It is just after 5 o’clock in the morning. Snow and ice cover the campus. As a thousand students sleep soundly in their beds, Haverford College’s 71-year-old Treasurer and Vice President of Finance and Administration Dick Wynn wakes up to meet with Campus Safety Director Tom King and decide whether or not they should cancel school today. Wynn has experienced a lot of these early meetings over the past 29 years.
“Every time, I’ve thought, ‘I don’t need this anymore,’” said Wynn as rain pelted the windows of his office in Founders Hall one Friday afternoon. “I’m planning to spend next February somewhere that’s warm and sunny.”
Wynn has decided to retire this June. No one’s earned it more. He has worked at Haverford since January 1985, when personal computers were just becoming popular and the members of the first co-ed class at Haverford had just collected their diplomas.
Prior to working at Haverford, he had served as economics professor at Wooster College and Vice President of Finance and Administration at Earlham College. Wynn was offered his current position at Haverford by former President Robert Stevens. Wynn accepted, and the first thing he noticed upon arriving to campus was a line of cars parked along Founders Green by Barclay Hall.
“The cars were parked from the Union Gate all the way to the Barclay Gate,” Wynn recounted. “It just looked awful; everyone parallel parked right here regularly at the heart of campus on one of the nicest quads. Luckily it was a fire code violation, so one of the first things I said to the president was, ‘Let’s get the cars out of the middle of campus.’ So we did, and now we have the Lloyd parking lot. It’s not a big deal, but I take some pride in it.”
Such was the start to Wynn’s career at Haverford. According to his job description on the college’s website, Wynn “oversees all the critical business functions of the institution, including Human Resources, Accounting and Financial Services, Facilities Management, Conferences and Facilities, Dining Services, Institutional Research, Investments and Safety and Security.” It is safe to say that if one person runs Haverford behind the scenes, that person is Dick Wynn. But Wynn won’t be the first to tell you that.
“I mostly just kept track of the money,” he said. “There were a lot of people who carried very heavy loads to make things better here. It’d be hard to name names; if I mentioned five, I’d miss another five.”
Wynn’s devotion to Haverford is hard to miss. Just ask any of his co-workers.
“[Wynn] is extremely dedicated to his colleagues and to Haverford,” said Mike Casel, Haverford’s Chief Financial Officer. “His car is always the first one in Lloyd Lot in the morning and one of the last ones to leave in the evening, as it has been for his entire career at Haverford.”
“He’s always worked very hard,” said Cathy Fennell, Haverford’s Director of Institutional Research, “and he’s balanced the ‘green eyeshade’ attention to finance and details with a true appreciation of Haverford’s culture and purpose.”
Former Director of Facilities Management Ron Tola had this to say of Wynn: “Sitting down with Dick on a weekly basis felt like the times I would sit down with my grandfather… he mentored me on doing the right thing and provided me with the encouragement and positive support I needed to address the events of everyday life.”
Wynn’s work at Haverford literally lights up the campus. After a harsh blizzard during which the school lost power in the winter of 1994, Wynn worked with former Director of Facilities Norm Ricker to buy emergency generators that could supply the school with electricity when conventional Pennsylvania Electric (PECO) lines were down. The problem was how to pay for the generators’ installation. Wynn devised a solution by running the generators in the summer, thereby making the campus temporarily self-sufficient for energy and lowering its peak demand for electricity from PECO. Since PECO charges consumers based on peak demand, Wynn’s plan allowed the college to buy a cheaper electric rate from PECO and saved enough money to pay for the generators.
“We have three 3000 kilowatt generators now, and we’ve had to use them many times. Even sometimes if just a thunderstorm comes through… or we had situations where squirrels crawl into transformers and fry themselves and power goes out. But the generators kick in, in usually less than ten seconds. We have the ability now to power the whole campus, so I take some pride in that.”
Besides his work in administration, Wynn has also taught a spring semester course every other year for the past twenty years called “Economics and Financing of Higher Education.” His students took notice of the many years of experience Wynn brought with him to the classroom.
“Professor Wynn was among the best teachers I’ve had in college,” said Oscar Wang ’14. “He was able to enrich the course with great stories and examples from his own work. Every class was a sort of mini-TED talk, with anecdotes and lessons about life and leadership. Chief among them: always hear both sides of a story before reaching considered decisions.”
Wynn enjoyed teaching the class as much as his students enjoyed taking it. “That was one of the really great pleasures because I don’t get too many opportunities to interact with students otherwise,” he said. “It was a good chance to get to know some of them.”
This reporter felt compelled to ask Wynn for his opinion of the Board of Managers’ decision to reinstate student loans as part of Haverford’s new financial aid policy.
“I think it is an unfortunate necessity,” he said. “We adopted the no-loan policy six years ago; we were coming off great years of endowment growth and the board decided, ‘let’s go all the way.’ But after the bottom dropped out of the markets in late 2008, it proved to be a bridge too far. Over sixty percent of the school’s revenue comes from students, and for four years that revenue source was essentially flat. This makes trying to increase salaries for faculty and staff very hard to do, and we had to make a change. It’s not something anybody wanted to do but it’s a logistic competitive reality for us. We’re still more generous than 99% of higher education.”
Wynn is hopeful for Haverford’s future without him. “It’s time for somebody else to come in and do things,” he said. “It’s always good to have some fresh approaches. Haverford has a unique value set; many people go away from here with a really important sense there’s more to life than just making money and cutting out a career. That value again goes back to people, and how you intersect and interact with people. And I see that continuing, Dan Weiss has picked it right up. I just want to enjoy my grandchildren for a little bit.”
Wynn will remain close by, working on part-time projects for the president as his successor, Mitch Wein from Lafayette College, transitions into his new office. While Wynn’s presence will be sorely missed, his impact on the Haverford community and all its members will be felt for years to come.
“It’s been a really good run and it’s a really nice place to be,” Wynn concluded. “Enjoy it as a student and know that most of the people who work here enjoy very much being here too.”
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