April 3, 2024

A tribute to Anne Houtman

When William H. McRaven left as chancellor of the University of Texas System in 2018, the former Navy Admiral famously stated, “The toughest job in the nation is the one of an academic- or health-institution president.” 

He was right. And he didn’t even have to steer his institution through a global pandemic, a national racial reckoning and several foreign wars that hit painfully close to home. 

Anne Houtman did. And Earlham’s first woman president did it with grace, courage and compassion. 

When she began her tenure as Earlham’s 20th president, it was a tumultuous time for the college.

Anne took on the unenviable task of making difficult financial decisions, including a reduction of staff, in order to secure the college’s future. During the pandemic, she maintained Earlham’s commitment to in-person living and learning and provided steady direction during great uncertainty. And during the Richmond fire emergency, a situation outside of her control and rife with uncertainty, Anne prioritized the health and safety of our students. 

“Anne is leaving Earlham College in a better place than she found it, with a solid and clearly articulated plan for the future.” 

Thomas Thornburg ’84, Chair, Earlham College Board of Trustees

Her hand proved just as steady during prosperous times. Anne fostered the full launch of the Epic Journey, which provides wonderful career-discerning opportunities for students, distinguishes us from other colleges and emphatically underscores the value of an Earlham education. 

She worked with faculty to launch new majors and championed the development of new athletics programs. She oversaw the most ambitious fundraising effort in the college’s history, the For Good campaign. 

The campaign was on track to exceed its $85 million goal even without the landmark $25 million grant that Earlham received from Lilly Endowment Inc., in late 2023. Anne and her team collaborated with the community to spur the Revitalize Richmond initiative, and their proposal was awarded a grant that will ignite a renaissance in Earlham’s hometown. Under Anne’s guidance, the college has created an ambitious plan for enrollment growth, and we are starting to see results from that plan. 

Anne is leaving Earlham College in a better place than she found it, with a solid and clearly articulated plan for the future. 

On behalf of the Earlham Board of Trustees, I express great gratitude to Anne, her husband, Will, and her family for their remarkable work in service of Earlham. 

Anne: Thank you for rising to the challenge of the toughest job in the nation. For not backing down. For moving this great college forward — for now, and for good. 

Thomas H. Thornburg ’84
Chair, Earlham Board of Trustees 

Support Earlhamites Outside the Box ad with Robert Lemon on his Epic Advantage. Go to earlham.edu/givetoday to give to the Earlham Fund.
For Good.
Spark good—
For Good.