“Lycoming is now a better college in many important ways thanks to President Douthat’s leadership.”
I was the first Lycoming faculty member to meet Dr.
James Douthat. As the unofficial usher of the Presidential
Search Committee, I escorted him into the interview room,
which gave me a 10-second jump on the other committee
members. I’m sure it is due to this temporal advantage that I
was asked to share my reflections on Dr. Douthat at the most
recent College Christmas gathering for faculty and staff.
While the speech didn’t go viral on YouTube, it led to a
request to write this brief summary for the alumni magazine,
which I was honored to accept.
I recall some on the search committee saying that their
only concern about offering the presidency to Dr. Douthat
was that he was clearly a rising star and would probably
leave after a couple of years. Then someone else – I’m
pretty sure it was trustee Bob Shangraw ’58 ’04H –
responded that he would rather have Dr. Douthat for a few
years than settle for someone who appeared to have less
ability and potential. Sound advice that led to unanimous
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people – often the
best people – say they would only stay at Lycoming for a
short while. Faculty and staff at all levels said this, as well
as students who talked about transferring. But Lycoming
College has a way of capturing our allegiance. Think
about the people you know and knew at our (yes, OUR)
college. We complained as well as anyone. But here we
are, receiving the Lycoming alumni magazine because we
stayed, and so did President Douthat. This is why I prefer
behaviorism to cognitive psychology. Behaviors don’t lie.
It isn’t easy being president of a college, in large
part because a president must answer to incredibly large
and diverse groups of people, all championing their
own personal and institutional agendas, interests and
responsibilities. Over the years, President Douthat and I
have disagreed on a number of issues. It amazes me how (in
my opinion) I was always right, but he always won, and the
College didn’t come tumbling down.
If I had chosen to define President Douthat by any one of
those issues on which we’d disagreed, or if he had chosen
to define me solely by any one of those issues, I wouldn’t
be writing this today. It is always important to consider the
totality of commitment, character and accomplishments that
define a person. The fact is that although this was a good
college 24 years ago, Lycoming is now a better college
in many important ways thanks to President Douthat’s
leadership. More remarkable is that this transformation
occurred despite incredible obstacles conspiring against the
very survival of colleges and universities nationwide.
On a personal note, Jim and Emily Douthat demonstrated
great kindness and consideration to me and many others
on numerous occasions. They did so in ways they may
have thought I didn’t notice, or even without realizing how
significant their actions were. I am grateful to them for this,
and for giving me the opportunity to pursue my interests and
interactions with students and colleagues in ways that gave
meaning and satisfaction to my life. I know many others
over the years have felt the same.
The Douthats have made outright
gifts to the College of well more than
$225,000 and arranged for the College
to receive an additional $250,000 upon
their deaths. They have endowed two
scholarships: The E. Hayden Gwaltney
Scholarship, named in memory of
President Douthat’s high school
mathematics teacher, and The Robert and
Thelma Douthat Scholarship in honor of
his parents. Both funds aid students who
have career interests in teaching and are
majoring in mathematics or history. They
also established the Creative Writing
Endowment, which financially supports
Brilliant Corners
, Lycoming’s national
literary journal. For well more than a
decade the Douthats have matched the
Senior Class gift, doubling the impact of
class projects. Knowing its importance to
the College’s operations, they are yearly
supporters to the Lycoming Fund. Their
two planned gifts will establish additional
student scholarships, the largest honoring
Emily Douthat’s parents, The Rev. and
Mrs. Daniel Christenberry.
“Jim and I support the College
through our gifts because we believe in
Lycoming’s mission and the good work of
so many here,” Emily said. “Our special
interest in endowing student scholarships
is one way we can express the pride we
feel in the two decades of students we
have known and served. By assuring that
others like them can have the opportunity
of a Lycoming education, we feel we
are not only helping individuals, but
also doing our part to provide the nation
with an educated citizenry. Perhaps our
gifts can help our students to fulfill their
dreams, develop their careers and serve
the communities in which they will live.”
Dr. Howard Berthold began teaching at Lycoming in 1976 and retired
as professor emeritus of psychology in 2011.
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