Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 22, 1995

A President Reflects On A President

President Richardson always 'went to bat' 
for Hopkins students

By Jamie Eldridge /
Special to The Gazette

     I guess we've all met President Richardson at some time or
another. Freshmen, of course, meet him during orientation week.
Three years ago, I first met him while finishing up the food on
my plate in Wolman cafeteria.

     For most students, though, that kind of quick meeting is
their entire experience with the man who has revolutionized the
way students are served by the administration here on the
Homewood campus. That's a shame because too few students get the
time to know the man who has brought about so much change in    
the five years since he arrived at Hopkins.

     Fortunately, I'm one student who knows him better than most.
As president this year of the Student Council, I had the rare
opportunity to work with Dr. Richardson on a fairly regular
basis, and our interactions both opened my eyes and left lasting

     I met with Dr. Richardson for the first time last summer,
working on Student Council issues in general and trying to
persuade him to support various council initiatives. My first
impressions of him were formed during those casual but serious
talks in his Garland Hall office.

     A fellow student and I were pressing him for action on the
security access card system at McCoy and Wolman halls and the
state of affairs in the Career Services Office. He told us that
he would talk to the necessary people, but he encouraged us to
speak to them ourselves to work out a plan.

     So, we set about the work of dealing with the appropriate
administrators over the course of the year, somewhat dubious
about our chances of achieving any significant change. But it hit
me soon after our meeting that Dr. Richardson was not passing the
buck on the issues, but rather he was guiding us toward the
people he knew would work with us. These were the administrators
he helped recruit to Homewood, and he knew--or perhaps expected--
that they would take our concerns seriously.

     Dr. Richardson's genuine regard for the undergraduates--
although not always translating into our getting what we wanted--
has been well-reflected in Larry Benedict, the dean of Homewood
student affairs; Don Giddens, dean of the School of Engineering;
and security director Ron Mullen. It will be these administrators
who will carry out his vision of improved student life and who
will serve as his legacy to Hopkins.

     My second major impression of Dr. Richardson stemmed from a
question he once asked me: How is the racial and ethnic climate
here on campus?

     I told him that it was generally pretty good, but that all
too often ethnic cliques developed on campus, keeping different
types of people separate from one another.

     He responded that he considered racial and ethnic relations
on campus rather good. Beyond that, however, he encouraged me to
remember that diversity was reflected not merely in the
percentage of different racial groups, but in the diversity
within these groups. And he pointed to Polish, Caribbean,
Italian, Korean and Puerto Rican students on the Homewood campus
as examples of that diversity.

     In a college environment, he said, when all too often
students, faculty and administrators think of diversity as
strictly--and literally--a black/white issue, it was refreshing
to think of just how diverse Hopkins is and how sad it is when
we, as Americans, lump each other into a particular category
simply because of skin color, especially on a campus of such
ethnic variety as Hopkins.

     It's hard for me to get an overall perspective on the total
effect Dr. Richardson has made during his presidency, but just
looking around the Homewood campus you get an idea of the
transformations made during our undergraduate years.

     Wolman Hall was built. McCoy Hall was renovated. Sophomores
were guaranteed on-campus housing. The Office of Volunteer
Services was created--and expanded--out of the Chaplain's Office.
E-Level, the first on-campus bar, was opened in Levering. The
Athletic Center was renovated with more quality space devoted to
women's sports. And the offices of the various student groups
were moved to Merryman Hall and the dean's offices shifted to
Shriver Hall Terrace, a very symbolic move because the students
were being given priority over the administration.

     He also has supported the drive to build a new student union
and a fine arts facility in the near future.

     Of course these things came about due to many forces at work
within the Hopkins community, but the leader of any organization
sets its tone, the direction, the agenda, and Dr. Richardson had
a strong hand in establishing all of these. And more.

     Despite what many students may think, to have such a
student-oriented university president, especially at Hopkins, is

     The freshmen who will arrive here this fall have so much
more to enjoy than when the Class of '95 first stepped onto the
Homewood campus. 

     But the Class of '99 won't have Dr. Richardson to look out
for them, and I'm worried about that. He brought to Hopkins a
clear vision of bringing the school back into the black, of
finally bringing to undergraduates the services they deserved and
for improving the structure of a school that desperately needed

     For these reasons, the university and its students will miss
William Richardson. Personally, I will miss his direct manner,
his willingness to go to bat for students with fellow
administrators and his ability to connect with almost any student
that happened to cross his path.

     I hope other members of the Hopkins community remember him
in a similar vein because while he served as our president, he
gave us so much.

     Jamie Eldridge, who graduates this week, was president of
the Homewood Student Council this past year.

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