On July 1, 2012, Jonathan R. Alger became president of James Madison University, the sixth since the university’s founding in 1908. Alger’s appointment was announced by the JMU Board of Visitors on Nov. 28, 2011.
President Alger serves as JMU’s chief executive officer. In addition to ensuring the development and provision of high quality academic and student life programs, his leadership involves developing and articulating a shared vision and mission for the university, anticipating trends and issues affecting higher education, providing strategic institutional leadership and planning, and ensuring sound fiscal management. These responsibilities inform the president as he oversees an executive team and management structure to lead and manage education, student life, facilities and services, financial management, health and safety, planning, fundraising, constituent development and stewardship, and athletics.
Alger plays a very public role in the life of JMU, as he represents JMU to the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia, presides at university events, serves as the principal voice of the institution, participates in fundraising and stewards JMU’s many relationships. The new president conducted an extensive listening tour that took him around the country to hear from JMU’s alumni and friends.
Career Highlights and Achievements
Prior to becoming president of JMU, Alger was senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. As a member of the president’s leadership team, Alger managed all legal affairs, provided strategic leadership, oversaw compliance, worked with government officials, and played a critical role on major initiatives involving (among many issues) diversity, governance, biomedical education, administrative restructuring, athletics, compliance, ethics, campus safety and enrollment management.
Alger had previously served as assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan, counsel for the American Association of University Professors, attorney-advisor in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and as an associate in the Labor and Employment Section of the international law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. At the University of Michigan, Alger played a key leadership role in the university’s efforts in two landmark Supreme Court cases on diversity and admissions and coordinated one of the largest amicus brief coalitions in Supreme Court history. He has since advised universities nationwide on how to build and sustain diversity initiatives and programs. At the American Association of University Professors, Alger worked with faculty members from around the country in developing and advising institutions nationally on policies, procedures and cases on issues such as academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, due process and discrimination. At the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, he was the point person on the development and implementation of national policies involving race-conscious financial aid, racial harassment and free expression. He began his career by representing major Fortune 500 companies at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
Scholarship and Teaching
JMU’s president is a nationally recognized scholar and speaker on higher education policy and law and has given hundreds of presentations across the United States and abroad on a wide range of topics such as access and opportunity, diversity, student and faculty recruitment and retention, management of financial challenges, student organizations, shared governance, intellectual property, leadership, and academic freedom. He has published numerous articles and has done significant editorial work for scholarly journals. He currently co-teaches a seminar on leadership in the JMU Honors Program. At Rutgers and Michigan, he taught courses, seminars and independent studies in law, higher education and public policy, and served as a mentor and advisor to many students. He taught an honors course on higher education law for liberal arts undergraduates, as well as a seminar on diversity issues for first-year students. He has also taught interdisciplinary courses for graduate students in law, education, public policy and information.
Boards, Memberships and Service
Alger has been recognized as a leader by his peers nationally in many contexts. He currently serves on the Campus Compact Board of Directors, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities' Council of State Representatives, and the GENEDGE Alliance Board of Trustees (supporting innovation and growth in Virginia industries). He is past president of the Board of Directors of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, which named him a life member in 2013. He served on the Division I Board of Directors for the National Collegiate Athletic Association from 2014-16. He has also previously served on the American Bar Association’s Accreditation Committee (which oversees the accreditation of the nation’s law schools), and on several accreditation site visit teams. He has also been a public member of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health, which provides advice and oversight on grant applications to support biomedical research and research training activities. He has participated on national advisory boards for the Association of American Universities, College Board Access and Diversity Collaborative, American Association for the Advancement of Science Diversity Project (focused on the pipeline in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Valuing Diversity initiative (aimed at health disparities and diversification of the health professions), Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law, and the University of Vermont’s annual national conference on Legal Issues in Higher Education. He has chaired national conferences on diversity, discrimination, technology and academic freedom.
Personal History and Family
Alger was born and raised outside Rochester, N.Y. He received his B.A. with High Honors and Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College (political science major, history minor and public policy concentration), and his J.D. with Honors from Harvard Law School. His wife, Mary Ann, serves in many volunteer capacities at JMU and in the community and has a B.S. from Auburn University and an M.B.A. from the University of Miami. Her extensive business background includes experience with university technology commercialization and start-up companies. The Algers have a teenager named Eleanor (who was born in Virginia, where the Algers lived when they were first married), whose passions include reading, writing and music theater. The JMU president has sung with acclaimed choral groups that have toured internationally, made professional recordings and performed on national television. His other interests include travel, history, tennis, hiking and coin collecting. All three family members are avid college sports fans. The family is heavily involved in fundraising for charitable organizations and has been active in the community through school activities, church leadership and local theater.
Last updated: November 2016