James Larimore Eager to Join College Community
Issue   |   Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:33
Courtesy of thedartmouth.com
Before coming to the College, Larimore worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Swarthmore College and Dartmouth College.

When former Dean of Students Allen Hart ’82 took a leave of absence July of 2012, a search committee composed of eight members, selected by President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, began the search for a new dean. The eight members of the search committee included faculty and staff of the College spanning from multiple backgrounds and academic fields and two students, Tania Dias ’13, president of the Association of Amherst Students, and Jasjaap “Jess” Sidhu ’14, member of the Disciplinary Committee. Chaired by Professor Austin Sarat of the LJST and Political Science Departments, the committee hired Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm to help search for candidates for the committee to consider.
The search committee spent the first two months of the search learning and comprehending exactly what being a Dean of Students entailed. After organizing an all-student meeting, Dias and Sidhu realized that they wanted “someone who would ultimately be a very strong champion and advocate for us students, within the administration,” Dias said.

Isaacson, Miller started with a given position description of what the candidates should embody based on multifaceted input from different members of the College community. From that description, the firm selected a pool of suitable candidates tailored to meet Amherst’s goals and expectations, all of whom were highly qualified, according to Professor Sarat. However, after a brief meeting with each applicant, only four became finalists, James Larimore among them.

The four finalists came to campus and met with the committee on educational policy, attended receptions and spoke to faculty and students alike. Search committee member, Senior Coach Billy McBride, assistant athletic director and director of diversity and inclusion, highlighted the overwhelming positive feedback Larimore received following the receptions.

“He exudes a type of quiet strength and quiet demeanor that makes him a great facilitator,” Coach McBride said. “Students told me afterwards that Dean Larimore came off more as a father or a grandfather; he knows how to make people listen.”

While the College has undergone drastic changes and met with turmoil in the recent semesters, everyone who participated in the selection process remained optimistic that these transformations would be assisted by the selection of a capable, experienced Dean of Students, and more optimistic still that Larimore is the man who can manage it. According to Professor Sarat, Larimore is a “wonderful combination of experience, insightfulness, sensitivity and concern, coupled with a vision for what student life can be,” further describing him as possessing a sort of “intelligent wisdom”.

“He challenged himself and others to think of issues from a different perspective. From opinions on the alcohol policy to multi-cultural issues, he brings such an interesting, passionate and insightful vision to the table,” Dias said. “I am very confident that students will find it refreshing. “

On Feb. 19, the search committee met with President Martin to present Larimore as the selected finalist. President Martin remarked that it was “rare to find someone with experience in a similar liberal arts college setting.”

“[Larimore] seemed to be one of the most thoughtful candidates, who gave multilayered responses to questions about Amherst College, able to look at Amherst College specifically while answering,” President Martin said.

President Martin pointed specifically to the responses Larimore gave addressing the issue of alcohol policy on campus. She is confident that Larimore, rather than dictating changes, will help put in place infrastructure necessary for students to make the differences that define Amherst College.

Larimore describes being a college dean as “[his] idea of the best job in the world”. His enthusiasm for the “transformative power of a residential liberal arts experience” can be seen not only in his previous positions at Dartmouth College, Stanford Univ., NYU, and Swarthmore College, but also in the way he commits himself to learning about the College specifically.

“My time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been intellectually stimulating, and it has been a privilege to work with an amazing set of grantees, partners and colleagues to ensure that students who have the will to go to college will have a way to get there, and the support that they need to succeed,” Larimore said. “But I am, at heart, a dean, and I have missed the rhythms of life on a campus, opportunities to meet and mentor students, and a chance to roll up my sleeves and do the work. Foundations can shape and influence and support the work, but others actually do it, and I have missed being on a campus and being more directly involved with students.”

Larimore is currently in Seattle with his family, busy before the transition to becoming the new dean. While he waits for his sons, Anthony (fourth grade) and Joey (third grade) to complete the school year, he anticipates visiting the College several times between now and the end of May.

Larimore keenly awaits joining the College community.