Review from The Hardwick Gazette
by June Plchel Cook
CRAFTSBURY COMMON — Good Fortune Next Time is a vibrant read, a fascinating journey heard through the voice of former Sterling College president Will Wootton.
Wootton served as president of the smallest liberal arts college in ,the country from 2006 to 2012. He spent 19 years at Marlboro College, another very small college, as development officer and president.
The book’s structure flows along like the brooks and streams he loves to fish, at times tumbling headlong into rocks, at times quietly pooling into deep eddies, at times rushing with furious momentum, at times gliding across smooth rounded pebbles. His voice explores seamlessly, candidly, what is external and transpiring in a board room, while internalizing the complexities, quandaries, doubts pulsating beneath the cordial air.
Wootton’s life has taken many twists and turns, a meandering stream cutting its own course, and event y seeking that hill he wants to die on. His father, who had made a career as an editor at Life Magazine, pulled up stakes and bought a dude ranch in Colorado. Wootton’s writing captures the vastness of the West, while also portraying its nuances. He sketches the heart of Craftsbury Common and Vermont with beautiful, pithy descriptions.
Wootton draws on his experiences at three colleges to describe a career with luck-of-the-draw Boards ofTrustees, riding-the-edge of nonprofit funding, pacing the Porch of worries. Colleges and universities, no matter if they are elephants; with 20,000 student enrollments or mice with 100 students , are all colleagues.
“Our mission statements could live together comfortably in an old shoe box. We talk the same language, know the same people. We fight the good.fight. We live confidently under the broad umbrella of the liberal arts.”
The president’s role, as described by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) is a “mix of challenges that combines an expectation for exceptional executive leadership, academic innovation , fundraising process, and a public profile.”
The AGB’s “Suits,” when on campus, Wootton writes: ” … miss nothing in depicting a formal, studied, top-to-bottom, reasoned, orderly system of high-level academic governance which is, unfortunately, completely unobtainable by normal human beings, enveloped as they must be in the deep cultures and turbulent realities of their institutions.”
Wootton’s voice is captivating, with wry observations formal/cultural hierarchies impinging on higher education poignant perceptions of building relationships on jobs, leaving, taking a new job, the fading away of old connections and rebuilding of others.
Under Wootton’s leadership, Sterling baa become a genuine three-semester (all-year-round) college, with increasing enrollment.
The book’s title, Good Fortune Next Time, comes from a saying that his boss used when Wootton was “the editor, chief reporter, and paste-up/production manager of Boston Chinatown’s bilingual newspaper, Sampan.”
The book, co-published by Merrill Leffler of Dryad Press/Mandel Bilar Press, will be available at bookstores in November.