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College Presidents who are not academics?

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Replies to: College Presidents who are not academics?

  • MAandMEmomMAandMEmom Registered User Posts: 1,381 Senior Member
    Working in higher education, I can easily say it’s happening more often. Let’s face it, colleges and universities are really businesses and a good president’s goal is to provide increased visibility and fundraising. The chief academic officer takes the lead on academic matters. UMass also has a politician again at the helm.
  • frazzled1frazzled1 Registered User Posts: 5,680 Senior Member
    @QuantMech - Dwight Eisenhower was president of Columbia University from 1948-1953. His brother Milton was indeed a college president, but of Kansas State, Penn State, and Johns Hopkins, not Columbia.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 5,401 Senior Member
    edited January 5
    Ken Starr was rewarded with the position of President of Pepperdine University for going after Pres. Clinton.

    I suspect that his appointment was a great decision with respect to fundraising for Pepperdine University. Plus, Pepperdine has a law school was could justify appointing a lawyer such as Ken Starr President of Pepperdine.
  • jrm815jrm815 Registered User Posts: 109 Junior Member
    While not quite as well known as some of the aforementioned college presidents, Mark Gearan did a superb job during his 17 year tenure as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Gearan replaced George Stephanopoulis as Bill Clinton's Director of Communications and then went on to be the Director of the Peace Corps before being named President at HWS. He moved on to be "President in Residence" at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. While at HWS Gearan strengthen the Colleges' finances, expanded/renovated buildings on campus, increased financial aid, and made significant commitments to diversity and inclusion. In addition, Gearan used his government connections to bring many high profile speakers to campus.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,765 Senior Member
    My only concern in these matters is faculty rebellion/respect. A lot of academics only respect other academics. If they don't cooperate with the president, that's a huge problem for the university. But for any school that can manage that issue, there's no reason a manager/fundraiser/politician can't do the job well.
  • MassmommMassmomm Registered User Posts: 3,700 Senior Member
    My chief worry is that these non-academics will fail to see the value of the humanities and will slash funding for these programs.
  • SwimmingDadSwimmingDad Registered User Posts: 783 Member
    Marty Meehan did a good job at Lowell. Seems to be doing a good job at UMass Amherst.
  • MWolfMWolf Registered User Posts: 197 Junior Member
    President Wilson was the president of Princeton before he was the president of the USA...

    In any case, the job of the President of a university is to schmooze, bring in money, and, if possible, set up some agenda that will, preferably, leave the university in better shape that it was when they came.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 716 Member
    edited January 5
    WPI had one admiral and two generals as presidents at different times. One Lt. General general also had a PhD in Physics. All three non-academics established solid reputations as University presidents. One of the less successful Presidents was a very highly regarded academic scientist. The current President has extensive background in NASA and academia.

    @Massmomm The Lt General was a West Poniter with a PhD in Physics and was impressed early on with the new program that was forming at Harvey Mudd as WPI was launching its new "plan." He was pushing very hard to discover how to get science/engineering students more involved in the humanities.

    I'm guessing it depends on the individual's organizational and leadership skills rather than extensive career exposure to academic administration. They also need to work with a good board of trustees.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 19,938 Senior Member
    Several schools have dropped majors in order to focus resources on more popular majors or to develop new majors, such as adding a new foreign language or computer science. It didn't make sense for Goucher to offer a full major in math or physics when there were 3-4 students graduating in those majors (not 10, and even 10 might not be worth it). If a student (or 3 or4) are interested in taking an advanced course they can go to Towson or Hopkins for that one class and still be a student at Goucher.

    Small schools can't offer everything and still do a good job. Both physics and math have courses that have to be taken in sequence and if the school can only offer the class once a year or even once every 2 years, it's going to take a long time for a math major to graduate if they get off sequence, especially with the study abroad requirement.

    But don't go to Goucher if you don't like what they offer. Easy.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,948 Senior Member
    edited January 6
    Started a new thread for the off-topic threads deleted by moderator (Goucher eliminating math and physics majors): https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/2119987-survival-of-a-wide-range-of-liberal-arts-at-small-non-elite-colleges.html
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
  • CorinthianCorinthian Registered User Posts: 1,771 Senior Member
    So, to bring it back to the specific incident that triggered my inquiry, would you be concerned about your kid going to a school that just hired a non-academic president? Or is it unlikely to impact the day-to-day life of the average student?
  • CCtoAlaskaCCtoAlaska Registered User Posts: 583 Member
    @Corinthian probably it will not impact the day to day life of the student but market forces might. I think it is smart to look into a college's finances before enrolling. IF the president was chosen as a last-ditch measure to reform the school and put it on better financial footing, that might be a red alarm that the school would be rumbling with faculty dissatisfaction and budget cuts. If it was just in keeping with the school's culture, size and focus, I don't think it would mean anything at all.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 73,185 Senior Member
    My kid knew the president of her college...actually two because there was a change during her undergrad years. She had conversations with him.

    My second kid never set eyes on the President of the university.

    As long as the person is a good leader, that’s what matters. For most students...this just won’t matter.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 19,938 Senior Member
    There are a lot of people running universities who are not academics. There are people elected to the board of Regents who are not academics. They are more concerned with the business side and paying the bills. Most departments handle their own hiring with President/Chancellor approval
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