Sarah Banks, Staff Writer
Warren Wilson has announced the return of Joel Adams as chair of the board of trustees. At the Feb. 11 board meeting, trustees will vote officially to re-elect Adams as chair.
In an e-mail sent to the Warren Wilson campus on Jan.6, college President Sandy Pfeiffer announced the departure of former chair Ron Hunt and the re-addition of Adams to the board.
“Ron Hunt was a wonderful Board chair and friend of Warren Wilson, and he will be missed,” President Sandy Pfeiffer wrote in the e-mail. “The new chair, Joel Adams, has much experience with the College and with the Board, and thus is a solid choice.”
Adams has owned an independent Raymond James Financial Services office since 1994 and is the certified private wealth advisor designee. He has been actively involved with the college for 16 years, serving on the board from 2004-2007 and currently sitting on the board of advisors for the Environmental Leadership Center. In addition, Adams’s two children graduated from Warren Wilson.
Adams spoke with The Echo about his commitment to liberal arts education, which he sees as one of the college’s greatest strengths.
“I don’t know if we have enough discussion on our campus of what we mean by the liberal arts,” said Adams. “It’s a very important discussion because a graduate of a liberal arts school will hopefully learn how to question things constructively, which makes people better citizens. And I use that in very broad terms, not just of the country, but in the community, in the family, and in the world.”
Before going to college at Western Carolina University, Adams worked as a caretaker downstream from Panthertown Valley, about and hour and half southwest of Asheville.
“My boss convinced me to go to college. Otherwise, I’d probably be logging right now,” Adams said.
While in college, Adams studied history and minored in English. He is the first to admit that he wasn’t sure what he was doing there and that he waited until his senior year to take most of his freshman courses. Nevertheless, the experience of this liberal education lead him to other pursuits.
“You might say that the liberal arts are concerned with truth and not just facts,” he said.
Last November, Adams met with Agustin Landa, vice-chancellor of Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado in Puebla, Mexico. Adams related Landa’s story as a continuation of his own commitment to the liberal arts.
“I think that the liberal arts are an important part of education, I think it’s what makes the American education system distinctive. We forget that this is not a common form of education in other parts of the world.”
Adams shared Landa’s account of the college experience in Mexico.
“He said, ‘in Mexico, we don’t have the liberal arts. We look at college as job-training. Not as a time of reflection,’” Adams recalled. “But he also said that they’ve done a survey of their graduates…and the major that created the most financially successful graduates was philosophy.”
The board of trustees is responsible for the hiring and firing of the president. Adams’s goal is to give the college a larger audience.
“I’ll be an advocate for Warren Wilson,” Adams said.As a chair of the board, Adams says he has no major changes in mind.
“We should continue to maintain our strengths,” Adams said. “Wilson is a remarkable place.”
When asked about the Strategic Plan, Adams said, “it’s a great accomplishment for the college. The challenge we will face is knowing when we’ve achieved [these goals].”
As an example, Adams pointed out that many of the goals of the plan aim to strengthen the Triad, but this kind of goal is difficult to quantify. Adams wonders how we will we know when these aspects are
Adams is still involved in his environmental work as well. He started working with the Nature Conservancy when in college and worked to protect Panthertown Valley, now part of the National Forest Service.
“I’ve always liked walking on the Earth and I decided I’d better protect it,” he said.
Adams is also a part of the Southern Environmental Law Center and on the board of the Environmental Leadership Center. He still fishes in the Tuckasegee River in Panthertown Valley and enjoys hiking – most recently in the Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile.