From Mann to Manley

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” 

 —T.S. Eliot

By Matt Desjardins

March first marked Tom Manley’s first day on campus as Antioch College President. Super Tuesday was just his third time on campus since accepting the job, though he has been preparing to take the lead for the last few months, as he tied up loose ends at The Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). But now, it’s official, he is at the helm of this historic institution poised to double-down on groundwork laid by former President Mark Roosevelt.

Manley came to Antioch because it has long meant something to him. “Antioch is one of the great, iconic places in American higher education. I compare it to places like Black Mountain College, the Bauhaus in Germany—institutions that were experimental, that sought to find the forward moral and creative edge. To stand in a tough space and create education around tough issues of our time,” he said.

It is clear that what separates Antioch from innovators like Black Mountain and the Bauhaus, is that Antioch is looking to the future and producing highly effective students. To that end, Manley is eager to get to work with Antioch’s legacy in mind.

“It’s daunting to step into a place and have people draw a line between Horace Mann, Arthur Morgan, Coretta Scott King and then somehow you’re in that mix. But, then it’s also easier because there is such a clear standard of excellence here, and you’re motivated to keep consonant with that spirit—that there are important things to do and we should give our time and service to something bigger than ourselves.” 

Manley brings to Antioch more than 35 years of experience helping individuals and organizations unleash their intellectual and creative powers through education. President of PNCA since 2003, he is credited for a turnaround that cemented PNCA’s position as Portland’s most dynamic, diverse and established arts institution. Among his milestones at PNCA are a successful brick-and-mortar expansion, and cultivation of the largest gift to an arts organization in Oregon’s history.

Before becoming president of PNCA in July 2003, Manley spent 22 years in southern California at the Claremont Colleges—mainly at Pitzer College, a small liberal arts college that emphasizes social justice and social responsibility—where he held a variety of administrative posts and served as a member of the faculty. He was instrumental in developing Pitzer’s nationally prominent study abroad program, including sites in China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Turkey, Venezuela, Wales and South Africa. His favorite countries to visit are Japan and Italy. 

Manley sees himself as a global citizen whose primary charge, amongst many at Antioch, is to make the school more relevant in a shrinking world and to give students the skills that prepare them to go out and win victories for humanity. 

“I’ve come to think that it’s more difficult to get your arms around what it means to be global, if it’s anything other than understanding that the world is a community of regions, and collectively that’s what gives it expression. Global citizenry has to be grounded in an appreciation for diversity, and that grows out of the local level, cultures, languages and how that knits together. The appreciation, respect and curiosity for that are the building blocks for a global perspective, a globally educated human being.”

Manley continues, “The way we come to that is not through intellectual surmising but through actual experience…crossing boundaries, being uncomfortable, out of balance…and then finding our balance in a different setting. That journey through co-op or study abroad, or individual exploration, requires that great T.S. Eliot line—that you travel far away only to come home again and know that for the first time. That notion of life as a spiral, of finding yourself by finding yourself far away from what you’re comfortable with, by having to navigate and negotiate different cultures—I think it’s a really important pedagogical process. We have embraced at Antioch, but we can find ways to be even more intentional and integrate it more holistically.” 

A specialist on Japan, Manley served as a scholar-in-residence at a women’s college outside of Osaka and later helped to write the curriculum for an American-style liberal arts college—the first of its kind to be accredited by the Japanese Ministry of Education. He has written and presented on a variety of subjects related to international, intercultural and language education. He has also developed a number of cross-cultural and language learning innovations, including a highly praised portfolio journal system known as the “Fieldbook.”

A 21-member search committee composed of trustees, staff, administrators, faculty, students, and alumni selected Manley from a pool of more than 200 qualified candidates.

“I am thrilled—but not surprised—that we were able to attract Dr. Tom Manley as our next president,” said presidential search committee chair Malte von Matthiessen ’66. “He is compatible with Antioch College values and traditions, and I am convinced he is the right person to lead Antioch into a new era.”

Chair of the Antioch College Board of Trustees Frances Horowitz believes Manley will build on Roosevelt’s impressive legacy, further securing Antioch’s place as a national leader in applied liberal arts education.

“Tom comes to us as an experienced leader who has a record of being thoughtful, constructive, creative, innovative and successful,” she said. “The Board of Trustees looks forward to working with him to foster the continued growth of Antioch, to expand our sources of revenue, to pursue ideas like the Antioch College Village, and to explore the feasibility of other entrepreneurial opportunities.”

Manley believes that very few colleges and universities are undertaking the fundamental work necessary to innovate the new business and educational models that will be required moving forward.

“But Antioch, in seeking to reset both its own approach and to influence the larger higher education landscape, is a bright line exception,” he said. “The College’s start-up mentality, focus on entrepreneurial solutions, and willingness to problem solve ecosystem level questions are instinctively correct.”

He calls the College’s path “distinctive and brave”—and one which requires special skills and leadership.

“American higher education—which has long been a beacon in the world—must seek its reinvention and I am among those who believe Antioch is doing just that. By embracing entrepreneurial opportunities and innovative strategies in its own redesign, the College is stepping forward to lead once again.”

“Apart from helping to develop collaborative solutions to address immediate needs around resources, continuity, resiliency and rebuilding, I see my job as raising credibility, which has both an external and internal aspect. I aim to raise Antioch’s flag amongst the larger debate, and create powerful education here, that will prepare our students to meet the world that they’re finding. Together, we can create a space for less hurried conversation about how that education can take place and what the next great contribution from Antioch will be.” 

While there are no shortage of colorful organizational analogies on the Antioch campus, Manley appreciates the analogy of the three legged stool: community, co-op, curriculum. 

“There are things that we need to be doing all of the time to strengthen and evolve those aspects of how the College comes together. A challenge is that we need to have the openness and the patience to understand the complexity, to understand that ambiguity is a part of the developmental process. The answers will not always be apparent. We must be patient but understand that we have to get things done. Patience does not mean not doing things, not taking risks. It does mean that we have an openness to possibilities. The future is not going to be a carbon copy of the past.” 

Manley summarizes, “One of the things we need to resist doing is having people kicking at each leg of the stool.” 

Manley is a native of Baltimore, Md., where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in East Asian History and Education from Towson University. He earned a Master’s degree in Asian Studies and a Doctorate in Education from the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. He has a long history of board and volunteer service to organizations such as the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), Ford Family Foundation’s visual arts initiative, National Endowment of the Arts Education Leadership Initiative, and the -Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities.

A student of poetry and a lover of food, Manley is married to Susanne Hashim and they have a young daughter named Chedin. Tom also has a son, Dashiell; a step-daughter, Karina; and a stepson, Johan.

“We’ve had lots of challenges like families have when they’re blended, but we’re abundantly lucky; our kids are incredibly creative. What we’ve tried to do as much as possible is foster that creativity. A challenge is that I love working and that I get very drawn into what I’m passionate about, and that can cause me to not look up. Susanne has helped me work on life balance—to keep perspective and realize that to make things work it’s not on one person’s shoulders. That model is fraught with problems and won’t allow us as communities to develop our best strengths.”

For Manley, family is a building block of community: “I like to not just spend time with my family, but to work with them to create authentic community. I shouldn’t always be reading or listening to things that I agree with or meeting people that are just like me. There is an amazing commonality that can be discovered from people who you think you have nothing to learn from. I like challenging myself through the food that I eat, the conversations I have and the places I go. You really have to keep investigating the world. Dream like a child, think with the honesty of a scientist and try to communicate with the compassion of a dear friend. When in doubt, dream bigger.”

Though his presidency has just begun, Manley continues to dream big, but with an understanding that intentionality and incrementalism have their place in the rebuilding process, a process in which Antioch is still near the beginning. 

“While there have been better resourced colleges, certainly, none that I know of has been braver and more steadfast in delivering a -liberal arts education aimed so squarely at making a difference in the world,” said Manley.

“In my view, nothing is more imperative than the success of Antioch College at this time, and I am deeply honored to be selected as the College’s new president. The determined work of alumni, trustees, faculty, staff, students has been nothing less than inspirational since the decision to reopen. I am very much looking forward to contributing to this ongoing effort.”