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Pro­fessor of Chem­istry and Dean of Natural Sci­ences Christopher VanOrman is set to take the position of provost on June 1. External Affairs

The proud owner of a Harley Davidson motor­cycle, ded­i­cated chem­istry pro­fessor for 27 years, and dean of the natural sci­ences for 13 years, Christopher VanOrman is now ready to take on a new position at Hillsdale College as provost.

VanOrman will offi­cially be instated as the chief aca­demic officer of the college on June 1, taking over for Provost David Whalen, who has served in that role for the past eight years. The process of choosing Whalen’s replacement began with nom­i­na­tions from the faculty; aca­demic deans were typ­i­cally con­sidered as likely choices, and VanOrman’s long and suc­cessful career as a dean rec­om­mended him to the position.

“He is a leading teacher on our campus, a fine scholar who inspires all around him,” Pres­ident Larry Arnn said in an email to The Col­legian. “He is our longest-serving dean, and his service has been exem­plary.”

His record demon­strates a con­sistent ability to manage people well, espe­cially in the science department, which has an intense level of activity and diversity, according to Whalen.

“It requires orga­ni­za­tional ability, knowledge of human nature, and an ability to win the trust and keep the trust of a wide variety of people for a long, long time,” Whalen said. “That’s hard. That’s rare. He has all those qual­ities.”

In order to prepare VanOrman for the position, Whalen will be showing VanOrman the dif­ferent aspects of the job for the rest of the semester. VanOrman will essen­tially shadow Whalen in all that he does: attending board meetings and dean and faculty meetings and observing the other odds and ends of the job.

“They are going to be huge shoes to fill,” VanOrman said of Whalen. “I was very sad to see him step down because he’s very good at what he does.”

Whalen will still retain a position in the admin­is­tration as the asso­ciate vice pres­ident of cur­riculum, according to Arnn.

This new position will involve giving advice and pro­viding insight to the admin­is­tration.

“David is a trea­sured friend, and he is not allowed to go any­where except as far away as the English department,” Arnn said. “We will still have his counsel.”

As Whalen put it, he will be “the official tower-lodged con­tem­plative monk for the college.”

VanOrman met with Arnn and Whalen in November to interview for the position and was informed by Arnn last Wednesday of his appointment. According to Arnn, VanOrman’s expe­rience as a dean of the sci­ences, which is a “core area in the liberal arts,” will assist in new projects for the college.

“Chris has worked skill­fully to build the college core into an integrity and will con­tinue that,” Arnn said. “We are working on an extensive project in the relation between natural science and faith.”

According to VanOrman, his attention to detail, ana­lytical framework, and ability to connect with just about anyone on campus will assist him immensely to succeed in the position.

“I’ve always gotten along well with people,” VanOrman said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re a groundskeeper, main­te­nance person, house­keeper, whatever; we all have a job to do, and if they don’t do their job then I can’t do mine. And vice versa.”

VanOrman said that he will not con­tinue teaching, at least for the first few years, as he settles into the new position as provost. This is a decision that VanOrman does not take lightly.

“I love teaching. I love Hillsdale,” he said. “This will be my 27th year that I’ve taught. The real­ization that this general chem­istry class will be the last course I teach for a couple of years hit me hard.”

When he found out that he would become the next provost, VanOrman, while delighted, described a bit­ter­sweet feeling.

“Later that evening, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is it; this is my last semester,’” he said. “That hurt a little bit because I love that.”

However, VanOrman said he is ready to take on this new position as a mentor and advisor to the college faculty and staff.

“My main goal is to lead the college to make it one of the best liberal arts schools in the country,” VanOrman said. “The deans and faculty that we have are amazing. It’s not like I have to do this all on my own. We work together.”