Jim Hartman's Remarks & Dr. Rose's Letter on the Announcement of a New President

Thank you for joining us today, for what is truly a historic milestone in the life of the university. 

In the past 103 years, James Madison University has been led by only five presidents.  Considering the higher education landscape, this is indeed an extraordinary occurrence. We have enjoyed the continuity afforded by individuals who have governed and made decisions for the institution with the long-term interests of the university in mind.  Most recently of course, this trend of unparalleled tenure was furthered by Dr. Linwood H. Rose, who after 14 years in office will conclude his service as president.  In doing so, Dr. Rose leaves behind a legacy of unwavering commitment to a student-centered institution, one dedicated to excellence and steadfast in its pursuit of our vision to be the leading public comprehensive university in the nation.  On behalf of the Board of Visitors I would once again like to commend Dr. Rose for his lasting contributions to the advancement of James Madison University.

It was in January, that we set out to find the sixth president of the university and in doing so sought input to develop a list of desired attributes.  We provided an open invitation to all faculty and staff and received over 250 substantive and thoughtful responses. After receiving valuable perspectives from these faculty and staff, as well as from senior administration, search committee members, and board members, we engaged in extensive reflection on those personal attributes.  As a result, we generated the following list of desirable characteristics. 

First, as we move into a 2nd Century filled with new challenges and opportunities, we sought a visionary leader who is an articulate communicator.  We wanted a promoter of collaboration and a consensus builder who is thoughtful and open-minded but also decisive.   We looked for an individual with a sincere commitment to diversity and appreciation for the richness it can bring to the campus-learning environment.  Further, we felt the ideal candidate should be a respected authority at the forefront of his or her academic discipline, and an experienced administrator, who is both fiscally minded and responsible.  Recognizing the steady decline of public funding, we sought a leader who is politically astute, capable of advocating for higher education and well suited to represent the university with our partners in both state and federal government.

We sought an individual who possesses unwavering integrity, strong interpersonal skills and charisma needed to build productive relationships on behalf of the university.   Someone who values constituent relations and demonstrates an ability to engage groups both internally and externally.

Most of all, we desired a leader who values our student-centered focus, emphasis on teaching and is committed to the full development of the individual.  We felt we needed someone with an appreciation for the historical strengths of the university and one willing to invest time to understand our distinct institutional culture before building for the future. 

Early on, it became clear to us that James Madison has become a university that many highly qualified individuals aspired to lead.  We received hundreds of nominations and inquiries, and over 75 applications from what we considered qualified candidates, including a number of sitting presidents.  We engaged in months of rigorous review, referencing, and interviewing.

Today in Jonathan Alger we feel we have found the individual who best encompasses such traits and is well positioned to lead our university into the next century.

Jonathan Alger is Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.  Rutgers is a comprehensive public research university with an enrollment of more than 58,000 students on its three campuses and in 28 degree-granting schools and colleges, over 13,000 faculty and staff, with an annual operating budget greater than $2 billion.  At Rutgers, Mr. Alger is a member of the President’s leadership team, manages all legal affairs, oversees University-wide compliance efforts, and even makes time to teach courses for first-year and upper-class students.  On a daily basis, Jon provides strategic leadership for the University, advises the University’s governing boards and committees, and interacts with government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. 

What we found incredible was the breadth and depth of Jon’s knowledge across issues and matters of policy affecting universities.

Mr. Alger is a nationally recognized scholar and speaker on higher education policy and law and has given hundreds of presentations across the U.S. 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, and academic freedom.  He has published numerous articles and has done significant editorial work for scholarly journals. 

Jon earned his Bachelors degree with High Honors and Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College where he majored in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and minored in History.  He earned his Juris Doctorate with Honors from Harvard Law School. 

Jon is clearly a leader within his legal discipline.  He is currently President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of College and University Attorneys.  He sits on the American Bar Association’s Accreditation Committee (which oversees the accreditation of the nation’s law schools), and has served on several accreditation site visit teams.  He serves as a public member of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health, which provides advice and oversight on grant applications to support biomedical research and research training activities. 

Jon Alger is a champion for diversity.  As Assistant General Counsel for the University of Michigan, he worked actively on the university and Amicus briefings to the Supreme Court, and he has served on national advisory boards for the Association of American Universities; the College Board Access and Diversity Collaborative; American Association for the Advancement of Science Diversity Project, which focuses on the pipeline in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines; and also the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Valuing Diversity initiative, which is aimed at health disparities and diversification of the health professions.

Jon is also an avid supporter of intercollegiate athletics as well as an active participant and advocate for the Arts, and his family shares his passion in this regard.

In fact, Jon is joined today by his wife, Mary Ann, and his thirteen year-old daughter, Eleanor.   I would ask that they stand and that you join me in giving them a warm welcome to James Madison University and to our community here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Let me sum my comments by stating that Jon was attracted to the same aspects of our student-centered university that we all cherish as members of the university community.  He realizes that James Madison University has formulated a special chemistry over the decades, featuring some of the best aspects of a small liberal arts institution combined with the powerful reach of a growing public comprehensive institution with budding STEM disciplines, distinguished graduate programs and areas of research excellence.  He knows that JMU has an important role to play in the future of higher education, and he values its commitment to engagement and its mastery of the student experience as central to its identity.

It is for these reasons that Mr. Alger has been embraced by the search committee and has earned the unanimous consent of the Board of Visitors.

At this time it is my pleasure to welcome the sixth president of James Madison University to the stage, Mr. Jonathan R. Alger.

Closing Remarks

This search has been thorough and exhaustive.  There are a number of individuals who have invested themselves to ensure that our search process was conducted with integrity and that it ultimately yielded a successful outcome.

First, I would like to commend our Presidential Search Committee. This was a special group of eleven individuals who dedicated themselves to representing the important blend of perspectives of the institution’s key constituencies.  Together they represented faculty, students, administrators, alumni, parents, the foundation, the Harrisonburg community, and of course the Board of Visitors.  Our search firm and candidates commented on the extraordinary quality of work invested by members of the search committee.  Some commented that the Search Committee made this position more attractive.  You should be proud of their commitment and the manner in which they represented the university.  I want to particularly recognize Mr. Joe Damico, member of the class of 1976, who served on the Board of Visitors from 2003 to 2011, two years of which he held the position of Rector.  As the search committee chair, Joe has yet again provided distinguished service to his alma mater. We are forever indebted to him for the leadership and time he committed to his assignment.  At this time, I would ask that the Search Committee please stand to be recognized.  Please join me in giving them a round of applause.

This event marks the conclusion of the Search Committee’s work and the special committee to the Board of Visitors is now formally dissolved.

I would also like to thank the Board of Visitors for its flexibility and sacrifice outside of scheduled meetings to review and ultimately select the individual best suited to succeed President Rose.  This will be the most important decision that members of the Board will make during their appointment.

While he is not able to be in attendance today, I would also like to thank Mr. Ron Forehand, our liaison with the office of the Attorney General for his valuable counsel throughout these past 11 months.  And I would like to thank Jan Greenwood and Julie Holley from Greenwood Asher & Associates our search firm.  This was a team effort and our search firm consultants were valuable members of that team.

At this time, I would like to read a Letter of greeting from Dr. Rose.

Dear Jon,

It is my great pleasure to join with others in the Forbes Center today to welcome you as the sixth president of James Madison University. It is an exclusive club, if not by accomplishment, at least by its short list of members! You will find, as I have, that this is a special place to be. I recall stating upon my selection some thirteen and one-half years ago that there is no better presidency in America and I still feel that way. What you now feel as respect and admiration for an accomplished institution will surely, over the years, give way to love and affection.

In this year, my last as Madison’s president, I serve as chair of the Council of Presidents, and those duties call me to Richmond today. No doubt, in due time, you will also share this leadership role. While I regret missing this happy day in your life, and that of Mary Ann’s and Eleanor’s, make no mistake, this is your day. Enjoy it and soak it in. I am confident that you and your family will immediately feel the warm embrace of this University and you will come to appreciate the beauty of the Valley and its people. Judith and I, along with our boys, have only known support, encouragement, and goodwill from this community. You will come to know those feelings.

The Visitors of the Board will encourage you and some of their number will become your personal friends and confidants. The faculty will give you strength and reason to pursue excellence. The students will inspire you and energize you on a daily basis. The staff will secure the satisfaction of those they serve and you will marvel at their dedication to mission. The JMU Nation of alumni, supporters and friends will remind you to respect our culture, for it has shaped what we have become; all the while knowing that it is also the platform for an even brighter future.

You have a noble task. As Mr. Madison said, “A well-instructed people alone, can be a permanently free people.” You should rest easy knowing that you have the weight of the very existence of a free people on your shoulders.

We all look forward to your leadership and the application of your special talents, interests and abilities. Judith and I stand ready to support and assist wherever and whenever we may be helpful. Best wishes to you and the Alger family on this special day in your lives and the life of James Madison University.

With warm regards,

Linwood H. Rose


James Madison University

This concludes our formal announcement.