Jon Alger

Jon Alger, 47, said he wants to work directly with students. 

President-Elect Jon Alger said his recent purchase of a purple tie was money well spent.

"I got the sense that it was really important to have a purple tie," Alger said.

At today's Board of Visitors' event in the Concert Hall of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the committee announced Alger as JMU's sixth president starting July 1 - the culmination of an 11-month search process that began in December 2010.

Alger, 47, who is currently the senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers, the Staten University of New Jersey, graduated from Harvard Law School.

Taking on a presidential position isn't new for Alger. He was one of the final candidates for the position at both Binghamton University in December 2010 and at Furman University in December 2009.

Nonetheless, Alger said he's looking forward to his time at JMU.

"It's just a great, great opportunity," he said. JMU "really is one of the gems of American higher education. And I'm very excited to be rolling up my sleeves and working with the whole university community."

When Alger got the phone call saying he was to be the next president a few weeks ago, he was in a hotel room.

"It was just an overwhelming moment for me, personally," he said. "I was surprised and thrilled; it's hard to describe the emotions of that moment."

The Presidential Search Committee received hundreds of nominations and more than 75 applications for the position - including those of some current presidents. The Board of Visitors unanimously elected Alger.

"Jon was attracted to the same aspects of our student-centered university that we all cherish as members of the university community," said James Hartman, BOV rector.

Alger said he's an avid sports fan, a lover of the arts as well as a lifelong choral singer.

"It is hard for me to resist the temptation to break out into song," he said with a smile, "but I'll leave that for another time."

Alger also helped coordinate two university admissions lawsuits in the U.S. Supreme Court while working at the University of Michigan before his time at Rutgers.

Though President Linwood Rose couldn't be at the announcement, Hartman read a letter Rose addressed to Alger.

"There is no better presidency in America," Rose wrote. "You have a noble task."

Alger currently teaches two courses at Rutgers and, in coming to JMU, he hopes to work directly with students.

"It's a very important set of relationships to me," Alger said, "and it's one that you have to be very deliberate about cultivating as president."

The president-elect said he wants to develop JMU as an "engaged university, as opposed to an isolated ivory tower," he said. He hopes to do so by holding a listening tour to meet with representatives of JMU, including students, faculty and the local community, so that he may gauge their aspirations for JMU when he begins his presidency.

Alger will continue his job at Rutgers; a schedule for his time at JMU and travel from New Jersey to Harrisonburg hasn't yet been created.

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

 

CONTACT Torie Foster at breezeeditor@gmail.com.