College administrator and academic Jonathan Veitch has proven that it is possible to not only come home again, but to improve it.
Veitch, the current president of Los Angeles’s liberal arts Occidental College is not only a Southern California native, but has strong ties to the area’s motion picture history. He is a step-grandson of film legend Alan Ladd, and his father served as a president of Columbia Picture’s world-wide productions. Veitch’s own venture into the film industry has been limited to a non-fiction book on Nathanael West, author of the bleak Hollywood novel Day Of The Locust.
As a student, Veitch attended southern California’s Loyola High School and received both his under-graduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University. He received a doctoral degree in History of American Civilization from Harvard University.
With areas of academic expertise focused on American film and literature, Veitch’s first teaching position was with the University of Wisconsin’s (Madison) English department. He moved on to New York City’s progressive university, the New School, where he taught literature and history, and served as chair of humanities and associate provost. He then served a five year term as dean of the New School’s Eugene Lang Liberal Arts College, expanding the school’s footprint in the metropolitan area. Veitch was considered both a successful fund raiser and student recruiter for Lang; its enrollment doubled during Veitch’s time at the helm.
In 2009, Veitch accepted the position as president of Occidental College. Prior to Veitch’s arrival, the school had been undergoing a rocky period. It was dealing with neighbors’ concerns about how its potential growth would affect their communities, and leadership issues. The college had four presidents between 2000-2009.
Veitch was sworn in as Occidental College’s president on October 24, 2009. In his inaugural address, Veitch stated that he felt that the college needed to refine its approach. His proposals suggested worrying less about expansion and enhancing what the school already had, such as its library system. He felt that greater emphasis needed to be placed on helping its students embrace digital technologies, and using the city of Los Angeles as a cultural resource. He also felt that the college needed to reach out more to and recruit the city’s minority students.
In his time here, Veitch succeeded in meeting a number of his initiatives, which included a successful fund raising campaign for the college. He also upgraded older school buildings, using eco-friendly technologies, and re-established community connections that had been lost due to perceived college leadership problems.
As a result, the college’s Board of Trustees recently unanimously voted to extend Veitch’s contract through 2020.