Ralph J. Hexter, a scholar of classical and medieval literature and executive dean of the University of California, Berkeley's College of Letters & Science, will become president of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., on Aug. 1.
The Hampshire College Board of Trustees announced its selection of Hexter as the school's fifth president today (Tuesday, April 5).
Hexter joined UC Berkeley as a professor of classics and comparative literature in 1996. He served as chair of comparative literature from 1996-1998, and became dean of arts and humanities in the College of Letters & Science in 1998. He concurrently assumed the post of executive dean in 2002, overseeing financial administration, human resources, external relations and development for 800 faculty and 500 staff.
"Hampshire College has a unique place among our nation's colleges, and I am honored to join the community as its president," said Hexter. "Nothing is more important at this time than inspiring all generations of Americans to take responsibility for their own education -- to expand their horizons and to reflect carefully and critically on the information they access and receive."
Paul Gray, UC Berkeley's executive vice chancellor and provost, said Hampshire College's faculty, staff, students and alumni "will benefit enormously from Ralph Hexter's vision and leadership.
"Hampshire's gain is, however, a great loss for the Berkeley campus. Ralph has served as a Berkeley faculty member, as dean of arts and humanities, and most recently as executive dean of the College of Letters and Science with energy, vision, integrity and total dedication. The Berkeley campus is a better place because of his contributions here."
Hampshire College is a liberal arts school that was founded in 1965 and admitted its first students in 1970. It has approximately 1,300 students, a student-faculty ratio of 11 to 1 and an average class size of 17. The school's annual operating budget is $55.2 million.
It is a member of the Five College consortium, which includes Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Jerry Nunnally, chair of the Hampshire College Board of Trustees, called Hexter "a distinguished scholar and an extremely able administrator."
Florence Ladd, chair of the presidential search committee, said that Hexter's "scholarly background, administrative experience and cultural interests made him an ideal candidate for the position of president of Hampshire College."
Hexter said that it is not easy to leave UC Berkeley, especially his faculty colleagues and students, and the San Francisco Bay Area. "But the opportunity to be president of a college is a really remarkable one that I wanted to take advantage of," he said.
A resident of semi-rural Clayton, Hexter also is an aficionado of city life, especially the opera. He enjoys riding horses on Mt. Diablo with his partner of 25 years, Manfred Kollmeier. He happily noted that the Hampshire College president's home includes a stable, but that when he moves his horses to the East Coast, he "will have to invest in horse blankets!"
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Hexter holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Yale University, a B.A. and M.A. from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and an A.B. from Harvard College. Prior to joining the UC Berkeley faculty in 1995, he was professor of classics and comparative literature and director of the graduate program in comparative literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His first faculty appointment was at Yale, where he taught for a decade and was director of undergraduate studies in the humanities major, also serving for one year as acting associate dean of the graduate school.
Hexter is the author of three books on medieval and ancient literature: "Equivocal Oaths and Ordeals in Medieval Literature" (1975); "Ovid and Medieval Schooling: Studies in Medieval School Commentaries on Ovid's Ars Amatoria, Epistulae ex Ponto and Epistulae Heroidum" (1986); and "A Guide to the Odyssey: A Commentary on the English Translation of Robert Fitzgerald" (1993). He is co-editor, with Daniel Selden, of "Innovations of Antiquity" (1992). He has published widely, with articles on Vergil, Horace, Goethe, Verdi and a variety of topics in Medieval Latin in such journals as Modern Language Notes, Helios, Classical Philology, Yale Journal of Criticism and Cambridge Opera Journal.
He has been a visiting lecturer at the Folger Institute in Washington, D.C., and a fellow of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. A grant from the German government supported his dissertation research on medieval Ovid commentaries in Munich for two years.
Four years ago at UC Berkeley, Carol T. Christ, a professor of English and former executive vice chancellor and provost, as well as a dean of the humanities, left to become president of Smith College, a leading liberal arts college for women. It is located in Northampton, not far from Amherst.