Moving in with President Bettison-Varga

Moving into Revelle House

All but one of Scripps’ eight presidents have lived in Revelle House, designed by Gordon Kaufmann and built in 1939. The exception is Fritz Weis (2007-2009); in addition, Mary Kimberley Shirk (acting president from 1942-43) lived off campus. Nancy Bekavac lived in the house from 1990-2000 and relocated to a Scripps-owned house on College Avenue during the last years of her presidency. The “President’s House” was renamed, in 2000, in honor of Ellen Clark Revelle ’31, the late emerita trustee, and used for several years by Alumnae Relations.

A long orange van pulled up to Revelle House the morning of August 5 and soon produced a stream of items: several bikes, a guitar case, tables, dressers, mattresses, and boxes — endless boxes.

Lori Bettison-Varga, Scripps’ new president, had arrived. And for the first time in decades, the house was home to a young family.

They were all there to check out their rooms and unpack, fortified by pizza from the Village: husband Bob, and their children, Matt (19, a sophomore at the College of Wooster), Will (16), and Lexie (11). Keo, the 100-lb. yellow lab, was already on the lawn making friends with whomever walked by.

We asked President Bettison-Varga a few questions about her move-in and what she’s looking forward to as she begins her presidency.

Why did you and your family decide to live in Revelle House?

I am excited about the opportunity to live on campus because it provides a unique connection to the students, staff, and faculty that we would not have from a home off campus. What better way to be immediately integrated into the life of the College? Revelle has a lovely setting, which we believe will provide us with the privacy we need as a family as well as the close connection to campus that I desire as I begin my presidency. Best of both worlds, perhaps? But, we are not naïve….We’ve certainly heard plenty about the Thursday p.m. social events that might result in a bit of, shall we say, delightful background noise?

What do your kids think about their new home? Have they lived on a college campus before?

This is a first for them! But, you’ll have to ask them what they think…and then check back with them a few months from now!

[Lexie reports she likes Claremont, her school, the Tiernan swimming pool, and her room, especially since it is attached to her own separate bathroom. “This is our last move, I hope,” she says.]

Your mother, Barbara Yunker Bettison ’54, will be nearby. How does she feel about returning to Claremont?

My mother is thrilled to be back in California, but particularly excited about living in Claremont. She never imagined she would be moving back so close to Scripps and have her daughter be president of her alma mater. She has wonderful memories of her time at Scripps, and no doubt she will enjoy sharing them with anyone interested in hearing stories of Scripps in the early ’50s.

What do you look forward to doing as president that you didn’t have the opportunity to do in former positions?

I look forward to promoting the institution at every opportunity — with friends, alumnae, parents, prospective students, the external communities of higher education, and beyond; telling Scripps’ story — talking about the fabulous students, the achievements and dedication of our faculty, and the success stories of our alumnae — and working with all constituents to enhance Scripps’ excellence.

What do you want to focus on this year? Any immediate goals?

We do have some central questions to address this year: How can we build on the ideas faculty, staff, and trustees have generated to develop a Center for Women/Women’s Leadership that best reflects the mission of the College? How do we strategically position the College in this economy, and what will it take to move Scripps to the next level? These are just a few of the questions that I’m thinking about, but I have a lot of listening to do in the months ahead to shape a vision for Scripps that will resonate with the aspirations of alumnae, faculty, staff, and students.

How is the economy affecting what you’d like to do?

Scripps is in the enviable position of being financially quite healthy, in large part through the generosity of strategic donations to support faculty recruitment and retention and the James E. Scripps Scholars program. While we are certainly aware of the need to be sensitive to our expenditures — using common sense to guide us as we move forward in this unpredictable economy — we are not in the situation that many colleges are today, making cuts that ultimately impact academic programs and college life. Scripps has always been on the lean side and has not undergone rapid expansion, which is certainly serving us well right now!

What program on campus excites you the most? How might you be involved?

I have to say that I am most excited about how well the curriculum holds together. From the intellectual community generated by the common first-year experience to the early research activities in Core 3 to the capstone thesis — this is a curriculum designed to encourage creativity, risk-taking, selfauthorship, and confidence. The Scripps students I have met are amazing — articulate, composed, confident, integrative thinkers.

Are you going to go to Core lectures? If so, any particular ones?

My goal is to attend as many Core lectures as possible!

What exactly does the president do?

A president’s primary goals are to continue improving the College, provide new opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, and protect and enhance the financial strength of the institution for the benefit of future students, faculty, and staff. While a president sets an agenda and leads the College, he/she does so through collaboration with many constituencies; so much of the job is about establishing strong working relationships with trustees, faculty, students, and staff and being a tireless advocate for the College, fostering the interest and support of alumnae and friends (new and old).

So, what does a president do to carry out this agenda? Meet with a lot of people! Make presentations in local, regional, and national venues about Scripps; represent Scripps at events; work with senior staff to implement strategic goals; take a prominent role in fundraising; serve as an advocate of a liberal arts education.

Any surprises about Scripps so far?

I am simply overwhelmed by the generosity of time and energy shown to all of us by the members of the Scripps community. It is certainly not a surprise to find Scripps so welcoming, but it is greatly appreciated nonetheless!


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