Postcards From a New President

Meet Tom Hochstettler and His Family

Meet Tom Hochstettler and His Family

The Lewis & Clark community first knew them as “Candidate C” and “Candidate C’s Wife.” Their actual names, along with those of the other two finalists for the presidency and their spouses, were not widely revealed until they arrived on campus for final interviews last spring. But today, most people at the College know them simply as Tom and Marcia.

Tom Hochstettler, Lewis & Clark’s 23rd president, and Marcia Glas, his wife and partner of 30 years, are new to Lewis & Clark, but not to higher education. They sometimes refer to themselves as “academic vagabonds,” as Tom’s career has taken them from Michigan to California to Maine to Texas to Germany—and now to Oregon. They have made a journey that even Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would have admired, a national and international journey that has led them step-by-step to Palatine Hill.


Motto: With God all things are possible 

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” proclaims Jesus in the New Testament. Tom’s father took this to heart by serving as a minister of the Evangelical and Reform Church (which merged with other denominations in the 1950s to become the United Church of Christ). Travel the family did. Tom, along with his four older siblings and his mother, moved frequently in response to his father’s calling. When asked about his hometown, Tom uses the plural and mentions places like Marion, Fremont, Sandusky, and Findlay, Ohio, and Huntington, Indiana.

Tom experienced both the pluses and minuses of life in small-town America. He enjoyed the sense of community and civic pride of these small burgs, but he also grew weary of their tendencies toward smugness and provincialism.

Not far from Fremont, Ohio, where Tom lived while in grades 4 through 8, is Clyde, Ohio, which was Sherwood Anderson’s model for his fictional town of Winesburg. “I’m afraid I succumbed to what Anderson wrote about nearly a century ago: the sense of suffocation that can afflict young people in such an environment,” says Tom. “My fondest dream growing up was to travel, to be free to explore the world.”

One of the first cities Tom explored was Toledo, which offered him access to a renowned art museum as well as movies and theatre. “My visits to the Toledo Museum of Art were among the high points of my childhood,” says Tom. He also remembers hearing the young African American opera star Leontyne Price sing at his school one Sunday afternoon in 1957. “I never knew the human voice could be so beautiful, so evocative, and so varied.”

Such experiences were tantalizing to Tom. “I do think that my choices in life of where to work and live derive from a childhood of feeling—justified or not—penned in, confined by the narrow horizons of the small-town setting.”


Motto: The Crossroads of America

One of Tom’s first major choices as a young adult was to enroll at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Earlham, founded by Quakers in 1847, reflects its roots by stressing equality of people, peaceful resolution of conflict, simplicity, freedom of conscience, and a sense of shared responsibility for the life of the community.

“I think the Quaker attitude had a profound influence on the way I view the world,” says Tom. “Quakers, through their actions, quietly convince people that peaceable, reasonable, and intelligent ways help us get through times of challenge. At the same time, they are a people of profound conviction. They know what they stand for and are, as a group and as individuals, committed to action guided by their beliefs. These are qualities that I admire deeply.”

Tom’s undergraduate career encapsulated the great cultural upheaval of the late 1960s. When he first arrived at Earlham in 1965, the college’s old traditions were still in place: students dressed for sit-down dinners, and women were required to wear skirts and had strict dorm curfews. By the time Tom graduated in 1969, all of these traditions had fallen away. “Higher education had been revolutionized,” says Tom. “It was an exciting time to be in college.”

While at Earlham, Tom finally got a taste of the outside world he had been longing for: He went on a foreign study to Germany and Austria. “It was a life-changing experience,” remembers Tom. “I played on Johann Sebastian Bach’s own private clavichord in Eisenach, I lived in an apartment in Vienna where Mozart had lived and composed, I sang with the Vienna Philharmonic—these were things you just couldn’t do in the States.”

Tom graduated from Earlham with a BA in history—and a desire to pursue graduate work in German history.


Motto: Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice
[ If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you ]

A freshly minted Woodrow Wilson National Fellow, Tom headed to the University of Michigan on the state’s lower peninsula. While there, he honed his research focus: Germany since the Reformation, with emphasis on Rhineland political and economic developments in the 17th and 18th centuries. He says his main interest is the social elites of the Catholic bishoprics, who formed an alliance with the Habsburg emperors during this era to safeguard their political and social position within the states of Mainz, Trier, Wuerzburg, Worms, Speyer, and others.

“Given the warfare and economic dislocations of the era,” says Tom, “the subject of political power and how this elite maintained itself is one that is not only fascinating in itself but also relevant to understanding German and Central European history for centuries to come.”

While at the University of Michigan, Tom taught European military and social history as a teaching fellow in the history department. In 1975, he married Marcia Glas (see related article to the right). That same year, the newlyweds left for a one-year stint in Germany so that Tom could do research for his dissertation in Wuerzburg and Mainz. By the time Tom returned to Michigan, he felt he was well on the road to a career in academe. “I enjoyed teaching, and I had a couple of articles published, so I thought I was going to be a professional historian for the rest of my life,” says Tom. Stanford University agreed. The institution offered him a teaching and research fellowship in 1978. In response, Tom and Marcia packed their bags for the Golden State. 


Motto: Eureka

At the time Tom left for California, he was ABD, “all but dissertation.” While at Stanford, he finished his dissertation in the allotted time but was discouraged to find very few job openings in early modern European history. He was a finalist for positions at Washington University and the University of Wisconsin, but in the end, neither was funded.

Rutgers was showing interest in publishing his dissertation, but the document needed some revisions. Tom took a job as an admitting clerk at Stanford Hospital to earn extra money. His superiors quickly noticed his talent for numbers and promoted him from clerk to junior financial analyst to senior financial analyst to budget director—all within about 18 months. “I went from entering Social Security numbers to being the budget director of a $200-million enterprise,” says Tom. “I guess you could say I had a knack for it.”

With his PhD in hand, Tom went back to school at Foothills College to study accounting, calculus, microeconomics, and statistics—all subjects he had never studied before. He was admitted to the University of California’s Executive M.BA program in San Francisco and remains just one course short of the degree. At the time, Tom and Marcia were living in Palo Alto with two young children, and Tom’s commute to San Francisco was grueling (and parking was even worse). One day his adviser said, “Why are you getting an M.BA? You already have the job that people get with that degree.” Eureka.Justification found. Tom decided to table the pursuit.

He then caught the eye of Stanford’s vice president for finance and administration, who asked him to run the Total Quality Management program for the university. “I discovered I didn’t like that,” says Tom. “It was too far removed from students and faculty.” Soon after, when Tom was presented with the opportunity to combine teaching with college administrative work, he jumped—across country.


Motto: Dirigo 
[ I lead ]

In 1987, Tom accepted the position of dean for planning and general administration as well as lecturer in history at Bowdoin College. Tom and his young family moved from the palm trees of California to the forests of Maine.

“We really love Maine,” says Tom.

As chief planning officer, Tom developed and coordinated strategic plans for academic programs, student life, and new facilities. He also served as the college’s chief information officer. “At Bowdoin, I received a real grounding in college administration,” says Tom. 

He also received a real education in college finances. In the early 1990s, Bowdoin was experiencing some financial problems that were masked by the stock market’s strong performance. At one point, the vice president and treasurer of the college departed, and Tom assumed those responsibilities. “Through benefit reforms, cost management initiatives, and debt refinancing, we were able to eliminate Bowdoin’s deficit in the course of a couple of years,” says Tom. “It was at Bowdoin that I learned the fine art of compromise. It is also where I learned the importance of knowing one’s first principles and standing by them, of knowing when compromise is no longer possible and that hard decisions need to be made.”

But a change in institutional leadership at Bowdoin created an opportunity for Tom to reevaluate his own career options. This time, he looked south.


Motto: Friendship

“We landed in Houston,” says Tom, where he got the job of director of academic planning for the University of Houston System, a four-institution urban university system. He held the job from 1992 to 1996. 

While in this position, Tom developed strategic plans coordinating all new degree programs and other initiatives for the four universities. He also served on a task force that drafted the Texas State Planning White Paper for Higher Education, which served as the higher education road map in Texas for the legislative sessions of the early to mid-1990s. “We got what we needed,” says Tom. “We raised money for public education in Texas—dramatically.”

In 1996, he moved across town to become associate provost and adjunct lecturer in history at Rice University. “The provost’s office at Rice, up until that time, had been a single person with some administrative support,” says Tom. “The provost needed someone to take on projects for him—writing and planning projects along with other administrative work—which I gladly did. Marcia and I were very happy at Rice. We still have good friends there.”

At Rice, Tom was a member of the president’s administrative staff and served on various task forces, search committees, faculty committees, and planning groups. But perhaps most auspiciously, he was named chair of the Rice-Bremen planning committee for the establishment of a new university in Germany: International University Bremen.

Bremen, Germany

Motto: Buten un binen, wagen un winnen
[ Outside and in, risk and win ]

Bremen, a 1,200-year-old city in northern Germany, boasts a rich maritime history, distinctive gothic architecture, aerospace and automotive factories, the brewery for Beck’s beer, and a beloved sculpture of the Bremen Town Musicians from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. Long known as an international seaport, Bremen in recent years has sought ways to diversify its economy, especially in the areas of science and technology.

When an old military base closed in the 1990s, city leaders began talking about new ways to use the wooded “campus.” The desire to establish a branch campus of a leading American university took root. In 1997, faculty at the existing University of Bremen contacted colleagues in the United States for leads. In the end, two mathematicians connected, one of whom was Raymond “Ronny” Wells of Rice University. Wells’ wife, Rena, was a native of Bremen and a member of one of the city’s best-known families.

Malcolm Gillis, then president of Rice University (now retired), shared Wells’ enthusiasm for the project and understood its risks and rewards. Over time, the idea evolved from establishing a branch campus to creating an American-style private, residential university for an international clientele—a first in Germany. International University Bremen (IUB) was born.

Tom was a central figure in the landmark effort. According to Gillis, his accomplishments are all over IUB. “Tom is a first-rate administrator,” says Gillis. “He’s fluent in German, he has a PhD in German history, and he earned his spurs in university administration,” says Gillis, with a Texas drawl. “It’s awful hard to find that combination.”

In February 1998, Tom drafted the official memorandum of understanding, which spelled out the details of the collaboration among the city-state of Bremen, the University of Bremen, and Rice University. The memorandum called for setting up a planning committee with Rice and Bremen membership, described the general nature of the resulting institution, and outlined a timetable for the university’s opening.

Over the course of the next year and a half, Tom flew to Bremen eight times. The small planning committee, which he chaired, drew up position papers on every possible facet of the new university. Literally, every element of a modern university needed to be developed from scratch. “It was an exhilarating experience,” says Tom.

In the summer of 1999, Tom was asked to serve as chief academic officer and visiting professor of history at IUB. In this role, Tom managed the development of the university’s academic and student life programs and was responsible for creating the infrastructure needed for a new institution, including student life; curriculum development; the library and information technology; financial aid and student loan programs; and administrative, policy, and budget development.

Tom found diplomacy and consensus-building to be key. “Many elements of IUB were, in fact, American imports that my Rice colleagues and I had to introduce as totally new,” says Tom. “The kiss of death was to suggest anything that was ‘the way we do it in the U.S.’ As a result, the systems and policies we created at the university were, while very similar to what we know in the U.S., unique to IUB.”

In what seems like lightning speed, IUB opened in fall 2001. A new university was born in less time than it takes most undergraduates to earn their degrees.

The following year, Tom cut the cord with Rice and became vice president for academic affairs at IUB. “Becoming an IUB employee was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” says Tom. “It meant if the university didn’t succeed, my family and I could be stranded in Europe for a while.”

But succeed it did. From 1999 to 2001, IUB grew from a staff of two to an institution with 3 schools, 2 interdisciplinary research centers, 14 undergraduate majors, and 28 professional or graduate-degree programs.

Excitement surrounded the creation of IUB. “Those of us involved in the enterprise experienced the challenge of undiluted novelty every single day,” says Tom. “Up until the moment we left, we were doing everything for the first time.” 

Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon

Motto: Explorare, Discere, Sociare
[ To explore, to learn, to work together ]

Tom was nominated for the presidency of Lewis & Clark in the fall of 2003. By the following spring, he had emerged as a top candidate from a pool of more than 150 nominees. Tom and Marcia arrived in Portland for final interviews in April 2004, exhausted after an 11-hour flight from Germany.

“We made it to our hotel only to discover that four Lewis & Clark faculty members were on their way to take us out to dinner,” says Tom. “Marcia and I lay down for an hour, just so we would be coherent,” he remembers with a smile.

But their tiredness quickly evaporated over dinner. “In the course of that meal, I decided I really liked the people at this institution,” says Tom. “I liked what they stood for, I liked their commitment.” He knew then that he wanted the job.

The search committee soon decided they wanted Tom. After an extensive interviewing process, the Board of Trustees extended him an offer. His first day on the job was August 16, 2004.

During his first few months at Lewis & Clark, Tom has been getting to know as many people as possible, learning about critical issues confronting the College, and building on what he calls “the formidable strengths” of the institution.

“The first month, I had lots of blank spaces on my calendar, where I could do reading and get caught up, but those blank spaces have virtually disappeared,” says Tom. “It’s a rare day that I have fewer than seven meetings, receptions, lunches, and so on. But that’s part of the job … that’s what I signed up to do, and I enjoy it tremendously.”

Tom and Marcia have hosted several get-togethers for faculty and their spouses at Cooley House, the president’s residence. The guest lists were deliberately mixed so that faculty members from the undergraduate college, the graduate school, and the law school could get to know each other. “I would like the three schools to begin to act a little more like brothers and sisters rather than fourth cousins twice removed,” says Tom. “There are many opportunities for faculty and students from each school to benefit from what the others are doing.” 

Tom has also been getting to know students—sometimes by dropping in unannounced to the residence halls. “The students are so articulate, so engaged, so enthusiastic … you know that they’re going to be successful and that they’re going to reflect back on the College in myriad positive ways long into the future.”

Getting acquainted with alumni is high on Tom’s priority list. He and Marcia recently completed a trip to visit alums in Japan, Korea, and China, and they’ll be heading to Europe this summer. They will continue meeting alumni in the States throughout the year.

In the short term, Tom doesn’t foresee major changes at Lewis & Clark. He has made a few adjustments in administrative reporting structures, but overall, he says the institution is extraordinarily strong and “on an even keel.” His hope is to facilitate the College’s continued forward momentum across various quality measures.

Over the longer term, Tom sees a capital campaign in the College’s future. That translates into a need for comprehensive programmatic and facilities planning, which will build upon what has already been done.

“There are needs everywhere,” says Tom. He quickly ticks off a few of the items on the College’s wish list: additional student housing, improved facilities for the natural sciences, a larger and upgraded performing arts space, a facelift for Templeton Student Center. The law school and the graduate school also offer significant opportunities for enhanced facilities. And there is always a need for expanding the endowment to fund scholarships and to support faculty salaries across the institution.

“People tend to think of these things as jostling for resources, but really, each improvement benefits the entire institution,” he says. “We may have to prioritize them in terms of timing, but nobody is going to suffer if we do any of them, and everybody will benefit.”

At Home

The College’s motto—to explore, to learn, to work together—could easily be Tom’s motto as well. He has explored small towns and large cities, conservative and liberal viewpoints, American and European sensibilities. He has learned several foreign languages, the expressiveness of music, the lessons of history, the idiosyncrasies of finance, the importance of balance. And he has worked together with all manner of faculty, students, and administrators in this country and abroad. He says simply, “I use myself as a good case study for what you can do with a liberal arts education.”

Tom believes that the liberal arts give people a context —a cultural context, a scientific context, a historical context—in which to observe the world around them and then to act. “The liberal arts were never more relevant than they are today,” he says, “and they’ll be even more relevant tomorrow.”

A Family Snapshot

The Hochstettler family(clockwise, from left): Will, Tom, Marcia, Taylor, Ben – and of course, the family dog, Lucas.

For the first time in over a decade, a married couple stand arm in arm to face the challenges of Lewis & Clark’s presidency, and voices of children fill the president’s residence. The Hochstettlers even have a dog: a white bichon frisé named Lucas. (“He’s Marcia’s dog,” says Tom. “He’s really more like a cat,” says Marcia.)

Tom and Marcia are one of those couples who characterize themselves as incomplete without the other, who finish each other’s sentences, and who thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. “We’re opposite sides of the same coin,” says Marcia.

Tom describes Marcia as an artist, a creative person who can take anything and make it look good. She studied graphic art in college, worked as a buyer for Macy’s in San Francisco, started a small jewelry firm in Maine, and became a massage therapist to treat lymphedema at a cancer center in Houston. “I’ve reinvented myself with each of our moves,” she says.

Marcia describes Tom as a stickler for neatness, a regimented person with a strong desire for order. “Tom has time figured out,” says Marcia. “I lose time … it just disappears from my universe.”

They met at the University of Michigan, where Marcia was an undergraduate and Tom was a graduate student. Marcia worked at the graduate school library as a guard, before the era of electronic security systems. According to Tom, he wouldoccasionally take a book out of the library without checking it out to save valuable time. Marcia claims it was a stack of books. At any rate, they both agree that Tom always brought them back and reshelved them. At some point, she stopped checking his books altogether and they would just talk. They got to be friends. Then one day, she decided to inspect all his books, and none of them had been formally checked out. “My only defense,” he says, “was to ask her out.”

Tom pauses, clearly remembering the moment, and says fondly, “We knew we were going to get married after a few weeks.” Marcia nods, “We did. We knew immediately.” The couple celebrated their 30th anniversary in January.

Tom and Marcia didn’t rush into parenthood; in fact, they were married 10 years before their first child arrived. They have three boys: William, 20, Taylor, 17, and Ben, 12.

William stayed behind in Bremen, Germany, to finish his 13th year of Gymnasium(the American equivalent of high school). He enjoys acting and is involved in music—he plays clarinet and piano, and has recently taught himself saxophone. His parents describe him as “scholarly,” “quiet,” and “intense.” William also has a gift for languages, having learned Latin and German simultaneously when the family moved to Bremen. According to Tom and Marcia, he enjoys correcting his parents’ grammar and syntax.

Taylor, a junior at Lake Oswego High School, loves soccer and computers. He’s a fan of instant messaging, and sends frequent e-mails to his German friends. “Taylor is one of the most balanced people I know,” says Marcia. “He always knows his mind.” Tom tries to convince Marcia that this latter trait is really stubbornness. “Taylor was born stubborn … well, he was,” says Tom, rather stubbornly.

Ben is in seventh grade at Riverdale Middle School. Marcia says he is “creative,” “imaginative,” and “wildly theatrical.” He’s also a skateboard fanatic. Thanks to the ingenuity of Jeff Becker, property manager, and Kurt Armstrong, events preparation supervisor, Ben now enjoys a set of skateboard ramps in the basement of the Cooley House.

Tom and Marcia say the entire family has taken over the Cooley House, which Sue D. Cooley donated to the College in 2001. “I think there was a notion that there would be public rooms and private rooms, but we don’t make that distinction,” says Tom. “We read and watch TV in the library, we eat in the dining room, and we play the piano in the living room.”

Both Tom and Marcia love music—especially chamber music. Of all their possessions that had to be moved to Portland from Germany, one senses it was their baby grand piano that was the most eagerly awaited. 

“I play to relax,” says Tom. He’s currently working on Beethoven’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major, op. 2. Marcia says she learned to play the piano as an adult and doesn’t take it too seriously. “It’s nice to have music as a thread that runs through your life,” says Marcia. “That’s what it is for me.”

When asked about his biggest success in life so far, Tom points without hesitation to his family: “I’m so fortunate that Marcia married me lo those 30 years ago, and that we have Will, Taylor, and Ben to enrich our lives. That’s something to brag about.”