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Dr. B. Joseph White stands at the podium to deliver his inauguration remarks
Photo by Tom Kates

Good afternoon. 

I come today to heap praise on Brent Chrite and his wonderful wife, Phyllis, and to express my admiration for your university. You as a Bentley community, and Brent and Phyllis, are so fortunate to have found each other.   

I’ve never known a finer man than Brent. My wife, Mary, and I have never known a more committed couple than Brent and Phyllis. Mary and I developed our private measure for character and commitment when, as young parents, we would ask each other: “If we were out of the picture, would we entrust our children to them?” In the early 1990s, Brent and I began working together and we first met Phyllis, our answer was a resounding, “Yes!” It still is — but now they would be entrusted with our grandchildren. 

How is this relevant to the installation of your new president? Very simply. The university president has a lot of jobs: setting direction, raising money, being chief HR person for the faculty — but those are not the most important jobs. The most important job is creating an environment in which young adults, with the guidance of faculty, can learn, develop and thrive. Find their way. Nail down their values. Experience achievement. Overcome adversity. Prepare for the future. 

I think Brent would be the first to say that this is already the environment at Bentley. And he would say that maintaining and improving it is not his job alone, but a team effort. And it is. But leadership really matters. And Brent will deliver that leadership — firm and friendly, with clarity and consensus, through diligence and deliberation. And all the time, invisibly to us, Phyllis’s love and support will help keep him grounded, energetic, resilient. 

The university president has a lot of jobs; the most important job is creating an environment in which young adults, with the guidance of faculty, can learn, develop and thrive.
B. Joseph White
President Emeritus, University of Illinois

How do I know? Because I have seen Brent lead effectively, over and over again, for 30 years. Here’s just one story. In the mid-1990s, I was dean of the Ross School at Michigan. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, we were sending students to have amazing professional experiences all over the former Communist world in what we call the emerging market economies. Some of our students wanted to work in Africa. But we had no partners, no connections, no knowledge to make it happen. So, even though it had nothing to do with his job, I asked Brent if he would take the lead. He agreed and headed off to southern Africa. When Mary and I visited a few months later, we saw our students having the best experience with the best partners of any of our students in the world. And by the way, when we visited, we also had the opportunity, through Brent's efforts, to have an unforgettable meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town when he took a break from chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; a couple days later, we had an incredible breakfast with Sam Nujoma, the first president of an independent Namibia. I still don’t know how Brent arranged those meetings!  

Brent was about 30 when he did this. Since then, he has delivered the same great leadership as a managing director, dean, and most recently, university president.  

Here is what you can count on with Brent as your president: 

Integrity. Brent is honest, candid, makes commitments carefully and keeps them faithfully.

Courage. Being a university president is not for the faint of heart. But having worked in some very tough places including Afghanistan, parts of Africa and Ukraine, Brent won’t be shrinking from hard stuff here any time soon.  

Compassion. Brent told me in a phone call recently how strongly he feels for and about the people with whom he worked in Afghanistan and Ukraine and how he is trying to help. And Brent is compassionate with everyone. He knows that having some privilege doesn’t mean being pain-free.   

Commitment. In everything from his marriage and family to his work, Brent is all in. Believe me, he’s all in on Bentley.   

Change. No frivolous change but, rather, good change, needed change, wise change. Brent understands that if an institution is sitting still, it is stagnating. Brent will be straight with you about what change he thinks is needed, he will consult widely and listen carefully, and work harder than anybody in leading change. Rest assured, such change will benefit current and future generations of Bentley students, faculty, staff, and alumni.   

Brent and Bentley. Brent, Phyllis, and Bentley. It is going to be good. Very, very good! 

Thank you.  

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