Hampshire College president to retire next year

Jonathan Lash's time in office has included accomplishments, controversy

Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash
Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash is seen here in a WWLP file image from November 2016

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash says he has plans to leave his job, but he won’t be doing so for quite a while. Lash sent out a letter to students and faculty Friday morning, announcing his intention to retire in June of 2018.

Lash has been Hampshire’s president since 2011, having previously led the World Resources Institute, an environmental organization. Prior to that, he held environmental positions in the Clinton White House and for the State of Vermont.

Under his presidency, Hampshire became the first college in the country to stop accepting SAT and ACT scores during the admissions process. Hampshire also has committed to receiving 100% of its energy from solar power, increased the percentage of students and faculty members of color, and increased scholarships and grants.

“I hope that you share my belief that together we have made strides in strengthening Hampshire over the past six years,” Lash wrote to students and staff.

Continuing Coverage: Hampshire College flag controversy

Lash’s time in office has not been without controversy, however. Hampshire College received nationwide attention following his decision not to fly the American flag from the main flagpole on campus. The decision was made after some students lowered the flag to half-staff in the aftermath of the November presidential election, and it was later burned. Lash said that the flag’s presence had become a distraction while a campus-wide discussion was held about it and other symbols.

The story drew nationwide media attention, and Lash ended up calling the police after Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters confronted him on his property, as he exited his car and attempted to enter his home.

Lash told 22News that the response was a testament to Hampshire College’s notorious outspoken culture.

“It goes with the territory of being here, that things won’t always be calm and smooth, and they certainly won’t be quiet,” Lash said.

After having more than a dozen discussions with students and staff members, Lash later made the decision to restore the flag to its place on the main flagpole.

In his letter, Lash cited the fact that he had been in ill health a year ago, which gave him and his wife some perspective on life, and reminded them that there is much that they still want to do. Going into retirement, he looks forward to having more time with his wife, Ellie. He plans to fish, build boats, play the cello, and have more time to sing in choir.

“I look back confident that I made progress against the goals I set for myself when I arrived here in 2011, and I look forward assured that the timing is right to move Hampshire College into the next generation,” Lash wrote.

He went on to say that he plans to remain fully engaged as Hampshire’s president over the next year as the search for his replacement goes on.