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Ronald E. Carrier, JMU's fourth president

Ron Carrier primed and lit the powder keg that exploded into James Madison University — and he did it with glee. A visionary man by anyone's standard, Carrier came to Harrisonburg from Memphis State in 1970 with ideas that caused many to shake their heads. But he is a man — his detractors quickly learned — who takes the seemingly impossible and makes it a sure bet. Take football. When he started a football team at Madison College in 1972, he raised plenty of eyebrows. But his own personal enthusiasm and charisma prevailed — as did the football team — and he inspired an entire generation of students, who fondly nicknamed him Uncle Ron. Carrier, a graduate of East Tennessee State University from Bluff City, Tenn., believed in higher education and in the potential of students — and he let both know that he meant business. During nearly three decades at the helm, he charmed the General Assembly out of an astounding number of dollars to build a campus for a college only he envisioned at first. He also gave students his full support and trust — then let them see what they could do. Along the way, he pioneered an electrifying era in higher education. Led by a president who dreamed big, enthusiastic students, a dedicated faculty, supportive alumni and all of Virginia watched in amazement as JMU erupted into a major player in higher education.

Tenure: 1971-1998
Name: Madison College,
James Madison University (1977)