The commonwealth’s higher education institutions have been changing the world for years as they’ve shaped the minds of the next generation. Just recently, the outlook of the pandemic was changed dramatically by the mRNA research at the University of Pennsylvania, which served as the foundation of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Despite declining enrollment and a bevy of pandemic-related challenges, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is looking toward a brighter future amid its redesign and campus consolidation.
PASSHE is welcoming the Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania, formerly known as Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven and Mansfield University, and Pennsylvania Western University, formerly California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University and Edinboro University. The obstacles that come with these major shifts wouldn’t be manageable without influential leaders and innovators overseeing these institutions. City & State PA’s 2022 Higher Education Power 100, written in partnership with Hilary Danailova, recognizes the individuals who are redefining what it means to be a leader in this field.
In his dozen years as president, John Fry has sought to make Drexel University a national model for higher education and local economic development by combining private research with public engagement. Fry championed Drexel’s new Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships and collaborations supporting local schools; he has made Drexel instrumental in a $3.5 billion mixed-use development on university-owned real estate. Under Fry, Drexel also launched the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship and a series of academic and research partnerships.
Taking over from outgoing President Amy Gutmann midway through the 2021-22 academic year, Wendell Pritchett, the university’s first president of color, brings solid leadership to a campus he knows well. Pritchett, a celebrated urban historian whose Ph.D in history is from Penn, has made history on campus before, serving as Penn’s first Black provost from 2017 to 2021. He has also held leadership roles at Penn’s Law School, where he is the James S. Riepe Presidential Professor of Law and Education.
When Jason Wingard became Temple’s first Black president last summer, he also returned to his roots: Wingard was a youth basketball camper at Temple, his own father’s alma mater. In between, Wingard earned a Ph.D. in education from Penn, held academic posts at Columbia and Wharton, served as chief learning officer of Goldman Sachs and founded The Education Board, an executive coaching management consultancy.
Last month, Neeli Bendapudi made history as the first woman and person of color to become president of Penn State. Bendapudi comes from the University of Louisville, where she recruited the largest and most diverse freshman class in history, achieved record enrollment levels, improved four-year graduation rates and increased annual sponsored research by nearly 80% over four years. Bendapudi is also a professor of marketing and an expert in consumer behavior.
Patrick Gallagher took the helm of his alma mater in 2014 after several prominent Washington appointments, including as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and acting deputy secretary of commerce in the Obama administration. Gallagher, who recently announced he will retire from the University of Pittsburgh in 2023, solidified the university’s national research standing. He currently chairs the Association of American Universities Board of Directors, and is a member of the Cybersecurity Advisory Committee for the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Under the leadership of computer scientist Farnam Jahanian, Carnegie Mellon’s president since 2017, the university has earned a reputation as a hub for artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. Jahanian expanded research partnerships and has overseen the university’s largest expansion of campus infrastructure to date, as well as an ongoing $2 billion fundraising campaign. Before coming to CMU, Jahanian led the National Science Foundation Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and chaired the National Research Council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board.
Named one of the “Top 10 Women of Power in Education” by Black Enterprise, Erika H. James became Dean of Penn’s Wharton School in 2020 – the first woman and first person of color in the role. Her background in crisis management was on display six months after her arrival when James oversaw a successful return to on-campus instruction, aided by the school’s proprietary safety app. Last year, Wharton became the first elite MBA program to enroll more women than men; among the new programs launched on James’ watch is a Wharton Executive Education initiative to cultivate women leaders.
As provost of Thomas Jefferson University, Mark L. Tykocinski has steered the 198-year-old institution through a series of recent mergers and partnerships that have greatly raised TJU’s profile. Tykocinski chaired Penn’s pathology department before becoming dean of Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College in 2008, overseeing the nation’s largest medical alumni base. During his tenure at Jefferson, Tykocinski guided the 2017 merger with Philadelphia University, as well as a 2018 partnership with Washington & Jefferson College that allows W&J juniors to begin medical school at TJU.
Not every college administrator is also a popular author, but Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne University since 2016, is best known in some circles for “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr,” a 2010 New York Times best-seller. Gormley knows his subject matter: He is a respected constitutional scholar and author and former dean of Duquesne School of Law. Under his leadership, the university has maintained top rankings among Catholic institutions and health science programs. In 2021, U.S. News & World Report recognized several Duquesne online master’s degree offerings as among the nation’s best.
Aligning Pennsylvanians’ educations with workforce exigencies is what animates Dan Greenstein, chief executive officer of Pennsylvania’s state system of public universities, which serves 90,000 degree-seeking students and thousands more in professional training programs. Greenstein is currently masterminding a three-phase system redesign that emphasizes career-specific postsecondary credentials and increased affordability. Under Greenfield’s purview, PASSHE recently announced Cheyney University would be the latest grant recipient in its #Prepared4PA program, which pairs universities with the private sector for mentoring, professional training and innovative workforce credentialing.
Kathleen P. Gallagher has steered Jefferson University, where she serves as executive vice president and COO, through an exhilarating period of expansion. She oversaw Jefferson’s 2017 merger with Philadelphia University and played a role in securing millions in funding for the current expansion of the Montgomery County-based Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing. In addition to spearheading administration and operations, Gallagher manages the university’s strategic plan and partnership programs, including the Global Jefferson programs and the Office of International Affairs.
Over his 16 years as president of Villanova University, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue has spearheaded the school’s largest fundraising campaign and initiated an environmental sustainability plan aimed at attaining carbon neutrality. Donohue – a theater professor whose campus productions have earned accolades from the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia – is guiding a long-term campus remodel, including a newly opened performing arts center. Donohue also launched several doctoral programs, increased full-time faculty, and has safeguarded Villanova’s top ranking among national and Catholic universities.
As president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, Jamie Martin represents the instructors and coaches employed at Pennsylvania’s 14 publicly owned universities. Martin, a professor in the department of criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, advocates for state funding and quality public education for the commonwealth’s nearly 100,000 students. Martin will be stepping down in June for personal reasons, and will pass the baton back to her predecessor, Ken Mash.
Curricular innovation, infrastructure upgrades and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion have all distinguished the Swarthmore College presidency of Valerie Smith. Smith, an African American literature scholar, assumed the role in 2015 after having served as a dean and founding director of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton. Following 2020’s civil unrest, Smith established the Swarthmore President’s Fund for Racial Justice, which supports programming around social issues. Smith has also overseen a $440 million capital campaign and a plan for the school to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.
After five consecutive years in the top five graduate education schools, 2022 marked the first time that Penn’s Graduate School of Education was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report. Overseeing this streak is Pam Grossman, who became dean in 2015 and has won plaudits for several groundbreaking initiatives, including the GSE Action Plan for Faculty Diversity, a model for the university. Grossman is leading a $4 million partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to support a West Philadelphia school.
Penn Dental Medicine Dean Mark S. Wolff leads a graduate school that provides clinical care to more than 40,000 patients, conducts $20 million in annual research and offers a nearly unparalleled breadth of dental degree programs – including credentialing tracks for internationally trained dentists and a new hybrid online and clinical program. Last year, Wolff oversaw the launch of Penn Dental’s e-learning platform, as well as the hiring of 35 faculty members. Wolff is a past chair of the American Dental Education Association Council of Sections.
Wendy Raymond became Haverford College’s president in 2019 – just as the institution concluded a $270 million capital campaign. Raymond, a molecular biologist who taught for years at Williams College, currently guides investment in Haverford’s financial aid program, major campus renovations, and new academic programs. Raymond has spoken of how her groundbreaking role as a female scientist shapes her commitment to institutional diversity, equity and inclusion, a priority Haverford takes seriously: Under Raymond’s leadership, the class of 2025 is more racially diverse than the U.S. as a whole.
After three decades at Bryn Mawr College, Kimberly Wright Cassidy knows the liberal arts have to innovate. Cassidy, who was provost before becoming Bryn Mawr’s president in 2014, has partnered with faculty to promote academic innovation through multidisciplinary courses, new programs like biochemistry and data science, and a Philadelphia-based collaborative academic program with Haverford and Swarthmore colleges. A one-time chair of Bryn Mawr’s psychology department, Cassidy is an outspoken advocate for diversity, inclusion and gender equity, especially in STEM disciplines.
Since 2007, Zack Moore has earned a reputation as a powerful and effective lobbyist for Penn State, his alma mater and the state’s flagship university system. Moore honed his advocacy skills at both the U.S. House and Senate before leaving Washington, D.C. for State College, where he is responsible for federal, state and local relations. Moore is particularly passionate about communicating the value of Penn State’s land-grant mission. He also serves on the board of the Penn College of Technology.
Billion-dollar campaigns are nothing new for Mary E. Burke, who brings her fundraising prowess to Temple University as its incoming vice president for institutional advancement. Burke most recently led fundraising at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Foundation, New Jersey’s largest academic medical center, where, as vice president, she oversaw a $40 million foundation. She previously directed advancement programs at numerous universities, most recently at the University of Maryland, where she oversaw a $1.5 billion comprehensive campaign.
While many institutions are downsizing, Brenda Allen anticipates increased enrollment at Lincoln University, the nation’s first degree-granting HBCU. Her vision for Lincoln includes a curriculum overhaul, administrative restructuring, and extensive upgrades to the historic campus. Allen also implemented new online summer courses and expanded programs at Lincoln’s School for Adult and Continuing Education in Philadelphia. Last year, the HBCU Campaign Fund named Allen one of the Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders.
As President of Community College of Philadelphia, Donald Guy Generals steers the city’s only public institution of higher education, serving roughly 25,000 students, from career transitioners to high school students in a dual enrollment partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. During his eight-year tenure, CCP has introduced several new academic programs and research initiatives around issues like gun violence reporting. Generals was named the Philadelphia Tribune’s Most Influential Leader in 2020 and Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly 2021 College President.
“The Intelligent Future” is how Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou branded Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business after becoming its dean in 2020. That future includes a series of new programs aimed at forward-thinking professionals, including a business analytics master’s degree and an accelerated online MBA. Bajeux-Besnainou has also championed Tepper research initiatives around urgent topics such as blockchain, sustainability, health care commerce and inclusive growth and prosperity. The Paris-educated Bajeux came to Tepper from McGill University, where she was dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management.
Over the past 13 years, Dean Amid I. Ismail has led the transformation of Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry – the nation’s second-oldest – into a research powerhouse and a model for community engagement. Kornberg students perform 119,000 patient procedures and provide free or discounted dental programs to 22,000 patients annually. In 2016, under Ismail’s leadership, the Kornberg School achieved an R1 (highest research activity) designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
As director of state government relations for Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine, Andrew Sharp is responsible for communicating the missions and public policy agenda of both the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Perelman School of Medicine to state government officials across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Sharp previously honed his legislative and advocacy skills as Deputy Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs for Gov. Tom Wolf, where he built relationships with key stakeholders across the region.
Having previously worked at the Pennsylvania Department of Education – including as Deputy Secretary for Administration – Nichole F. Duffy is an effective voice for the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania, where she has been vice president for government relations since 2019. Duffy advocates for more than 90 schools within the AICUP consortium, which together generate more than $20 billion in economic activity annually for the commonwealth. Prior to joining AICUP, Duffy was a senior education policy specialist reporting to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Seven years after becoming Bucknell University’s president in 2010, John Bravman announced the school had surpassed its half-billion-dollar fundraising campaign goal by $13 million. This year, Bravman announced the school was the recipient of a $40 million donation – the largest in its history. The onetime engineering professor’s powerhouse fundraising has shored up Bucknell’s financial aid endowment, paid for major capital expansions, and funded the new Freeman College of Management. Bravman has also facilitated multiple renovations in downtown Lewisburg, strengthening town-and-gown ties.
Last year, CEO James H. Steeley defended PHEAA, Pennsylvania’s loan servicer, as the Senate grilled him over the agency’s mishandling of student debt. Steeley is overseeing the agency’s strategic downsizing as it divests of FedLoan, its federal student loan program, by the end of 2022, to focus on Pennsylvania programs. Late last year, Steeley announced the first raises since the pandemic began for PHEAA’s remaining non-union employees.
During Mark C. Reed’s tenure as president, Saint Joseph’s University has seen its U.S. News & World Report ranking rise to No. 8 in North Regional universities. This year, Saint Joseph’s will acquire Philadelphia’s University of the Sciences, adding a campus, cutting-edge facilities and in-demand health and science programs. Other highlights of Reed’s seven-year tenure at the Jesuit university include securing a $50 million donation, the largest gift in institutional history; a historic partnership with the Barnes Foundation; and its first new school in nearly three decades, The School of Health Studies and Education.
Anantha Shekhar, a leading neuroscientist and biotech entrepreneur, became dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2020 after three decades at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he increased research funding from the National Institutes of Health by nearly 75% in his last five years there. At Pitt, Shekhar is focused on maintaining NIH research funding while supporting instruction at the six health sciences schools and working closely with UPMC, one of the nation’s largest academic medical centers.
Across Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-biggest city, one name is ubiquitous: The University of Pennsylvania, whose West Philadelphia campus and ever-multiplying medical buildings delineate the urban landscape. Overseeing relations between the university – the largest private employer in Philadelphia – and the city it has helped define since 1740 is Dawn Maglicco Deitch, executive director at Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs. Deitch has spent nearly a quarter-century advocating for Penn within the community.
Before assuming the presidency of Lafayette College last year, Nicole Hurd spent more than a decade building College Advising Corps, now the nation’s largest college access nonprofit, which she founded while a dean at the University of Virginia. Hurd brings to Lafayette a passion for increasing educational opportunity – especially among first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students – and a fundraising prowess that has secured nearly $100 million in grants. At Lafayette, Hurd aims to double the financial aid budget, grow enrollment and continue to add new faculty.
Six years ago, Cynthia Shapira became the first woman to oversee the Keystone State’s higher education system. This year, she led the biggest change in the system’s history: integrating six of its 14 universities into two newly accredited institutions, Pennsylvania West University and Commonwealth University. Shapira, who expects to receive her doctorate in education from Penn this spring, is a former trustee of Point Park University; she currently sits on Gov. Tom Wolf’s Advisory Board for Education and Workforce Development. As a first-generation college graduate, Denise Pearson knows the challenges facing many students across the commonwealth – and as the first DEI officer for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, she is dedicated to eradicating barriers. Pearson inaugurated the role in 2020 with a mission to engage stakeholders across the system in an effort to improve social equity, identify and address student achievement disparities and improve employee recruitment and retention. To that end, Pearson is currently overseeing the state system’s first-ever systemwide climate survey.
When Hilary Link joined Allegheny College from Temple University Rome, she brought the global perspective of a Renaissance scholar and the administrative know-how of a leader whose recruitment initiatives led to the highest enrollment in the Rome campus’s 52-year history. Link recently celebrated Allegheny becoming one of the first 10 U.S. carbon-neutral colleges. The first woman to lead Allegheny, Link is a member of the International Women’s Forum, an invitation-only global network of C-level women leaders.
Stephanie Johnson helps aspiring business leaders start the transition from classroom to boardroom as director of Graduate Career Services at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. Johnson joined LeBow in 2009 and works closely with students and alumni, along with talent recruiters in the business community. She also facilitates workshops and employer presentations, oversees a mentoring program, and serves as liaison for the graduate programs’ Career Services Advisory Council.
In four years, Valerie Kinloch, the university’s first African American female dean, has made the University of Pittsburgh School of Education a model for urban education, diversity and inclusion. Kinloch co-chairs the PittEd Justice Collective, which engages local and national school districts around issues of equity and justice and has overseen PittEd’s participation in a groundbreaking 18-month study of the intersections of race, power and education. Under Kinloch, PittEd has also introduced several new degree programs.
When Christopher M. Fiorentino became president of West Chester University in 2017, it was the culmination of a journey that began in 1983, when he first started teaching economics and included 20 years as dean of West Chester’s College of Business and Public Affairs. As president, Fiorentino has helped secure professional accreditation for the School of Business, inaugurated the Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center and celebrated WCU’s 2021 reclassification as an R2 (high research activity) doctoral university under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
Jill Murray is the first woman to lead Lackawanna College, which, last year, was named the fastest-growing private nonprofit college in the nation by the Chronicle of Higher Education. A lifelong Scranton resident, Murray became president in 2020 after serving as Lackawanna’s executive vice president and chief innovation officer and vice president of academic affairs. Enrollment has increased dramatically during her time at Lackawanna. Murray has also championed the school’s esports program and its Level Up program for ambitious high school students.
Of the 500 institutions accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 140 are in Pennsylvania – and all are under the purview of President Heather F. Perfetti. Since taking the helm two years ago, Perfetti has supported constituent schools during a turbulent pandemic period, while at the same time promoting policies to increase diversity and inclusion. Last year, she represented accrediting agencies during student loan negotiations with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.
Noe Ortega learned the value of diversity firsthand when he trained early childhood language teachers in Japan. Today, as he leads the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Ortega promotes an inclusive agenda across the commonwealth. He previously served as Commissioner and Deputy Secretary for the department, and before that, as assistant director and senior research associate at the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan, where he earned a doctorate in higher education policy. After years of working to improve policies for Commonwealth students in state government and nonprofit roles, Tanya Garcia was appointed Commissioner and Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education at the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2020. She is responsible for long-range strategy as laid out in the department’s master plan for the commonwealth’s more than 330 postsecondary and higher education institutions. Garcia’s office also oversees educator certification, adult literacy programs, veteran benefits, high school equivalency, and trade program licensures.
Robert W. Iuliano, president of Gettysburg College since 2019, believes the town that inspired Abraham Lincoln’s unifying oratory has a role to play in moderating the current climate of polarization. Iuliano’s vision integrates classroom and experiential learning, supports diversity, equity and inclusion, stabilizes university finances and shores up Gettysburg’s residential liberal arts experience. Iuliano was previously a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston and, in a series of teaching and administrative roles, definitively shaped Harvard University’s institutional priorities during his tenure there.
A committed advocate for community colleges and their communities, Quintin B. Bullock has served as president of the Community College of Allegheny County since 2014, overseeing 40,000 students at four campuses and four centers. Bullock, a dentist by training, has spearheaded several capital projects, including the construction of a campus workforce center, and introduced new academic and career programs. He also stabilized the college’s finances through a series of state and federal grants as well as the college’s largest-ever campaign, totaling $65 million.
Since becoming president of Lehigh University last year, Joseph J. Helble has invited students to join his Tuesday four-mile runs. Lehigh’s tight-knit residential model – including themed houses – is a legacy Helble praises. A Lehigh alumnus, Helble is also guiding the university’s Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Strategic Plan. He previously served as provost and as dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, where he dramatically boosted both enrollment and the percentage of female graduates.
Award-winning choral composer Jonathan Green had long become used to directing ensembles. But in 2017, he expanded his repertoire by becoming president of Susquehanna University. Previously, Green, the author of numerous music reference books, served as provost and dean at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he was named outstanding academic advisor in 2016. Green is currently overseeing Susquehanna’s 2026 strategic plan, which emphasizes data-driven approaches for sustainability, student recruitment, academic success and support for teaching.
As universities adapt for an increasingly digital future, strategists like Rashmi Radhakrishnan play a crucial role. The vice president and chief information officer at Arcadia University, Radhakrishnan leads IT strategy for the university’s long-term technology needs and coordinates cyber security initiatives at Arcadia campuses worldwide. Having previously served as Albright College’s vice president for digital strategy and infrastructure, Radhakrishnan – who has been named a Top IT Pro by The Philadelphia Business Journal – is currently leading the digital transformation initiative for Arcadia’s 2025 strategic plan.
Financial stability has been a priority for Michael Driscoll in his decade as president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, part of the state system. Under Driscoll’s watch, IUP exceeded its fundraising goal by nearly 10% during a recent campaign that secured the two largest gifts – totaling $30 million – in the history of the university. Driscoll is currently guiding an academic restructuring to invest in key areas while eliminating others. Driscoll dedicated IUP’s first academic building in 20 years in 2016 and a $90 million STEM facility will open in 2023.
Victoria L. Bastecki-Perez spent a quarter-century at Montgomery County Community College before taking over the presidency in 2020. A first-generation graduate committed to opportunity, Bastecki-Perez increased the Faculty Diversity Fellows program. Under her watch, MCCC was one of only six community colleges to be recognized as a 2021 Leader Colleges of Distinction by Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit that promotes student success. Bastecki-Perez is a member of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges Council of Presidents.
John E. Jones III had a lifetime judicial appointment, as U.S. district judge of the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania – yet he resigned in 2021 to become interim president of his alma mater, Dickinson College, an appointment made permanent in February. Jones launched an effort to stabilize the university’s finances, announcing a financial aid fundraising effort aimed at meeting the full needs of every admitted student. A graduate of Penn State Dickinson Law, Jones also co-chaired Tom Ridge’s gubernatorial transition team and served as chair of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Felicia Ganther, the first Black woman to serve as president of Bucks County Community College, is on a mission to turn around an enrollment decline while transitioning the college to a new normal that includes adding new professional training programs aimed at filling the county’s growing need for skilled workers. She is also spearheading the construction of the $9.9 million Center for Advanced Technologies at the Gene and Marlene Epstein Campus at Lower Bucks, which will house manufacturing, training and workforce programs.
Dr. Jay Feldstein capped an impressive career in health care management with a 2014 return to his alma mater – the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is a 1981 graduate and the school’s current president and CEO. Board-certified in emergency medicine, Feldstein has overseen eight years of growth and equity initiatives at PCOM, including its participation in Accelerate Health Equity, a coalition of area health systems tackling Philadelphia’s longstanding health disparities. Last year, Feldstein received the American Osteopathic Association’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Unification Award.
John J. “Ski” Sygielski is the only member of his working-class family to graduate from college, a privilege he assays to extend to others as president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. Sygielski assumed the presidency in 2011; his current priorities include increasing enrollment, improving retention and graduation rates and shoring up HACC’s finances. Sygielski is a member of the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges and the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.
In 2020, Kathleen E. Harring became the first woman president of Muhlenberg College, culminating a career at the college that began in 1984. A onetime chair of the psychology department, a founding member of the college’s Center for Teaching & Learning and a former dean, vice president and provost, Harring has guided numerous campus-wide initiatives to support diversity and integrative learning. Last year, Harring launched a $111 million capital campaign to increase financial aid, endow professorships, upgrade infrastructure, and expand the Muhlenberg Network career program.
Since David Finegold became Chatham’s president in 2016, the university has garnered accolades for its sustainability practices, as well as its ongoing championing of women’s achievements: College Magazine named Chatham No. 3 on its list of top schools for aspiring women leaders. This year, bucking a national trend, Finegold supported the reinstatement of a faculty tenure system at Chatham. Finegold is a board member of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and hosts “The Future of Higher Education,” a podcast on the New Books Network.
Fresh off the largest comprehensive campaign in Juniata College’s history, President James A. Troha oversaw the expansion and construction of several facilities on the school’s Huntingdon campus, as well as the introduction of new undergraduate and graduate programs. Under Troha’s leadership, Juniata joined the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts, where he serves as chair. Troha also chairs the board of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, and is a board member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
As rising tuition costs have prompted more Pennsylvanians to consider community colleges, Elizabeth Bolden has worked to promote the 15 institutions she oversees as president and CEO at the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, a nonprofit coalition. Bolden, who joined the commission in 2014, advocates for smoother transfer programs to four-year institutions, greater affordability and workforce training initiatives at the state’s junior colleges. Previously, Bolden served as policy analyst and policy director for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Washington & Jefferson College was founded in 1781, but much of the campus looks as good as new, thanks to extensive renovations during the tenure of President John C. Knapp. Knapp, who previously implemented a decade-long strategic plan at Michigan’s Hope College, came to Washington & Jefferson in 2017 and announced 19 new academic programs this year. Under Knapp’s leadership, W&J recently launched new centers for ethical leadership and professional pathways, as well as the Ignite business incubator supporting economic development in Washington County.
Higher education expert Jayson Boyers took the helm of Rosemont College in 2020, just in time for its 2021 centennial celebration. During Boyer’s tenure, Rosemont – a Catholic former women’s institution that became co-educational in 2009 – added a baseball program, won accreditation for two counseling programs and undertook a $7.5 million renovation of its historic Mayfield Hall. This year, Rosemont became one of just 27 post-secondary institutions to join the Federal Academic Alliance, which offers reduced-cost education to federal employees.
A first-generation college graduate, Justin Mohney brings his passion for education to the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling, which, under his leadership, won a 2021 Rising Star program award from the National Association for College Admission Counseling for its Promoting Inclusivity & Equity Lunch & Learn series. Mohney is an associate director of admissions at Carnegie Mellon University, his alma mater. As PACAC president, Mohney expanded a counselor assistance program grant and engaged over 6,000 students through virtual college fair programming during the pandemic.
With free expression under fire on many campuses, Julie E. Wollman aimed to make Widener University a model for dialogue with Common Ground, an initiative that encourages respectful discourse on challenging topics. Wollman also integrated sustainability across the curriculum and introduced market-driven programs, including occupational therapy, speech language pathology and physician assistant training. Wollman serves on the board of the American Association of University Administrators and chairs the Regional College and University President’s Alliance at the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia.
As a devoted servant leader, Dr. Charles E. Patterson has dedicated nearly two decades to the advancement of higher education. He began his career in leadership roles at Baylor University and Georgia Southern University. In 2015, he was named interim president of Georgia Southwestern State University and two years later was selected as the senior advisor for executive outreach at the US Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid. He served in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education as president of Mansfield University and is currently the interim president of Shippensburg University.
While many college presidents may dress regally at times, Daniel Wubah, president of Millersville University, does so legitimately: He is a tribal king of Breman Asikuma in the Central Region of Ghana. In his four years at Millersville, Wubah, a microbiologist, has focused on strengthening the state university’s community ties and investing in workforce development initiatives with the local business community. As a result, Millersville was one of 243 schools nationwide to receive the 2020 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.
When Amazon chose Lehigh Carbon Community College as one of four U.S. training sites for advanced manufacturing last year, it was the latest in a series of partnerships secured during the presidency of Ann Bieber. Bieber has held numerous positions at Lehigh Carbon since 1981, including senior vice president of administrative services and dean of continuing education. Under Bieber’s leadership, Lehigh Carbon joined the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s new “Near Completers” program, which helps Pennsylvanians achieve partially completed degrees and onto higher-paying career paths.
Scott Martin, a Republican representing the 13th District in Lancaster County, is chair of the Pennsylvania state Senate’s Education Committee. Martin has sponsored or co-sponsored the Fair Chance College Education Act, a constitutional amendment to eliminate school property taxes and has supported bills concerning substitute teachers and student-athletes. Martin also serves on the System of Higher Education Board of Governors, Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority, State Public School Building Authority, Education Commission of the States and Special Education Funding Commission. As Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, state Sen. Lindsey Williams, a Democrat representing the 38th District in Allegheny County, has co-sponsored recent proposals aimed at tackling student loan forgiveness and novel repayment programs for school-based mental health professionals, as well as increased state investment for school support staff. She has also championed greater funding for Pennsylvania’s community colleges and its state system of higher education, while also urging limits on public financing of charter schools.
A comprehensive review of cyber charter schools and a statewide teacher shortage are some of the current issues facing Republican state Rep. Curt Sonney, who chairs the Education Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Sonney represents the Fourth District, including portions of Erie County. He recently co-sponsored the well-publicized Fairness in Women’s Sports Act and a bill to establish the Lifeline Scholarship Program, among others. Earlier this year, Sonney announced he would retire at the end of this, his ninth term. In eight terms representing Pennsylvania’s 7th District in Mercer County, Democrat Mark Longietti has championed education funding, from preschool to graduate degrees. Elected in 2006, Longietti serves as the Minority Chairman of the House Education Committee and as a member of the State Board of Education and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Longietti has also served on the Basic Education Funding Commission and the Special Education Funding Commission, and co-chairs the House/Senate Early Childhood Education Caucus.
When Dr. Ronald A. Matthews became president of Eastern University in 2018, the appointment capped a nearly 30-year career that included roles as executive director of the Fine and Performing Arts Division and chair of the music department. Under Matthews, Eastern retains its U.S. News & World Report ranking as one of the best regional universities in the North, including a designation as a top college for veterans. This year, Matthews debuted Eastern’s football program, as well as several online, low-cost master’s degrees.
Slippery Rock University President William Behre’s five-year tenure includes the 2020 creation of the school’s Center for Community Engagement, Empowerment and Development, known as Butler SUCCEED, to better integrate the university and community through civic engagement and learning. After shepherding the school through COVID-induced changes in priorities, Behre will retire to let his successor carry out post-pandemic goals like increasing enrollment and curricular innovation.
A neurobiologist by training, Bashar W. Hanna is a veteran administrator who assumed the presidency of Bloomsburg University in 2017. He is currently overseeing the merger of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield universities, known as the Northeast Integration Process, while serving as interim president of Lock Haven and Mansfield; the consolidated institution will be known as Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania. Hanna is a member of the board of the American Association of University Administrators and an editorial board member of the Journal of Education Management.
Roberto Díaz has proven as nimble a college administrator as he was a principal violist at the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony, among his previous roles. At Curtis, the Chilean-born violist’s alma mater, Díaz oversaw a campus-doubling expansion. He also founded the Curtis on Tour initiative, raising the conservatory’s profile through student and faculty tours abroad. Díaz’s legacy includes a new classical guitar department, new conducting and string quartet programs, and public initiatives that include Curtis Summerfest and online classes through Coursera.
Daniel Allen comes to LaSalle University with a record of stellar fundraising and a passion for social justice. Allen, who takes over the presidency this month, is charged with turning around years of declining enrollment and revenue at LaSalle, building on his fundraising record as a senior vice president at DePaul University. Allen is focusing on expanding higher education access – especially for low-income students – at LaSalle, which boasts a high graduation rate and ranks first in the nation for job placement among full-time MBA graduates.
As president of the Association of Theological Schools, Frank Yamada oversees a consortium of nearly 300 graduate schools of theology in the U.S. and Canada. Yamada, a Bible scholar, came to the Pittsburgh-based organization after nine years at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, where he was the first Asian American to lead a Presbyterian Church seminary. In addition to supporting accreditation through its related commission, ATS hosts member events on topics like enrollment, finances and trends in theological education.
Adult learners and successful outcomes motivate Mary Ellen Caro, the first woman to become president and chief executive officer of Peirce College. Upon arriving in 2018, Caro implemented a strategic plan aimed at leveraging technology to upgrade the student experience; boosting enrollment by focusing on adults with transfer credits; and stabilizing Pierce financially through alternative revenue sources. Caro’s vision aims to attract career-minded students through flexible, affordable academic programs in fields like cloud computing and supply chain management.
Barely a decade after he was ordained a Catholic priest, the Rev. Joseph G. Marina became president of the University of Scranton. Combining theological research with his passion for organizational change, Marina has held a variety of administrative and pastoral positions at Catholic institutions, including as a professor of education, provost and vice president at Le Moyne College, another Jesuit institution. This year, Scranton was recognized by U.S. News & World Report for its outstanding master’s degree programs, undergraduate engineering, business and nursing degrees and teaching excellence.
Kim Phipps has a literal open-door policy at Messiah University, where she has held regular “Pizza with the Prez” residence hall events since becoming Messiah’s president in 2004. Her engaging style embodies the fellowship at the core of Messiah’s evangelical Christian mission. At Messiah, where every student receives financial aid, Phipps oversees more than 60 off-campus study locations in 40 countries, several top-ranked professional programs, three-year degree options and a four-year graduation rate one-third higher than the national average.
Will Jordan is a union leader who represents 3,000 professors, instructors, librarians, and other faculty and staff as head of the Temple Association of University Professionals, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. Elected president last year, Jordan, an educational leadership and policy studies professor, is focused on building organizing committees for each school and college at Temple. His current priorities for the union include advocating for safe pandemic working conditions, campaigning against budget cuts, and championing diversity.
By day, Manasa Gopakumar, a philosophy Ph.D. student, researches the social implications of ignorance. And as president of the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association, Gopakumar educates her colleagues about their rights as graduate workers – including a living wage, health care access, and protection from exploitation and discrimination. Gopakumar has been involved for two years with TUGSA, the first and only recognized graduate student employee union in the Commonwealth; she serves as the philosophy department steward and co-chairs TUGSA’s international student caucus.
Pamela Gunter-Smith has led York College since 2013, when she left her position as provost and academic vice president at New Jersey’s Drew University. In that time, Gunter-Smith has helped guide the school, located in Spring Garden Township, to increase its baccalaureate offerings to include 70 available majors for its 3,500 undergraduate students. A graduate of Spelman College, where she later taught as the Porter Professor of Physiology, serves on the board of directors of both York Hospital and the York County Industrial Development Authority.
Since Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson became president of Clarion University in 2018, the school celebrated its highest retention rates in nearly 30 years, as well as consecutive increases in freshman class size for the first time in a decade. Pehrsson, who launched Clarion’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs and raised the school’s fundraising to its highest level in a decade, will take on expanded responsibilities as the president of the newly created Pennsylvania Western University, created as the result of consolidating Clarion, Edinboro and California universities.
Technology professions have come a long way since Davie Jane Gilmour joined Pennsylvania College of Technology in 1977 as an instructor in its dental hygiene program. Gilmour has served as president since 1998, growing PCT into a national leader in applied technology education and initiating numerous partnerships with business and industry leaders. Under Gilmour’s leadership, PCT substantially increased its degree offerings, established its first graduate-level programs and pioneered a STEM apprenticeship model through its workforce development division.
Growth is the guiding principle for Eric Darr. Over his decade at the helm of Harrisburg University, Darr has orchestrated a dynamic expansion, from enrollment, which has grown by more than tenfold, to the launches of a $100 million Science Education Center in downtown Harrisburg and a new HU campus in Philadelphia. The university also added nearly three dozen new degree programs and concentrations under Darr’s watch.
In 2016 – two years into his tenure as president – Donald Taylor transitioned Cabrini College into a full-fledged university by creating four dean-headed schools, expanding research and degree programs at all levels and inaugurating two doctoral programs. His strategic plan established partnerships with schools and educational nonprofits both locally and globally. Taylor’s tenure prioritizes outreach to Hispanic communities; new Cabrini affiliations include the National Hispanic Institute, Esperanza, and schools in South America.
Point Park University President Donald Green comes from Georgia Highlands College with a history of boosting enrollment and particular success recruiting Hispanics – many of whom were the first generation to attend college. Green hopes to replicate this achievement at Point Park by reversing a 12% drop in enrollment over the past decade. This year, Point Park lowered tuition on most master’s programs, launched new online programs and unveiled the Michael P. Pitterich Sales & Innovation Center at the Rowland School of Business.
The 24-year presidency of Mary Grace Simcox at the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences mirrors the growth and professionalization of American health careers over two decades. During her tenure, Simcox has helped transform a collection of downtown Lancaster buildings offering diplomas for a few hundred students into a centralized campus with accredited associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees for nearly 2,000 students. Simcox is a member of the Association of Health Sciences Education Consortium and the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities Presidents.
In January, Eric Pryor became president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which has a dual role as a fine arts educational institution as well as a museum showcasing American art. Pryor, who holds art degrees from two Philadelphia institutions – Tyler and Temple – spent the previous seven years as president of the Harlem School of the Arts, where he secured funding for that school’s first major renovation in a generation. He was previously executive director of The Center for Arts Education in New York.
Sister Carol Jean Vale assumed the presidency of this women’s college 30 years ago. When she retires from Chestnut Hill College this June, her legacy will include transforming the institution into a co-educational liberal arts school. Her tenure has also seen a major campus expansion, the launch of a School of Continuing Professional Studies, and Chestnut Hill’s NCAA Division II intercollegiate sports program. Vale serves on the board and executive committee of the Association for Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Assuming the presidency of Wilson College in January 2020, Wesley Fugate has taken a proactive, transparent approach toward pandemic-era challenges. His popular town hall meetings are credited with boosting fundraising by 25%, while Wilson’s endowment has grown by more than 30% during his tenure. Fugate also initiated the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and spearheaded Future Wilson: The Phoenix Rises, a program that yielded new undergraduate majors and degree and certificate programs.
With college enrollment dipping across Pennsylvania, President Kenneth Hawkinson has focused on fresh branding for Kutztown University, part of Pennsylvania’s state higher education system. Since arriving in 2015, Hawkinson has introduced 53 initiatives aimed at upgrading academic standards and offerings, student success and fundraising. This year, Kutztown celebrated national recognition for its women’s basketball team and radio station, saw its U.S. News & World Report ranking rise, and broke ground on the Wells-Rapp Center for Mallet Percussion Research, a unique musical performance and scholarship space.
Chris Burns was among the first Pennsylvanians to recognize how essential internships would become for aspiring professionals. His 25-year-old Malvern business, InternU, has paired more than 100,000 university students and graduates with area technology, finance, health care and other companies for year-round mentoring, apprenticeships and recruitment. A fixture at university job fairs, Burns hosts workshops, cultivates networks and promotes an intensive, multi-step interview process aimed at finding the right fit – and keeping graduating students in the area.
As Westmoreland County Community College’s first female president, Tuesday Stanley implemented a data-driven approach and saw the institution win a $2.5 million federal grant to strengthen educational services. Stanley rallied a funding coalition for a recent $6.5 million renovation of the Youngwood campus that included refreshed student and science centers, upgraded library technology, and spaces for events and career services. Her eight-year tenure has also been marked by new academic programs, including dual admissions agreements with several nearby four-year universities.
New teachers have never been more important than right now, as schools across the commonwealth face shortages due to a pandemic retirement wave. Gwen Price is passionate about training the next generation as president of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators, which is celebrating its 50th year supporting the field of teacher education. Currently dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Clarion University, Price is working to expand PAC-TE membership as she promotes the profession.
As president of The State College and University Professional Association, Todd Spaulding represents a union of non-faculty professionals within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Members work in client-facing university roles like admissions, registrar, financial aid, career and alumni services, or housing – like Spaulding, who is associate director of residential life and housing at Clarion University. During a turbulent moment for higher education, Spaulding leads union advocacy for fair contracts, safe conditions and members' concerns over consolidation of state system schools.
Rabbi Deborah Waxman is the first woman to head a Jewish seminary, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, as well as its affiliated movement, Reconstructing Judaism. As president, Waxman oversaw RRC’s curriculum redesign and implemented a strategic plan that resulted in more firsts: the appointments of Amanda Beckenstein Mbuvi, the first person of color to lead a major American Jewish seminary, and Rabbi Sandra Lawson, a leading voice for Jewish diversity, as the movement’s inaugural director of racial diversity, equity and inclusion.
After seven years as vice president for administration and finance at East Stroudsburg University, Kenneth Long became interim president in 2020. Since taking over, Long has upgraded student health care access and lowered costs by coordinating with a regional medical center, collaborated with local organizations to create a community sports complex and worked with the university’s chief academic officer to improve tenure-track faculty hiring. He also oversaw the construction of new campus housing and a student counseling center.
After serving briefly as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania’s interim president, Aaron A. Walton was hired permanently in 2017, in no small part to help stabilize the institution’s shaky finances. Walton came to Cheyney with 40 years of experience in corporate management: He was previously senior vice president of Highmark, one of the nation’s largest health care providers, and helped establish the Children’s Health Insurance Program. At Cheyney, Walton oversaw the launch of the Institute For The Contemporary African American Experience.
Marcia Sturdivant, an educational psychologist by training, oversees NEED, the oldest community-based, nonprofit higher education assistance program in Pennsylvania aimed at students from minority backgrounds. She is also an assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences at Point Park University, her alma mater. Sturdivant lectures extensively on barriers to higher education, racism and its effect on child development, family engagement practices and culturally based intervention strategies.
Paul J. McNulty is yet another alum who returned to lead his alma mater. McNulty, who graduated from Grove City College in 1980, was named as the conservative Christian institution’s president in 2015. In addition to his school ties, McNulty brought with him a lengthy history of public service, including positions as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, COO of the U.S. Department of Justice, and as U.S. Deputy Attorney General.
As a former alumnus – Class of 1987 – Father Paul R. Taylor was uniquely well-suited to become the 18th president of Saint Vincent College. His leadership of the first Benedictine college in the United States has included the successful completion of a $100 million capital campaign. In addition to continuing his active pastoral ministry work, Taylor serves on the board of directors of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the Higher Education Research and Development Institute, and the Latrobe Area Hospital Charitable Foundation.
Kent Trachte had no trouble to adjusting to the rigors of leading a Pennsylvania college when he was named president of Lycoming College a decade ago: By that point, he had already served in leadership positions at Franklin & Marshall for 25 years. Since taking the helm at Lycoming, Trachte has guided the school’s expansion of offerings to include a new science center, expanded internship, study abroad and research opportunities for students, and exponentially increased the school’s success in receiving grants from foundations.
Bryon L. Grigsby is one of a number of honorees who prove that you can go home again. Grigsby, who received his undergraduate degree from Moravian College in 1990, has led the school as its 16th president since 2013. Among his many accomplishments since then, including improved and expanded academic programs and infrastructure, he shepherded the school’s transition to becoming Moravian University and Moravian Theological Seminary last year. Grigsby is also a widely published author and an editor.
Kathy Brittain Richardson came to Westminster College in 2016 as one of the nation’s most acclaimed scholars and professors of communications. Since becoming the president of this school of approximately 1,300 undergraduate and graduate students an hour north of Pittsburgh, Brittain Richardson has continued to raise the bar for Westminster’s seven undergraduate schools, which encompass more than 50 majors and pre-professional programs, and its graduate school, while also serving as chair of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities.
As Elizabethtown College’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, Betty Rider was a logical choice to be named by the board of trustees as the school’s transitional president in January. Among Rider’s accomplishments during her time at Elizabethtown: the establishment of new schools, new five-year programs in physician assistant (PA) studies and registered nurse-to-bachelor of science in nursing studies, record endowment levels, and record student enrollment – even during the pandemic.
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