Drs. Dale and Linda Chapman
President and Dean for Academic Affairs
Lewis & Clark Community College
By Kevin Kipp
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would probably recognize the strengths of the relationship between Drs. Dale & Linda Chapman.
Like Lewis & Clark, Chapman & Chapman, nee Terrill, share core values. At the same time their skills and abilities have complemented one another’s across diverse circumstances...and a good portion of the continent.
He’s president of the 215-acre Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Ill. She’s the Dean for Academic Affairs.
His hometown is Walton, Ky., 25 miles south of Cincinnati. Her hometown, on Cape Ann in Massachusetts, is 25 miles north of Boston. They now live in Alton, Ill., which is 25 miles from St. Louis.
Both, he says, “share a commitment to the mission of community college education as the low-cost, quality producer of higher education, offering open admission.”
Chapman & Chapman met in graduate school at Harvard, each pursuing a doctorate. They married in 1981. They have worked together since.
He says she’s smarter.
She says, “We have different forms of intelligence.” (Fair enough: Clark was a better waterman than Lewis, Lewis a better taxonomist.)
He says, “It takes an average of seven years to finish a doctorate at Harvard. Linda finished hers in four years, during which time she also had our daughter.”
Dale, then, is apparently only an average Harvard Ph.D., since it took him the standard seven years.
She says, “Dale has entrepreneurial intelligence, a quality that is rarely assessed in educational institutions. The forms that my intelligence takes are precisely those that are assessed in educational institutions.”
During their time in Cambridge, they consulted for organizations like the College Board, the American Council on Education, and the Ford Foundation. They discovered they liked working on projects together.
“When you develop a strong personal relationship and have the same career interests, that becomes an all-pervasive life force,” Dale says. “And so I find that one side of the relationship reinforces the other. It’s a compelling way to go through life. In that sense, more is better.”
When Chapman & Chapman struck west for positions at Suomi Community College, they demonstrated one version of Undaunted Courage in facing a new frontier.
Cambridge, Mass., and Suomi, Mich., (on the remote Keweenaw Peninsula, an appendage of the bucolic Upper Peninsula) are as stark a contrast as soot and snow: In Cambridge, vehicles aim for bicyclists only when pedestrians present no target of opportunity. In Suomi, Dale Chapman says, “They get 275 inches of snow annually, and the nearest traffic light is 100 miles away.”
Their positions at Suomi Community College — unusual among community colleges for being both private (Lutheran) and residential — also illustrated the different abilities they bring to an institution.
Dr. “He” was the school’s CFO; Dr. “She” was the chief academic officer. They adopted similar roles when they moved to Lewis & Clark in 1988.
Dale started as the school’s Executive Vice President for administration, finance, and instruction; CFO; and Treasurer.
Almost makes president sound like a step down, but he accepted the job anyway, when the Board of Trustees offered it in 1992.
And how cozy is it working with one’s spouse of 18 years?
“Linda,” Dale says, “is one of nine members of the cabinet, and we rarely agree on anything. We take the most vigorous part in that group’s debates. But that’s fine. Intellectual rigor is what you respect in faculty members.”
Entrepreneurial intelligence meets domestic diplomacy. Linda offers specifics about those debates.
“I am much stronger on ideas of process for reaching decisions,” she says. “Given my position in the institution I have to be vigilant about pedagogy and curriculum. And so if we’re going to build a building I want to know the programmatic rationale for it.”
Dale also offered that before accepting their positions, he and Linda and the board understood that their performances would be evaluated separately.
“At this institution,” Linda says, “I’ve felt confident that the board sees I have a sphere of influence and responsibility that is different from Dale’s, yet overlapping. And they can see my performance as distinct from his, and yet enhancing.”
So far so good. Eleven years later, and Lewis & Clark — with an annual operating budget of roughly $20 million — is wrapping up $25 million in capital investments...with another $13 million expected in the next couple of years.
On the pedagogic side, longitudinal studies show that LCCC’s students perform as well or better (measured by grade point average) than the student bodies in aggregate at a variety of four-year institutions in Illinois.
Furthermore, the Illinois Community College Board bestowed on Lewis & Clark two Awards for Excellence: in Learning-Centered Instruction and in Workforce Preparation.
“That’s almost unheard of,” Dale says.
He attributes much of the college’s success to partnerships with corporations like Olin, Ameritech and IBM.
And then, there’s Chapman & Chapman.
Kevin Kipp is bubble-in-chief at Bubble Communications, a creative services and community relations firm in St. Charles.