Fifty years ago, the position of university president was viewed in the US as the pinnacle of the academy and the capstone of an individual’s career. It came with a grace-and-favour home, working hours considered to verge on the leisurely and a certain sense of standing and prestige. It was not uncommon for a man to stay in the position for 15 years or more.
I say man because they were nearly always men – white, married, Protestant men who were invariably affable, intellectually curious, willing to spectate at college sports games and comfortable asking alumni for gifts and bequests. Almost all came through the ranks of the professoriate, often at the institution they went on to lead.