Dr. William Tsutsui became the new president of Hendrix College this summer and assumed what he considers a role of a lifetime.
The journey to presidency was unconventional. A dream to lead was never in Tsutsui’s mind, but a dedication to higher education has always been present.
As a child, Tsutsui grew up in a household of educators. His parents were scientists and faculty members at Texas A&M University. As it came time to join the ranks of many college students, Tsuisui knew he wanted to be an economist. His adamant pursuits led him to his first economics course. Soon after, he knew economics was not for him.
“I’m one of those people who always knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I’ve always been completely wrong,” he said.
After finding his way to academia, Tsutsui became a dean and professor of history at Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern Methodist University and later a professor of history and chair of the Department of History at Kansas University.
The theme of stepping forward into the unknown with head held high has followed Tsutsui even into his presidency.
“Frankly, I’m never so happy as when I meet students and ask what they want to do with their degrees and they reply, ‘I really don’t know.’ That’s a good answer,” Tsutsui says. “Undergraduate life is your time to explore widely, think broadly, and consider anew who you are and what you could be.”
Tsutsui tells students that it is important to use college as a way to step out of their comfort zone and be open to exposure of new thoughts and experiences.
“I really wish I’d had more of a complete liberal arts experience and had more exposure to academic fields and world views far outside my comfort zone,” he says. “I realize now that college is a great time to push yourself to the limit and just see how far you can get. College is an important opportunity to see what you are made of. It took me until graduate school, or even until I took my first job, to get to that point.”
The call to presidency came to Tsutsui suddenly and unexpectedly. The phone rang and it was his good friend on the other side. A simple question was asked to Tsutsui, “Bill, could you live in Arkansas.”
After yelling across the room to his wife, Dr. Marjorie Swann, and getting the ‘OK’ Tsutsui entered the review process to become the new president of Hendrix College.
Tsutsui was unfamiliar with the Conway area, but as he soon realized, he loved it.
“Conway is different because it is an entrepreneurial community and a community of values,” said Tsutsui.
He explained that he feel fortunate being in a community that supports one another, has a rich history, and its own culture.
“I read the Log Cabin Democrat to become familiar with the community. There is so much to learn about this area,” said Tsutsui, “The cultural amenities are great. I can walk five minutes from my house to Hendrix Village to see a Shakespeare play of professional quality.”
The campus of Hendrix also struck a sentimental nerve with Tsutsui.
Tsutsui recalls his first encounter with Conway.
“I drove up to Conway one weekend before I was hired and just walked around. I wandered through campus and there were groups of students sitting outside talking. I went into the library, and it was full of people. I went behind them to peek at their computers and they weren’t on Facebook or Twitter, they were actually working in the library late on a Sunday afternoon,” he says. “That, to me, was exciting. The strong sense of community at Hendrix was obvious, but so too was a very real sense of focus. Every teacher and academic administrator dreams of working in such and environment.”