November 21, 2013

To: The ECLA Community

From: Julie Johnson Kidd, President, Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation

Subject: ECLA of Bard Name Change

Yesterday it was announced to you that ECLA of Bard would hereafter be named Bard College Berlin.  I would like to share with you several comments on that change of name from my perspective, starting with some background about ECLA.

I write to you not only as President of the Foundation but also as founder of ECLA European College of Liberal Arts gGmbH and as the Chairperson of ECLA’s Board of Governors from its inception in September 2002 until November 2011.  ECLA European College of Liberal Arts gGmbH was an outgrowth of a Summer University program called European College of Liberal Arts, governed by a German Verein.  Two members of that Verein, Dr. Erika Kiss and Dr. Jan Werner-Mueller, worked with the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, specifically myself as its President, to create an entity that would enable European College of Liberal Arts to become a full-fledged college with a German not-for-profit corporate structure. The goal was to offer a very particular type of Bachelor of Arts degree that would become accredited in Germany.  The Foundation’s intent, and that of the professors with whom we embarked upon this journey, was to take the most successful teaching and learning methods from the liberal arts college experience and meld them with new ideas in an international context located in Europe. 

During the nine years of the existence of ECLA European College of Liberal Arts, the challenges of achieving these goals were numerous, with the contributions of many making that achievement possible.  Hard work though it was, for those of us in the leadership of the College and for all who assisted us, it was a labor of love and a deeply gratifying, exciting and pleasurable experience.  The many educators from the United States and from other countries who came to visit ECLA always left impressed and enchanted.

The issue that confounded us, however, was how to elicit financial support for the college beyond that of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, which had always been virtually its sole supporter.  In addition, it became time for Endeavor to turn its attention to projects other than ECLA as it is not appropriate for a foundation to provide operating support for any one organization indefinitely.  When it emerged that other supporters could not be found, the Foundation searched for an appropriate academic institution to take over responsibility for the College.  Bard College was that academic institution.  We at the Foundation remain grateful for Bard’s willingness to undertake this challenge.

Over time, the Board of Trustees of Endeavor Foundation and I determined that the best course of action for the future development of the College was to liberate Bard from the strictures that we had attempted to put into place originally.  The goal of these restrictions had been the retention, to the extent possible, of the features and characteristics of the former ECLA European College of Liberal Arts. We at Endeavor came to see that these restrictions might well have made it difficult for Bard to sustain the College financially and to pursue their own vision of the best possible liberal arts education, a somewhat different vision from that of the former ECLA but nonetheless offering the potential for a similar and high quality educational experience. 

Thus, we proposed that the name be changed to clarify the identity of the College and to separate it appropriately from what came before its current liberal arts formulation.  We are hopeful that in this way, Bard College Berlin will become the best international liberal arts college that it can possibly be.

Personally, I will always treasure my years of association with the very fine people with whom I had the honor to work in bringing ECLA to the achievement of State Recognition. Much more important, I will treasure our experience in creating an exciting, inspiring, profoundly moving and life-changing educational and community experience, unique in all of higher education, anywhere in the world.  I owe a profound word of thanks to all those innovative risk-takers who participated in this grand experiment during its nine unforgettable years: the faculty, the staff, the students, Endeavor’s Board of Trustees, ECLA’s leadership throughout the years and particularly ECLA’s Co-Deans, Dr. Peter Hajnal and Dr. Thomas Norgaard.      

I am confident that Bard College will provide a fine educational experience for many generations of students to come and I wish them every success as they set their own course for the future.

                                                                                                With all good wishes,
                                                                                                Julie J. Kidd