Our Opinion: Mariko Silver's legacy

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The departure of Bennington College president Mariko Silver after six years at the helm comes when small liberal arts colleges are at a crossroads.

Silver, who has led Bennington since 2013, has been named the next president and CEO of the Henry Luce Foundation, a nonprofit established by the co-founder of Time Inc. She'll take the new job on July 1, and provost and academic dean Isabel Roche will serve as interim president while a national search begins.

For our community, Silver's most significant legacy could be the college's involvement as an investor in the Putnam Block project. Growing the connection between the college and downtown Bennington, which stand about 4 miles apart, offers benefits for students and the larger community. And the school's involvement in the consortium of businesses and agencies driving the project can't help but build closer connections between campus and business leaders.

At a time when small, private liberal arts colleges in Southern Vermont and elsewhere are facing shrinking enrollments and financial pressures, Bennington has a number of advantages, thanks to Silver's leadership. It has a strategic plan in place, a major capital campaign in progress, significant campus improvements and strategic partnerships to its credit, growth in student enrollment, and a significant increase of its endowment fund.

While money is not the measure of all, in these tenuous times in higher education, schools of Bennington's size must watch the bottom line so they can continue to fulfill their mission. Given the historic significance of Bennington College to our community, and given the loss of jobs and income that will result from the unfortunate demise of Southern Vermont College, Bennington's continued health and vibrance are of paramount importance to Southwestern Vermont, as well as the students it serves.

To that end, we thank Silver for her leadership, congratulate her on her new adventure, and extend Roche our best wishes as she takes the helm during this time of transition.

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