George Bridges named president of The Evergreen State College

George Bridges has been selected as the next president of The Evergreen State College.

The Olympia-based college’s board of trustees made it official Monday. Bridges will replace outgoing president Thomas “Les” Purce, who announced he will retire in August 2015 after nearly 15 years at the helm.

Bridges is the current president of Whitman College in Walla Walla. He is slated to start at Evergreen on Oct. 1.

“I’m excited about the opportunities we have to take a really phenomenal liberal arts college and move it forward,” Bridges told The Olympian at a reception Monday.

Bridges said he plans to work with the Legislature on a variety of issues including funding.

Before becoming Whitman’s president in 2005, Bridges previously served as dean and vice provost of undergraduate education at the University of Washington. He has a master’s degree in criminology and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Washington.

“We’re so fortunate to get him,” Purce told The Olympian. “He brings a wonderful combination of talent.”

The college conducted a nationwide search and received nearly 100 applicants, according to the board of trustees. Bridges was among four finalists. The board approved a base salary of $300,000 with $50,000 in deferred compensation.

Bridges’ departure from Whitman — a private liberal arts college with about 1,500 students — will come near the end of a 10-year campaign to raise $150 million for the college’s endowment. Kathy Murray will take over as president of Whitman in July.

Evergreen board members say Bridges can help bolster the finances for the public liberal arts college, which has about 4,200 students.

“Having someone with George’s credentials and experience in fundraising will be a huge asset to the college,” board of trustees member Gretchen Sorensen said Monday.

Not everyone in the Evergreen community supported the selection. Earlier this month, student newspaper The Cooper Point Journal endorsed candidate Luis Pedraja, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Antioch University Los Angeles.

The endorsement acknowledged that Bridges looked like the best candidate on paper. However, the endorsement praised Pedraja’s enthusiasm for liberal arts education and said he was the best candidate to help Evergreen “reach its full potential as a transformative and empowering institution.”

“One can imagine that for Bridges, this is an opportunity to do something ambitious, after a decade at the helm of a rather straight-forward institution,” the endorsement stated. “For George Bridges, Evergreen would be a nice next line on his résumé, but Pedraja would be a choice that goes back to our radical roots.”

Bridges said he wants to increase connections between alumni and the college.

“I’m really interested in the relationship between Evergreen and Olympia and learning more about that relationship. I’m hoping we can forge an even stronger relationship,” he told The Olympian. “It’s a wonderful campus and the students are great, and the faculty is so dedicated.”