President-Elect Jon Alger has hit the mark in his third run for a university presidency. 

On July 1, Alger will become the sixth president of JMU with his election by the Board of Visitors on Monday.

“In Jonathan Alger, we feel we have found the individual who ... is well positioned to lead our university,” said James Hartman, BOV rector.

Vince Moore, spokesman for Furman University, said Alger was one of two finalists in the presidential search for Furman University in South Carolina during the 2009-10 academic year. Alger was also a finalist at Binghamton University in New York during its presidential search during the 2010-11 school year. 

Moore wasn’t sure why Alger wasn’t selected for the position.

Alger is currently the senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers University in New Jersey, a job he will be leaving to move to Virginia. Alger has a law degree from Harvard Law School and oversaw all legal affairs for Rutgers University in his seven-year tenure there. He also teaches two undergraduate classes.

Before his time at Rutgers, Alger was the assistant general counsel for the University of Michigan. There, he was part of the school’s legal team during its Supreme Court cases Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.

The lawsuits were leveled at the undergraduate and law school admissions policies because of perceived injustice in the use of race during the admissions process. The outcome of the cases allowed affirmative action to be used in higher education admissions policies.

Previously, Don Egle, university spokesman, had said the Board of Visitors would select the president by January or February. Students were informed of the announcement of a new president by an early-morning mass email on Monday morning. 

The announcement came as a surprise to junior Matt McKeon, a business major.

“I wish we had gotten more of a heads-up,” McKeon said.

Students expressed hope for Alger’s presidency and what it might bring to JMU.

Hannah Brecker, a freshman international business major, was impressed by Alger’s speech. 

“Alger appears to be all about diversity in general and especially now at JMU,” Brecker said. “I am looking forward to see how he will make our own university more diverse.”

Alger has been involved with multiple diversity initiatives and has chaired national conferences on diversity and discrimination.

“The engaged university must be open and accessible to individuals of all backgrounds,” Alger said in his acceptance speech Monday. “Diversity and excellence go hand in hand.”

Freshman Joey Mazzara, a music major and Exit 245 member, said he would like Alger to bring music majors into more prominence, particularly because Alger has sung with internationally touring choral groups. 

“I anticipate Alger putting more emphasis on music in general and giving more publicity,” Mazzara said. “There are so many talented musicians here at JMU.”

Some faculty members declined to comment on Alger’s selection, saying they didn’t know enough about Alger to do so, but Jorge Juan Nieto Cano looks forward to the future.

“I hope that Alger will continue to uphold James Madison’s reputation for its excellent teaching and other great qualities,” said Cano, a Spanish professor.

Alger traveled back to Rutgers after Monday’s announcement, but Egle said Alger has been working closely with the BOV and is currently in communication with President Linwood Rose. There will be a formal inaugural ceremony, but the date right now is unknown. 

“It’s a great thing to have these seven months to transition. During these months he will be collaborating with the Board of Visitors and Dr. Rose,” Egle said. “More information about important dates will be coming up, but right now, there are no events that include Alger set in stone.”

While working as the senior vice president and general counsel at Rutger’s, Alger’s annual salary was $300,000, according to The Collegiate Times. Rose’s salary is $396,287 annually, but Alger’s contract is still a work in progress, Egle said.

Egle said that the board received hundreds of nominations and 76 formal applications for the presidency. The information of those who applied will be kept confidential.

“Jonathan Alger’s speech here at JMU when he was announced as the sixth president made me anxious, but in a really positive way,” said Mike Sorgi, a sophomore public policy and administration major. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he will do.”

And from the sound of it, Alger is, too.

“The challenges are great, but the opportunities are greater,” he said. “I look forward to working with all of you at the dawn of this next century for James Madison University.”

 

Contact Elizabeth Dsurney at dsurneeg@dukes.jmu.edu.