Photo by Bill Arsenault
Dixon Era Comes to Close
Since Rebecca Dixon arrived on campus 17 years ago, undergraduate applications have risen, selectivity has increased and the quality of entering undergraduate students has improved.
“Most importantly, her strong, ethical leadership has given Northwestern an unquestioned reputation for integrity and fairness in its admissions and financial aid processes,” University President Henry S. Bienen said of Dixon, the former associate provost for university enrollment, who retired in June.
Her successor agreed.
“The Office of Undergraduate Admission could be upheld as a benchmark of ethical conduct for other universities to follow. In the guidance and counseling communities, you hear this over and over,” says Michael E. Mills, the former director of admission at Miami University who in July was hired as associate provost for university enrollment following Dixon’s retirement.
Dixon, the first person to hold the associate provost position, was an agent for constructive, often dramatic, change in areas that include increased national and international interest in Northwestern and greater diversity in entering classes. “You want to think you’ve got something of a microcosm here of society,” Dixon says.
During a period of rising costs for higher education, Dixon has also been a forceful advocate for the need to fund undergraduate financial aid.
Dixon, who hails from Virginia and still speaks with a slight Southern drawl, says she’s enjoyed the egalitarian community at Northwestern.
“People don’t say, ‘Well what does your father do?’ and ‘Where did you go to college?’ They ask you what are you interested in. It’s more of the here and now rather than the pedigree,” Dixon says.
“We have lots of people coming to this building, coming to our big sessions on campus, and you know the parents have not been to college, and you can hear that English is the second language even of the students. And we think that’s fine. We like that variety.”
Dixon says she’ll miss the intellectual collegiality at Northwestern. A confessed workaholic, the retired Dixon says “to read books and bake cookies would not suffice,” so she is looking forward to expanding her volunteer work as a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation and for her church, Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago, and to continued service as a member of the board of trustees of her alma mater, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. — S.H.