the College.”

The College’s next president is expected to be in place by July 1, 2017. In the coming weeks, a recruitment firm will begin working with a campus-based committee led by Lach Zemp, a member of the Warren Wilson College Board of Trustees, to launch a national search.

For more information about Solnick’s announcement, visit http://avl.mx/32v.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

35 thoughts on “Warren Wilson College president announces resignation

  1. Bob

    I say good riddance!

    Steve Solnick had no business leading a college in the first place. Especially a college built around the concept of working hard. His educational credentials are impressive, but his life experience and ego are not in alignment with this school. During his tenure, he struggled to keep his cabinet in place, enrollments dropped, students left in droves, and staff turnover has been high.

    Now we just hope that it isn’t too late for Warren Wilson College to turn a corner and get back on the right track.

    • Your worst friend possible

      The least surprising news ever. Note that he’s not going to some big corporate job or another college – he’s going to run a HIGH SCHOOL and ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. That’s because he couldn’t run an real college. The aftermath, when all the bad news comes out, is going to be ugly. Finances, accreditation, endowment, employee support, everything. I’m surprised the Board even let him stay on. If they pushed him out, well done. If he left on his own accord, the board should resign.

      • your worst friend possible

        I just saw this posting from the Calhoun school about SS:

        “After conducting a nationwide search, The Calhoun School is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Steven Solnick as the new Head of School effective July 1, 2017. Dr. Solnick will succeed Steve Nelson when he retires after 19 years of leading the school. Nelson’s transformational tenure included a reinvigorated commitment to progressive education and diversity, equity, and social justice; multiple facilities expansions and renovations; significant enrollment growth; dramatic increases in annual fundraising; and substantial increases in faculty compensation.”

        Multiple facilities? Is he referring to the pool? The buildings on campus are falling apart. Many have mold. Most are filthy. He shut down the Pond, for god sakes.

        Significant enrollment growth? Is that a joke? Did he actually sell Calhoun on that? We’re bleeding out students ever semester.

        Dramatic increases in fundraising? Steve NEVER went out to fundraise.

        Faculty compensation? He just cut salaries and benefits across the board.

        I can’t even believe that Calhoun is actually saying these things. These are flat-out falsehoods. But Calhoun will get what they deserve if they believe him on these things.

        • Virginia Daffron

          It looks to me as though the Calhoun School was attributing those accomplishments to its outgoing Head of School Nelson.

          • your worst friend possible

            Whoops :)

            Well, it’s fair that Solnick did none of those at WWC.

  2. Bill

    Maybe if you would clean up the dorms to at least to the level of filthy, you would not have students leaving in droves.

    • Your worst friend possible

      That’s only part of the problem. The President has ground this place into the dirt. There is no money. There are no resources. Morale is at an all-time low. There’s a great possibility that the school will go bankrupt because of his inability to do anything – oh and all the stuff the board applauded him for? The refinance was done by the CFO, not Steve. The “applied learning” thing just kicked in (nothing done there). “Redeploy endowment” equates to “spend endowment money to cover operating expenses because revenue is down.” Oh and there was no academic excellence under his watch. We went down in the rankings. Bill Christy knows this.

      • In the know at WW

        Two words for Your Worst Friend Possible and WWCALUM: PREACH! and THANK YOU. We are afraid to speak up at WW because we fear retaliation and we all need our jobs.
        Please continue to spread the truth for those who cannot.

    • Deplorable Infidel

      huh? filth should not bother the students that love WWC … it’s part of the earthiness equation…


    “While mixed emotions set the tone for his transition, Solnick said his new role presents a rare opportunity to live and work in the New York City area closer to family. ”

    Translated: “I can’t do my job so I am moving back to NYC and got this job at Shake Shack so I can be closer to family”

  4. boatrocker

    As you cannot judge the quality of education by one student alone, at least I can joke about it.

    I heard WWC student at a local watering hole complaining that even the word menstruation was sexist. I asked what her major was.
    “Women’s Studies”.- I informed her that menses, the Latin root for menstruation means ‘monthly’.
    She made one of those huffy noises and went back to staring at her phone.

    I hope she reads this- yea, this is the ‘sexist pig’ who pointed that out.

    To ‘your worst friend possible’ (interesting handle- is their a true story behind that?)-
    Way to denigrate teaching in high schools and elementary schools (in all caps like certain un moderated sock puppets).
    Even if the WWC college pres did a bad job, that smacks of Palin like populism.

    Ever tried teaching? For having all the answers it would seem a natural career choice for you.
    Don’t worry, I’m not offended, I just kinda feel sorry for certain other posters.

    • Your worst friend possible

      Aside from the fact that you didn’t really make any argument other than being both liberal/conservative, I’m just assuming you’re a shill for Solnick (which is one of three people at the college, because really no one will stand up for him; alternately, you could be Solnick himself). If you read my post carefully, you’ll see that I made no value statement about K12 or teaching in general. You’re just here for misdirection. I’ll ignore that.

      Let me expound, though – Steve isn’t qualified to be a college president. He has no educational management background whatsoever. He also has zero experience with K12 aside from being a parent. He doesn’t know anything about K12 curriculum, student discipline, dealing with parents, social issues, K12 budgets, PTA or anything involving running a K12 school. He has no clue and Calhoun will be his newest victim. This is the only job he could get and likely a buddy of his from Bard, Columbia, the Ford Foundation or family got him this job.

      What the real issue is that this school has better than a 50% chance of going under in the next 2-4 years. Accreditation is on the line. It has a massive deficit. It’s heavily leveraged. Huge cuts are required and real people are going to lose their jobs and students are going to lose out in a big way. There should be real outrage here and there’s not. Shame on you for your shill activity and shame on everyone in the community for not speaking up sooner and firing this guy.

    • boatrocker

      I think my observation vs. an argument was either the female WWC student I mentioned was either a congenital idiot or maybe the education has suffered at that school recently.

      Calling me a shill? Riiiight- I just happened to type something you disagree with, little safe space poster.
      When I graduated college, NAFTA and Lorena Bobbit were the big news if that gives you any historical context.

      • your worst friend possible

        “Safe space” LOL – you’re hitting all the GOP buzzwords. Love it. Yet I grow bored with your membaberries.

        • boatrocker

          I’ll out lefty you on a bad day, poster.

          (cracking the knuckles for typing)

          • Dontrocktheboat

            Oh! Oh! I member!

            Hey, member when Paula talked about pickling? That was cool.

            Oh and member when Doctor Steve decided not to use the house we had for him?

            Hey, hey member when every CFO left after working a year at WWC?


          • boatrocker

            No Dontrocktheboat(anobviousplayoffmyoriginalname)
            I didn’t attend that crappy school for college and unlike most WWC grads, I use and respect my majors on a daily basis.

            This message appears above Dontrocktheboat’s message, as maybe that is what that poster learned in college.

          • FuntoGun

            I member – Paula DID make that joke about a lesbian co-worker during a speech and didn’t get fired, even though she shoulda, but Steve saved her?! I member that!

          • boatrocker

            Just one more, apparently FuntoGun failed the one and only ‘ancient’ history class that poster was forced to take.

            Some of us got through college learning to express ourselves and debate with others for lack of safe spaces and caving in to being able to carry guns on campus when we didn’t agree with grades for our term papers.

            I am terrified for the day you WWC folk will run the world, as the idea of being a real lefty will be over under, under and done.

          • Dante

            Solnick doesn’t live on campus? Isn’t there a Presidential house?

  5. WWC Parent

    As a parent of a Freshman, I met the President at Freshman Orientation and was completely unimpressed. This is an opportunity for WWC to do much better as it moves forward.

  6. Asheville Resident

    Maybe former president Doug Orr can pick WWC a new president, as he picked a new chancellor for UNC Asheville.

  7. Mister E

    Solnick’s time at the helm has been a disaster, and may well have been the death blow to WWC.

    Dropping the Business Major at a Work College!!?? Not replacing Staff or retiring Deans??!! (instead combining job titles/work loads), PLUS mando pay cuts, losing benefits, retirement etc, and yet one is still expected to go the “extra mile” required of EVERYONE who works there!! Good Luck keeping the morale up.
    The horrid decision making, (by him and his Senior Administrators), the failure to provide any true leadership under his administration, PLUS a quickly shrinking student body have left WWC in a desperate financial crisis (tuition pays the bills). Granted, he inherited an institution in need of a Vision, but instead of doing what he was hired to do–RAISE CAPITAL $$$–he has led the College to the brink of disaster.

    He will be the President remembered for killing a once proud, unique institutions Soul.

    Rebrand it all you want, the damage has been done. The ship is foundering. When a majority of the long term staff up and resign over the course of 18 months, something is terribly wrong with the leadership. When the Administration FAILS to provide a model for success, a comprehensive vision for the future and a viable road map on how to get there, well, you wind up wallowing in the Pig Slop.

    Clean House. Start Over. Flush….whatever it takes. If there is no significant change in the way WWC is being run from the Top down, we will soon see a nice new housing development where once stood one of the coolest models for higher education in the entire country.

    Hell of a Legacy Solnick.

    • Punkinboy

      To all those brothers and sisters at WWC – everyone needs to be aware of what is going on here at our beloved school. If we are going to be let go or if the school is going to be in hock, we need to know about it. I would call up the board members personally and ask them what is going to be done. Many of the people listed are good people and should be willing to talk with you about the state of the college and what can be done after the dictator Solnick has left (too bad he can’t leave immediately). And if we find out our jobs are on the line, we need to really think hard about backup jobs or moving to other positions. Good luck everyone.

      Mr. H. Ross Arnold III
      Atlanta, Georgia

      Ms. Terry M. Bellamy
      Asheville, North Carolina

      Mrs. Alice C. Buhl
      Rocksville, Maryland

      Mr. Carmen Castaldi
      Santa Rosa, California

      Dr. Chiung-Sally Chou
      Alhambra, California

      Mr. William H. Christy ’79
      Black Mountain, North Carolina

      Mr. R. Michael Condrey
      Vice Chair
      Raleigh, North Carolina

      Mr. Donald R. Cooper
      Black Mountain, North Carolina

      Mr. John W. Cruikshank III
      Northbrook, Illinois

      Ms. Jessica L. Culpepper
      Davidson, North Carolina

      Mr. George W. Hatch
      Wenham, Massachusetts

      Mr. Thomas K. Johnson
      Marietta, Georgia

      Dr. Steven M. Kane
      Atlanta, Georgia

      Dr. William A. Laramee
      Berea, Kentucky

      Ms. Elisa Massimino
      Washington, DC

      Dr. Anne Graham Masters ’73
      Greenville, South Carolina

      Dr. Susan E. Pauly
      Vienna, Virginia

      Mr. Anthony S. Rust
      South Kingstown, Rhode Island

      Dr. George Andrew Scott ’75
      Cincinnati, Ohio

      Mr. Stephen L. Ummel
      Savannah, Georgia

      Mr. F. Lachicotte Zamp, Jr.
      Asheville, North Carolina

    • Bright

      Anyone out there know who the hell was responsible for hiring Solnick? My kid graduated when the old boy was being installed…

      • Dante

        Joel Adams and the trustees at the time. IIRC they thought he was amazing but just goes to show that you can’t hire a corporate manager to run an institution of higher learning. Better to stick with people with actual experience. IMO the best thing the college has is the MFA program and what’s going to happen to it if the school collapses? Our current President has no clue, clearly.

  8. Christine

    I am Class of ’86, & have been an active Alumni , but I recently withdrew support from WWC, in part because of the ineptitude and in fact wrong-headedness of the leadership, including this outgoing president. I have never understood why the Board hired him, so obviously a mismatch. . He now leaves a wake of destruction, jargon and eviscerated morale among staff, students and alumni . WWC Alumni please reach out to the Board and ask them to step up and search for a modern day Ben Holden or Doug Orr. someone one who understand the need for community healing as well as business acumen in our unique, now ailing alma mater..

  9. Writing On The Wall

    The amount of staff turnover the past two years has been massive. So many really, really good faculty and staff have left because the ship has been steadily sinking. People who had been there for years and had really helped to grow the reputation of the school. People who cared deeply about the message and the students, but who felt marginalized by management. A real shame…

    • Dontrocktheboat

      So now we have to ask ourselves how exactly the budget equation will be solved. Steve will be due some payout AND we will pay for a new prez. And our budget shortfall is growing. And our enrollment isn’t growing. I smell layoffs. And you know they’ll do it before the new prezzy starts. Fun is on the horizon.

      • FuntoGun

        you think there’s a way to solve this? salaries and benefits have been cut.. no more retirement.. cuts in services and hiring freezes.. let’s say they have a $5m budget deficit.. that’s basically laying off 50 people or more.. and the school has like 150 people in total. that’s essentially a shutdown. all I remember is one of the financial aid people telling parents that they would sell off land to pay the bills. they have 10 open positions and probably only need one of them, admissions counselor. from the top down there’s complete delusion.

        • FuntoGun

          Let’s also remember how Solnick never balanced the budget.. and still wanted to build the academic building.. this is such great investigation journalism fodder. Been here four years, budget was never solved, enrollment on a steady shot downward, revolving door of administration who never liked the President. He knew that this was going on but let his insane ego get in the way.. When the SACS meeting comes around and we’re hit by negative feedback/sanction, it’s going to go right to the Chronicle of Higher Education via the news wires or by one of us happily forwarding it to a hungry writer who wants to break the next Sweet Briar. Oh and watch, Steve will stop showing up on campus and start “working from home” aka Massachusetts. When it starts to get real bad, you’ll see Trustees resigning so they don’t get caught up in the nightmare. You heard all of this here first, beloved co-workers.

          The next President will bat clean up, too. None of the cabinet will be retained, I guarantee it.

  10. boatrocker

    Perhaps this is also a conversation about education in NC in general since 2010, when the ‘vilify them fancy pants teachers’ counter revolution hit.
    Education is not to be run like a business, for so, so many reasons.
    Even for the for profit colleges, just saying.

    I feel sorry for anyone lucky enough to go to college, graduate, be saddled with big time student loan debt and then have the ‘real world’ work force tell you
    to fall in line and keep your head down or they’ll fire you and get someone younger, less educated and willing to work for less to fill your spot next Monday.

  11. Judy

    Please, enough. While I certainly understand the desire to convey frustration by those who feel hurt (or angry), consider: how is this public form of expression helping Warren Wilson College continue forth as the incredible institution that it remains? Every day there are (and have been) programs and events being developed and taking place among employees with the support of their leaders (for example, next Wednesday at the college: https://mountainx.com/arts/country-for-syria-creates-a-unique-sound-that-blends-musical-traditions/), classes being taught by dedicated faculty, compassionate care transferred through every hand that holds this institution together (which includes leaders, employees and students), and voices of students who express to us how much they love their campus. For those of you who are worried, get involved and be the change that continues serving our institution through the kind of compassionate care that we can be proud of. As employees that remain, our institution is very much alive. We show up each day and we want to continue being the beacon that, as an institution, we are. So please, stop with the ridicule and take a more humane role by expressing your concerns to those who can affect change during our transition. You’re not just hurting the President, you’re hurting us-current employees and students.

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