Wesleyan's Thirteenth President
"Every challenge is an opportunity."
The youngest president in Wesleyan's history, Colin Campbell took office at the age of 35. He was born on November 3, 1935 in New York City and was raised in Connecticut. An alumnus of Cornell, he received a law degree from Columbia University and worked at the American Stock Exchange prior to coming to Wesleyan as executive vice president and administrative vice president in order to fulfill his lifelong interest in a career in serving the public good.
Campbell's first priority was to bring financial stability to the university. He developed the Plan of Action, whose primary aim was to reduce the amount drawn from the endowment while retaining the strength of the academic program.
Once Wesleyan had regained financial stability, Campbell began what he described as the second phase of his presidency: he worked to get Wesleyan's message out to students, alumni, and prospective students. Reorganizing the Alumni Association, and leading Wesleyan's first major comprehensive fundraising drive, The Campaign for Liberal Learning, Campbell raised $63.7 million in five years, part of which was used for major renovations on campus, construction of the Olin Library addition, and the new physical education facility. The Center for the Arts opened during his first year in office.
When he felt that Wesleyan was "in a position of financial strength...better supported and better understood by its external audiences," he turned his attention to enhancing the academic program. New courses and departments such as Earth and Environmental Sciences and Women's Studies were added, and new resource centers were established, including African American Studies, the East Asian Studies Center, and the Cinema Archives.
During his term the number of students went from 1,400 to 2,600 and the first class of freshman women since coeducation ended in the early 20th century was admitted.
Active in the Middletown community, Campbell was known for his skill in bringing different groups together and for his ability to strategize effectively. He left Wesleyan on July 31, 1988, to join the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a nonprofit charitable organization. He went on to serve as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, retiring in 2014. He is now chairman emeritus of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.