Weller criticism unfair and contradictory

The editorial published March 22, "Mitchell's Wise Choice," spoke for many in greeting Janet Steinmayer, the new president of Mitchell College, and in acknowledging the accomplishments of Mary Ellen Jukoski during her presidency. I wish them both well.

The editorial criticized Robert C. Weller, who was president of Mitchell for 36 years, "far too long for a modern president." It remarks that the endowment was then "a piddling" $3 million.

It failed to refer to a Day editorial published Feb. 8, 1983 praising Dr. Weller and acknowledging that "Mitchell College exists today because of the tenacity with which Robert C. Weller, its president for 31 years, has pursued the course he set." When Weller arrived at Mitchell, there were 97 students and the budget was less than $100,000. According to that 1983 editorial, Mitchell then had 544 full-time and 366 part-time students and a budget of over $4 million.

Weller knew when he arrived what Mitchell was, but he had a clear idea of what it could and should be and he worked devotedly and tirelessly to help fulfill its potential. When Weller arrived, and for some time thereafter, there was turmoil on the campus. The college was not accredited and there were many who thought Mitchell should shut down. One of those was Alfred M. Bingham of the illustrious Bingham family. Bingham was chairman of the Board of Trustees. Weller disagreed with him and soon Bingham resigned. I have a copy of a letter from Bingham to Weller dated Aug. 29, 1993 in which the writer says he had recently visited the Mitchell campus. He found it "a splendid monument to your courage and leadership." He adds, "At this late date I am ready to acknowledge that 'just possibly' I was wrong."

Under Weller's leadership, Mitchell built most of the buildings now on campus and, more important, brought to Mitchell the brilliant, inspiring faculty, many of whom are still there, and a dedicated and effective administration that kept the campus running smoothly.

It seems to me that it was not necessary or desirable to denigrate Weller in order to acknowledge the accomplishments of Jukoski or greet Steinmayer.

Robert W. Marrion is a retired attorney living in Niantic. In the 1980s, two of his daugthers graduated from the two-year program previously offered at Mitchell College, before going on to obtain degrees from Connecticut College.

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