The era of Dr. Stephen A. Gould ends

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The era of Dr. Stephen A. Gould ends

Danny Spatchek

Lakeland's president, Dr. Stephen Gould, will retire from the college after 42 years.

Danny Spatchek, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Stephen Gould, Lakeland College’s president since 1998 and one of its top administrators for much of his four decades-plus career whose cumulative contribution to the college is considered among the greatest of any single man in the institution’s history, will retire in May.

Gould announced he would retire in 2010 after his kidneys failed and his doctor told him he didn’t have much longer to live.

“I needed to retire so that the college wouldn’t be without leadership, and it takes a while to find a new president,” he said.

He eventually got a transplant. He remained president for another year, after the college failed to find a replacement for him in the first year of searching.

Gould began his 42-year career at Lakeland as an Instructor of German in 1970. He immediately gained the respect of his colleagues and rose through the faculty ranks, until in 1979 he crossed into administration when he agreed to take over an infant program with 100 students in which adults would attend classes during the evenings. By 1990, its students numbered 1,700. A decade later he was assigned to start a campus in Japan, another chancy endeavor which nearly 50 other American colleges would try but fail to do. Lakeland and one other school are the only two that tried and succeeded. And in 1998, Dr. Gould became President Gould, and his touch only continued to yield gold as he increased the main campus’ enrollment by nearly 300 students, tripled the endowment, built six buildings (Laun, Kurtz, Wehr Expansion, Brotz, South, and Deland Child Care Center) and the front entrance, and renovated two more buildings (Nash and Chase).

“Someday there will be a new history of Lakeland College,” said Instructor of General Studies and Chinese David Lynch. “There will be all sorts of names of people that you know and that I know that deserve all sorts of credit for what they’ve done, and among many others, I’d say that Dr. Gould deserves his own chapter.”

“He was a critical key man in a key situation for Lakeland in the same way George Washington and Lincoln were for the United States during their times,” Vice President for Finance Joe Botana said. “Steve was in that type of role for Lakeland in his time, and he executed that role consistently in a magnificent way.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the history of the college who has made a more positive impact on the direction of the college and the sustainability of the college than Steve Gould,” General Studies Division Chair and Professor of Writing Jeff Elzinga said. “I’d be willing to bet that that’s the case if you go back 150 years.”


After graduating from Wabash College in Indiana with bachelor’s degrees in German and English, and then from the University of Nebraska with a master’s degree in comparative literature, and doing all of his doctorate work but his dissertation for a degree in German and Slavic languages at Nebraska, the first place that offered Gould a job was Lakeland College. He took it, and arrived at Lakeland in 1970.

He taught German and the equivalent of core classes. Among his students were three who now teach at Lakeland – Lynch, Associate Professor of English Lucretia Crawford, and Associate Professor of German and Music Martin Ulrich. All three reported being intimidated by either Gould or his coursework.

Lynch had his only course with Gould when he was a freshman. He remembers very much wanting to prove he belonged in the class, but feeling unnerved when he saw an Icelandic Saga – “Gisli’s Saga” – on the reading list.

“‘Where am I going to go with this?’” Lynch remembered thinking. “There was no background I could have had to prepare me to handle that. I’d read Hemingway before. That’s fine. “The Saga of Gisli?” Then I thought, ‘He knows Icelandic? I’m a crappy English speaker. He knows Icelandic? Daaaaamn.’ That added to the awe factor.”

Crawford remembers the exact room in which she got her first impression of Gould: Old Main 12. There was a sign on the wall in Old Main 12: NO SMOKING. She said when Gould walked into class he saw the sign, threw it out the window, and proceeded to light his pipe.

“We were pretty intimidated by this guy who comes in and thinks he can throw rules out the window,” Crawford said. “But I eventually realized that part of the reason he was using the pipe in class was to give us time to think. He would ask us difficult questions and take a puff of his pipe while we figured out our thoughts.”

Gould taught full-time until 1979. During that time, he helped to develop the Core curriculum, co-wrote a grant application for the national endowment for the humanities that funded the beginning of that curriculum, arranged sister school relationships with at least two colleges in Germany, finished his dissertation and was awarded his Ph. D. in Germanic and Slavic languages, was awarded tenure, and became a division chair, among other things.

He also developed, according to Lucretia Crawford, a reverence for Lakeland’s history.

“I knew four days after I started here that he was devoted to the college,” she said. “It would come through in the way he talked about the history of the college. In these casual moments, after class time, he was willing to talk about John Moreland and Arthur Krueger and the things that happened on this campus earlier. I was totally impressed that he knew that. That’s where I could see his respect for what had happened here at Lakeland.”


Time and money. That is what Gould said the college needed in the late 70s and early 80s.

Enrollment had dwindled. One semester Lakeland had fewer than 400 students – too few to sustain its finances, much less improve its facilities with.

Then something happened that history will see as somewhat ironic. The program that would provide adults courses at night, Lifelong Learning (now the Kellett School), was proposed, and Gould voted against it.

“There was a feeling in the faculty that if we started doing something like this there would be even fewer resources available for the day program,” Gould said.

Then, he was asked to lead it.

“I decided to do it. I was worried that if that project wasn’t successful, the college might not be successful. I want to have my fate in my own hands. I’m that sort of person. I’d prefer to have the ball in my hands and miss than sit on the bench and criticize the guy who missed the last shot.”

When Gould took over, the program consisted of four employees – a secretary, two recruiters, and Gould. Of course, its enrollment and earnings exploded. In the first decade, its 100 students had turned into 1,700, it became a million dollar business, and may have saved the college.

In 1991, then-President David Black asked him to start a campus in Japan, to again, as Gould puts it, “make an idea real.” This time he had a few Japanese staff members and a building. He did things like hire faculty, implant curriculum, and see to it that the school was accredited. He also negotiated with Japanese lawmakers to change a variety of the country’s curriculum policies, basically fighting so that Japanese students studying at American colleges in Japan could receive student privileges.

Ulrich, who taught with Gould for several years at LCJ, said Gould consistently handled complicated negotiations – negotiations which were made even more complicated by a distinctly anti-Western business culture – with great discernment.

“He is a man who is very perceptive about not only what is needed in regard to institutional growth and sustainability, but in personalities: when sunny optimism is well-founded and when sunny optimism is covering up for some problem within the organization. I think he’s extremely perceptive about things like that, being able to discern between actions and motivations,” Ulrich said.

Gould explained why he agreed to start Japan’s campus (after he started it in 1990 he was its provost and dean until 1994) and to do the other administrative jobs that took him away from teaching.

“By then I had developed sort of a pattern,” Gould said. “I was willing to do the jobs that presidents and boards asked me to do, if they could convince me that it was an important job to do.

“I’d fallen in love with Lakeland. I don’t know exactly when it happened. It had ceased to be a job for me. I thought the college had an extraordinarily noble mission and I thought that its atmosphere or its culture was so unique among institutions of higher education that I wanted it to be successful even if it wasn’t particularly comfortable for me, or even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, or, in some cases, wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. So when I was convinced that the job I was being offered was potentially a game-changer for the institution, I was willing to do it, even if it wasn’t, from a career point of view, the direction that I wanted to go.”


The total reach of Gould’s work at Lakeland before he became president is unknowable, but must be great. It allowed people to rise in their professions and learn in other lands and become whoever they wanted to be. A woman from the Kellett program rises at her workplace, say, and suddenly is able to open doors for her children, who are then able to open doors for themselves and whomever else they wish, and so on and so on with thousands of other people.

Gould continued his work of this scope when he became president in 1998, dramatically improving from then to now Lakeland’s endowment (from $4 million to $12 million today), facilities (six buildings built, two renovated), main campus enrollment (from 650 to 900 students), and instituting online education and an innovative program called BlendEd, which allows students to decide whether they want to attend classes in classrooms or online.

Gould’s leadership in accomplishing these types of things ensured Lakeland’s financial and organizational sustainability, and that may be his legacy. His human qualities that shone in instances that had nothing to do with those two things – his humility, his commitment to the liberal arts, his care for seemingly every person he happened upon on campus – endear him to the Lakeland community now.

And in Dr. Stephen Gould’s leadership of Lakeland College, there was a kind of balance, according to Ulrich.

“One of the things that I think is really interesting about Steve is this combination of a very competent administrative mind and a philosophical and literary mind,” Ulrich said. “That’s what I think has made him so interesting as a president and as a leader in a college is that he, as much or moreso than anybody in college administration that I’ve seen, has a feel for the humanities, the creative mind, psychology of literature and human motivation, and what needs to be done organizationally, financially, structurally, in an institution. That’s a remarkable combination.”

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