It was apparent from his first day as interim president that Roger Taylor had a lot of questions about academics.
While he had a broad sense of the College's operations from his experience as a trustee, now he found himself closer to the academic program than he'd ever been. And he had no choice; after all, from the College's founding, the president has always been granted faculty status.
Not being an attorney myself, I did not keep track of the time spent with Roger, responding to his questions about academic procedures, the curriculum, the scope of faculty responsibility, and personnel procedures. I began to look forward to his visits to my office, often entering my doorway clutching the Faculty Handbook, asking, "Why do we do [fill in the blank] this way?" His education was my re-education, an enjoyable foray involving my re-examination of the taken-for-granted procedures of academia which I've lived with so long.
Over the past decade, Roger has respected -- and earned the respect of -- the faculty, not only through his leadership of the College but also through his work with the faculty's Executive and Personnel Committees. His ability to understand -- and to question and provoke -- did not go unnoticed by his presidential colleagues at the ACM Colleges, whose board of directors he chaired for a year. His active participation in the Federation of Illinois Independent Colleges and Universities, his chairmanship of the Associated Colleges of Illinois, and his engagement with the Annapolis Group (presidents of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges) all helped to create an increasing segment of American higher education, which became used to the guy in the expensive suit beginning a comment with "Well, I'm just a simple farm boy from Fulton County, Illinois, but ..." -- and cutting to the quick of an educational dilemma.
Roger Taylor's leadership of Knox, his commitment to academic excellence, his constructive participation in local, regional, and national arenas of higher educational leadership have raised Knox's profile as one of this country's leading liberal arts colleges. Who knows what other benefits would have resulted had I allowed him to teach a course on Moby Dick (his annual request to me for almost six years of his tenure)?
Lawrence B. Breitborde has served as dean of the College for the last 16 years. He is one of the founding members of the world-renowned band, Roger Taylor & the Fulton County Boys (pictured at right).