Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President

Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President

by William G. Bowen
     
 

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Lessons Learned gives unprecedented access to the university president's office, providing a unique set of reflections on the challenges involved in leading both research universities and liberal arts colleges. In this landmark book, William Bowen, former president of Princeton University and of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and coauthor of

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Overview

Lessons Learned gives unprecedented access to the university president's office, providing a unique set of reflections on the challenges involved in leading both research universities and liberal arts colleges. In this landmark book, William Bowen, former president of Princeton University and of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and coauthor of the acclaimed best-seller The Shape of the River, takes readers behind closed faculty-room doors to discuss how today's colleges and universities serve their age-old missions.

With extraordinary candor, clarity, and good humor, Bowen shares the sometimes-hard lessons he learned about working with trustees, faculty, and campus groups; building an effective administrative team; deciding when to speak out on big issues and when to insist on institutional restraint; managing dissent; cultivating alumni and raising funds; setting academic priorities; fostering inclusiveness; eventually deciding when and how to leave the president's office; and much more. Drawing on more than four decades of experience, Bowen demonstrates how his greatest lessons often arose from the missteps he made along the way, and how, when it comes to university governance, there are important general principles but often no single right answer.

Full of compelling stories, insights, and practical wisdom, Lessons Learned frames the questions that leaders of higher education will continue to confront at a complex moment in history.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education
This is a sensible and sensitive account of the job. . . . These are lessons learned sometimes the hard way, and Bowen is quite prepared to admit it.
— Sir Drummond Bone
New Stateman
[Bowen's] advice on how to be a successful leader of a university is invariably spot-on.
— Alan Ryan
South China Morning Post
This illuminating book written by a former president of Princeton, one of the world's top-ranking universities, demands to be read by anyone interested in good leadership, academic or otherwise, and in higher education. . . . [T]he principles he writes of are too fundamental and too good to be ignored by any university administrator with a heart. Think fund-raising. Think freedom of speech. Think uniting members of a university community. . . . An invaluable guide.
— Louis Lee
Harvard Business Review
William G. Bowen somehow makes many of the things that drive nonacademics crazy about universities—tenure, specialization, faculty politics, student protests—seem necessary and even a little bit wonderful.
— Justin Fox
Australian Universities Review
This book should be read by all Australian Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors and those aspiring to these roles.
— Bernard O'Meara
Higher Education
The lessons that President Bowen cites in this book are thoughtful and wise, which any academic leader or aspiring leader could learn a lot from.
— Dian-Fu Chang and Hsiao-Chi Chang
Caut Bulletin
[T]he more I read the more familiar Bowen's observations became. The most important lesson arising from this book for me is that there is a generic culture to universities.
— Emoke Szathmáry
Diverse Magazine
[T]his book could provide valuable guidance to any administrator in education or manager in some field far removed from college life. Certainly, any new college president should devour this book, and keep it handy.
— Angela P. Dodson
Teachers College Record
For readers interested in senior administration in higher education, Lessons Learned is a valuable and distinctive addition to available literature. Written with wit, humor, candor and clarity, the volume offers an engaging and thoughtful guide to the nuances of presidential leadership. His humility and collaborative spirit resonate throughout, making the work as inspiring as it is practical.
— Michael Steven Williams
New Statesman - Alan Ryan
[Bowen's] advice on how to be a successful leader of a university is invariably spot-on.
Sir; Times Higher Education - Drummond Bone
This is a sensible and sensitive account of the job. . . . These are lessons learned sometimes the hard way, and Bowen is quite prepared to admit it.
Harvard Business Review - Justin Fox
William G. Bowen somehow makes many of the things that drive nonacademics crazy about universities—tenure, specialization, faculty politics, student protests—seem necessary and even a little bit wonderful.
Teachers College Record - Michael Steven Williams
For readers interested in senior administration in higher education, Lessons Learned is a valuable and distinctive addition to available literature. Written with wit, humor, candor and clarity, the volume offers an engaging and thoughtful guide to the nuances of presidential leadership. His humility and collaborative spirit resonate throughout, making the work as inspiring as it is practical.
South China Morning Post - Louis Lee
This illuminating book written by a former president of Princeton, one of the world's top-ranking universities, demands to be read by anyone interested in good leadership, academic or otherwise, and in higher education. . . . [T]he principles he writes of are too fundamental and too good to be ignored by any university administrator with a heart. Think fund-raising. Think freedom of speech. Think uniting members of a university community. . . . An invaluable guide.
Australian Universities Review - Bernard O'Meara
This book should be read by all Australian Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors and those aspiring to these roles.
Caut Bulletin - Emoke Szathmary
[T]he more I read the more familiar Bowen's observations became. The most important lesson arising from this book for me is that there is a generic culture to universities.
Diverse Magazine - Angela P. Dodson
[T]his book could provide valuable guidance to any administrator in education or manager in some field far removed from college life. Certainly, any new college president should devour this book, and keep it handy.
Higher Education - Dian-Fu Chang and Hsiao-Chi Chang
The lessons that President Bowen cites in this book are thoughtful and wise, which any academic leader or aspiring leader could learn a lot from.
Times Higher Education - Sir Drummond Bone
This is a sensible and sensitive account of the job. . . . These are lessons learned sometimes the hard way, and Bowen is quite prepared to admit it.
Caut Bulletin - Emoke Szathmáry
[T]he more I read the more familiar Bowen's observations became. The most important lesson arising from this book for me is that there is a generic culture to universities.
From the Publisher
"[Bowen's] advice on how to be a successful leader of a university is invariably spot-on."—Alan Ryan, New Statesman

"This is a sensible and sensitive account of the job. . . . These are lessons learned sometimes the hard way, and Bowen is quite prepared to admit it."—Sir Drummond Bone, Times Higher Education

"William G. Bowen somehow makes many of the things that drive nonacademics crazy about universities—tenure, specialization, faculty politics, student protests—seem necessary and even a little bit wonderful."—Justin Fox, Harvard Business Review

"For readers interested in senior administration in higher education, Lessons Learned is a valuable and distinctive addition to available literature. Written with wit, humor, candor and clarity, the volume offers an engaging and thoughtful guide to the nuances of presidential leadership. His humility and collaborative spirit resonate throughout, making the work as inspiring as it is practical."—Michael Steven Williams, Teachers College Record

"The essential manual for university presidents. . . . More than a memoir and less than a handbook, it distills presidential experiences into useful maxims and advice with examples of both successful decisions and unfortunate missteps. . . . Bowen's well-written, authoritative counsel will be helpful to university presidents and administrators as well as leaders in other complex organizations. It could easily be used for exemplar case studies in leadership, organizational management, and business administration courses. Highly recommended."—Jane Scott, Library Journal (starred review)

"This illuminating book written by a former president of Princeton, one of the world's top-ranking universities, demands to be read by anyone interested in good leadership, academic or otherwise, and in higher education. . . . [T]he principles he writes of are too fundamental and too good to be ignored by any university administrator with a heart. Think fund-raising. Think freedom of speech. Think uniting members of a university community. . . . An invaluable guide."—Louis Lee, South China Morning Post

"This book is well worth reading and with less than 200 pages it does not take long to read. The personal reflections of the former Princeton President are clearly and concisely presented and the lessons learnt are those you would expect from any good university leadership."—Bernard O'Meara, Australian Universities Review

"This book should be read by all Australian Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors and those aspiring to these roles."—Bernard O'Meara, Australian Universities Review

"[T]he more I read the more familiar Bowen's observations became. The most important lesson arising from this book for me is that there is a generic culture to universities."—Emoke Szathmáry, Caut Bulletin

"[T]his book could provide valuable guidance to any administrator in education or manager in some field far removed from college life. Certainly, any new college president should devour this book, and keep it handy."—Angela P. Dodson, Diverse Magazine

"The lessons that President Bowen cites in this book are thoughtful and wise, which any academic leader or aspiring leader could learn a lot from."—Dian-Fu Chang and Hsiao-Chi Chang, Higher Education

"Both students of higher education and those who are new to a role that regularly works closely with a university president will gain insights from William Bowen's new book Lessons Learned. . . . Bowen's candidness and humility throughout the book contribute to making these reflections engaging."—Clinton M. Stephens, Baywood Reprints

Library Journal
Bowen (president emeritus, Princeton Univ.; Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities) has written the essential manual for university presidents, based on 40 years of experience. More than a memoir and less than a handbook, it distills presidential experiences into useful maxims and advice with examples of both successful decisions and unfortunate missteps (also related to his work as a trustee at Denison University and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation). Bowen discusses working relations with the board of trustees, forming effective administrative teams, determining or overhauling university governance, setting budgets and aligning academic priorities, maintaining relations with the alumni and raising funds, overseeing student life and issues of diversity, and defining the role of the university in society. VERDICT Bowen's well-written, authoritative counsel will be helpful to university presidents and administrators as well as leaders in other complex organizations. It could easily be used for exemplar case studies in leadership, organizational management, and business administration courses. Highly recommended.—Jane Scott, George Fox Univ. Lib., Newberg, OR

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400837588
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
184
Sales rank:
1,147,545
File size:
0 MB

What People are saying about this

Bacow
I loved reading Lessons Learned. It is thoughtful, pithy, and wise. This is a terrific book. I am only sorry I did not have the benefit of reading it nine years ago. I would have saved myself from making a few big mistakes.
Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Tufts University
Taylor Reveley
This book, it seems to me, is Bill Bowen the teacher in full cry, delivering the goods with his usual insight, clarity, and force. This is not a memoir or history of his years in Princeton's Nassau Hall but rather a sophisticated, winsome guide to what worked—and didn't work—as he navigated the presidential wilds. Lessons Learned is in a league by itself.
Taylor Reveley, president of the College of William and Mary
Derek Bok
There is an unusual amount of wisdom and good common sense in these pages from which any academic leader or aspiring leader could learn a lot.
Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University
Hanna Holborn Gray
The lessons Bowen cites are wise and sound and balanced and, in my opinion, absolutely right on.
Hanna Holborn Gray, former president of the University of Chicago
Amy Gutmann
Lessons Learned is so compelling that I read it in one sitting the day I received it. Bowen's specific and vivid examples masterfully illustrate the general points he makes about governance, administration, setting priorities, recruiting faculty and students, and fundraising. I found it most stimulating as well as illuminating to read.
Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania

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