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New president says Wabash College staying all-male

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Wabash College has no plans to change its all-male tradition of 181 years by starting to admit women, the Indiana institution's new president said.

Gregory Hess, who was inaugurated this month as president of the 900-student private liberal arts college in Crawfordsville, about 55 miles northwest of Indianapolis, said Wabash expects to remain one of three all-male colleges left in the country.

Hess told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette that stance isn't meant to limit the opportunities for women in higher education, pointing out that he has a daughter in college and another who is a high school senior.

"College participation rates, particularly for liberal arts colleges, are significantly lower for men. Completion rates, too," he said. "The same is true for high school. Wabash is the type of institution that is specifically designed to counteract these social trends."

The Wabash Board of Trustees in January hired Hess away from Claremont McKenna College in California, where he was vice president of academic affairs. Hess previously was an economics professor at several other colleges.

Hess replaced Patrick White, who stepped down after six years as Wabash's president.

The college's financial situation is improving; after its endowment plummeted from $390 million before the 2008 recession to $257 million, it has slowly bounced back to about $320 million as of this summer.

Hess said he is looking to increase cooperation with other colleges, such as an engineering degree program Wabash started with Purdue University in 2011. This year, Wabash signed an agreement with Indiana University's business school to formalize a program that will guide Wabash students through the prerequisites for admission to the IU master's program in accounting.

Richard Bowen, a Wabash music professor, said he was impressed with Hess and not surprised that the board picked a president with expertise in economics.

"Any institution, particularly private institutions, has to be concerned about their bottom line," Bowen said. "Prices keep going up, and it's not just as simple as 'We'll keep increasing tuition.'"

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