Watch Dunlap's spellbinding presentation at the 2007 TED Conference.
Benjamin B. “Bernie” Dunlap
HAILS FROM: Columbia
CURRENT OCCUPATION: President, Wofford College
CLAIMS TO FAME: Rhodes Scholar, college football player, ballet dancer, screenwriter, producer, SCETV on-air personality, novelist, poet and professor of the humanities—just to name a few.
What will Bernie Dunlap do next?
Those who know the charismatic president of Wofford College can be certain of only one thing—it won’t be boring.
The Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar and quintessential Renaissance man steps down from his administrative post on June 30 for a year-long sabbatical, then it’s back to a teaching position at the Spartanburg school he’s led since July 2000.
“Honestly, the classroom is my natural habitat, so I’m like an amphibian who’s returning home, just kind of crawling back into the sea,” he says.
But don’t be surprised if the 75-year-old Dunlap takes up a new endeavor or three in the interim. After all, he’s already been a college football player (at Suwanee, the University of the South), ballet dancer (principal soloist with the Columbia City Ballet), the writer of Emmy-nominated television scripts, a highly respected on-camera personality at SCETV and a seminar leader for the renowned Aspen Institute.
His notable academic career includes stints as a Fulbright lecturer in Thailand and 25 years as an award-winning professor at the University of South Carolina before becoming Wofford’s 10th president. During his tenure, the Upstate school has enjoyed a renaissance of its own in the form of new academic programs and faculty positions, growing student enrollment and record-setting donations, but Dunlap is quick to share credit with his employees.
“It’s all a collaborative effort,” he says. “It’s like writing a script. You are very much dependent on the people who will perform it.”
While he leaves an indelible mark at Wofford, Dunlap says he didn’t accomplish all he set out to do, “but if you can’t get it all done in 13 years, it’s time to move on.”
And, he says, “As I told the faculty, if I’m ever going to take up Australian-rules football, now is the time.”