In December 2020, I retired after a long and wonderfully satisfying career at Emerson—beginning as an adjunct teacher in 1982, then assistant professor in 1984, and ending my time at the College as the vice president for information technology.

You may know the next part of the story. I came out of my—albeit brief!—retirement to accept the role of a lifetime, as interim president of Emerson. These past two years have been incredible and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Emerson during this time of transition. (You can see evidence of my personal evolution in this issue’s 20 Questions.)

I love this special place. In a way, I grew up here. I know the ins and outs, the nooks and crannies of our campus. Indeed, in these 40 years at the College, I have been privileged to participate in a great and continuous transformation of this extraordinary institution. As a faculty member, as an administrator, and as an interim president, I have seen incredible growth and progress: from Beacon and Berkeley streets to
Boylston and Tremont streets, to Sunset Boulevard, and around the globe. We have come so far.

And now, as we begin a leadership transition, our College is poised for even greater achievements. As I write, Emerson is preparing for its 13th president, Dr. Jay Bernhardt, to arrive. Dr. Bernhardt is a creative, energetic, transformational leader who will be fantastic for Emerson. It’s an incredibly exciting moment for the College and I am proud and honored to have been a part of it.

You know, as I do, that Emerson is a leader in preparing independent thinkers to shape our society and our world through their creativity, their tenacity, and their ability to use their voices for good in the world. Certainly, we live in a world that will need those Emersonian voices in the coming years.

And now, as I prepare to retire from Emerson (again), I leave knowing that Emerson is on a launchpad, ready to
usher in a new era—one that honors our past while looking to the future. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I believe in the beauty of Emerson’s dreams. And I believe in the beauty of the dreams of our students. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Ave atque vale!

William P. Gilligan
Interim President