Who’s who: Higher educations senior leadership

Who’s who: Higher educations senior leadership

In dramatic contrast to our experience with the “young leaders,” the task of “identifying” the most influential voices of the academy in 1997 was overwhelming: more than 600 names were mentioned in response to the surveys. The contrast was astonishing. While the effort to find the next leadership generation produced very few nominations, everyone had advice when asked to name today’s most influential leaders.

In 1975, determining the most influential voices was not nearly so complicated. No one disputed that Clark Kerr was then the single most significant spokesperson for higher education; the three names that followed were equally obvious. Twenty years later, the circumstances were very different. The context for leadership had changed; the view of governance was transformed; the visibility and credibility of institutional executives had diminished. Repeatedly, we were asked why we felt this study was important, what definitions of leadership we were assuming, and even whether it was useful to make the attempt.

Instead of replicating the 1970s articles, then, with their hierarchical display of “the leaders,” the editors–reading your responses–chose to represent the current situation from three perspectives. First, we were interested in those leaders who were working inside the academic community; second, in those who influenced the priorities for academic leadership from a variety of external positions; and third, in those individuals who by their personalities or positions shaped the vital themes that confronted academic institutions. This third section emerged from the repeated observation of respondents that idea leadership, not just leadership by position, counted more than ever today. This allowed us to identify from the polls a set of “idea leaders” for this issue.

The division of Change’s 1997 leadership generation into these three fundamental categories does not fully respond to the “beauty contest” critique or even the concern that naming names was simply an index of visibility and personality. Nonetheless, the collective best judgment was that these three leadership divisions enabled us to identify key voices whose influence very strongly impacted the daily lives of students, teachers, scholars, and administrators.

It has always been obvious that a great part of leadership requires visibility; on the other hand, not all leadership takes place visibly. There are no claims for infallibility in this work, no suggestions that the lists are exhaustive, and it must be understood that a few individuals chose not to be mentioned. The priority was to identify current leadership patterns, to help bring these leaders together as a community, and to urge them to accept responsibility for the next generation.


Here are the people whose names emerged from our surveys and conversations as having achieved national recognition for leadership of their institutions, professional associations, foundations, and disciplines in ways that influenced significantly America’s colleges and universities in the 1990s.

David W. Breneman is dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. A former president of Kalamazoo College, he has distinguished himself as a scholar throughout his career, focusing on the financing and economics of higher education since his doctoral work at Berkeley. Breneman was one of the original 1978 “Young Leaders of the Academy” and is responsible for sharpening how scholars and policymakers alike think about the pricing and costs of academic institutions.

As the newly appointed president of the University of North Carolina System, Molly Corbett Broad is a study in “firsts.” Broad is the first woman and the first person from outside North Carolina to hold this critical position. Before this, she served in senior executive positions from Syracuse to Arizona to California State University, even while raising a family and completing her own doctoral work. Broad is one of the three research-university leaders recently chosen to develop the next generation of the Internet by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development.

In Change’ s 1975 identification of the “44 Most Influential Leaders of the Academy,” K. Patricia Cross was one of only four women so listed. Since then, she has remained a highly respected scholar working on a broad range of academic issues, including adult learners, community colleges, and classroom assessment. Currently serving as professor emeritus and as the David Pierpont Gardner Professor of Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley, Cross formerly chaired the Department of Administration Planning and Social Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her address of 10 years ago, “Taking Teaching Seriously,” became a landmark statement in the undergraduate reform movement.

Vera King Farris is president of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She is the immediate past chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and served previously as the vice president for academic affairs and professor of biological sciences at Kean College. In New Jersey, she has lead efforts to establish accountability standards for public and private institutions. As AASCU chair and as an ACE board member, she has been instrumental in shaping higher education’s positions on the forthcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Amendments.

Augustine Gallego is currently the chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. Within the extraordinarily complex governance and fiscal economic structure for community colleges in California, he has been a stand-out leader on behalf of community outreach, work force preparation, and voluntary regional coordination between public and private, senior and junior colleges in Southern California. His leadership at the National Association of Community Colleges is now providing similar influence on these critical challenges.

For Change readers, the inclusion of Zelda F. Gamson will be no surprise. As an executive editor of this magazine, a distinguished sociologist, and as director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, she has gained honor and respect for the clarity of her thinking and her encouragement of young talent. In her earlier years on the faculty at Michigan, Gamson attracted attention with her work on experimental colleges. At NERCHE, she has brought to fruition important work on general education, curricular reform, service learning, and faculty involvement in community outreach.

Arthur Levine became the ninth president of Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1994, where he also serves as a professor of higher education. Levine made his mark early, writing an important book on curricular reform with the late Ernest Boyer in the 1970s, then accomplishing a successful “turnaround” as the young president of Bradford College, whence he went on to a faculty post at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his eight books and trenchant pieces for Change and The Chronicle, Levine has been a champion of the poor and the new in higher education.

Ted Marchese is also no stranger to the readers of Change, having served as its chief editor since 1984 and as vice president of AAHE since 1982. Over the years, Marchese’s own writing has put him at the center of national conversations about assessment, quality, undergraduate reform, and student learning.

Barry Munitz served seven years as chancellor of the California State University system before beginning this January as president and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Another member of the original 1978 “Young Leaders of the Academy,” Munitz served earlier as chancellor of the University of Houston, academic vice president of the University of Illinois system, and for almost a decade as the chief operating officer of a Fortune 200 company. He began his administrative career as a staff assistant to Clark Kerr at the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

Frank Newman, president of the Education Commission of the States, has played a profoundly important role these past dozen years in reshaping attitudes toward K-12 reform and higher education’s role in that effort. Another of the 44 leading voices listed in 1975, Newman served earlier as president of the University of Rhode Island and as a fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In the early ’70s, while an administrator at Stanford, he co-authored the federal “Newman Report” that became a touchstone for reform (and controversy) through much of that decade.

Blenda J. Wilson, president of the California State University at Northridge, is another member of the original young leadership group; she was serving then as senior associate dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Wilson’s first presidency was at the University of Michigan-Dearborn; prior to that, she served as the State Higher Education executive officer for Colorado. A visible national spokesperson for academic issues, Wilson earned extraordinary recognition for her rebuilding of the Northridge campus after the destructive earthquake of four years ago.

Patrick Callan last year brought to an end his California Policy Center on Higher Education, which had significant statewide and national impacts on issues of system effectiveness and access; he is now launching a successor center, focused on national policy, from offices in San Jose. Callan served earlier as the State Higher Education executive officer in Montana, Washington, and California.

Russell Edgerton just completed 20 years’ service as president of the American Association for Higher Education, and has now joined the Pew Charitable Trust as head of its education program. Edgerton brought AAHE from relative obscurity to a key role in shaping national conversations about teaching, assessment, faculty roles, school reform, and technology, and carries these “reform” agendas with him to the philanthropic world.

Vartan Gregorian was also a member of the 1978 young leadership group and was recently named president and chief executive of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He achieved national prominence while serving as president of Brown University, as the innovative head of the New York Public Library, and as provost of the University of Pennsylvania. While at Brown, Gregorian was instrumental in working with the Annenberg Foundation and a number of professional associations to link higher education’s energies to the reform of K- 12 schools.

Stanley O. Ikenberry is now president of the American Council on Education, and one more member of the 1978 young leadership group. At that time he was serving as executive vice president of Pennsylvania State University, and for 16 years was president of the University of Illinois.

Donald Stewart is president of the College Board, and is one more member of the young leaders cohort from 20 years ago. He emerged as a major voice during his presidency of Spelman College, speaking out for the role of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and on behalf of issues of access and academic success for all students. His dissertation work studied the American Council on Education’s impact on higher education policy, and his earliest administrative assignments were with Martin Myerson at the University of Pennsylvania.

Robert Atwell has just retired from the presidency of the American Council on Education, after 17 years in that post and as ACE’s executive vice president. At the Council, he took courageous stands on behalf of minority advancement, athletics reform, change in accreditation, and against federal cuts in higher education spending. He serves now as executive consultant to A. T. Kearney and Associates, and as a member of the California Citizens Commission on Higher Education.

John Casteen is president of the University of Virginia, a state in which he served earlier as secretary of education. Between these two assignments he was president of the University of Connecticut, and an important participant in national discussions regarding the finance and accreditation of colleges and universities. He is now chairman of the Presidents Advisory Council for the Association of Governing Boards, and has been very active in national policy discussions within the College Board, the Association of American Universities, and the National Association of State Colleges and Land Grant Universities.

Paul Elsner has served for 18 years as head of the Maricopa County Community College system in greater Phoenix. A frequent participant on national commissions and special panels, he has been a strong voice for the development of community colleges and their articulation with senior colleges and universities. Under his leadership, the Maricopa colleges have been at the forefront in technology, governance, curricular design, and collaborative arrangements with industry.

Steven Portch is the dynamic head of the board of regents of the University System of Georgia, after working for years as the chief academic officer at the University of Wisconsin. With all the recent attention to Georgia’s Hope Scholarship plan, and the general reinvigoration of higher education in Georgia, Portch has emerged as a visible spokesperson on national policy matters, including technology deployment and school-college linkage.

Harold Shapiro is finishing close to a decade of service as president of Princeton University, having served earlier for about that time as president of the University of Michigan. In both of these roles, and as Michigan’s provost, he spoke eloquently about a range of economic and leadership issues. Recently he has given extraordinary leadership to the White House Council on Biomedical Ethics.


Higher education has always been influenced by voices and pressures from outside the academy. Public and private patrons who provide resources, elected and appointed officials who shape policy, journalists who interpret our acts, and critics who challenge our assumptions all have profoundly impacted what academic leaders do and how they do it. The following individuals were identified by our surveys and inquiries as particularly strong influencers/molders/ shapers of American academic life.

William G. Bowen has served as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the past decade. In that position, he presides over one of the largest and most influential grant-making organizations in the country. Before coming to Mellon, Bowen was a distinguished faculty member, the provost, and then the visibly successful president of Princeton University. He is a distinguished scholar of higher education governance and of the economics of college and university operations. Through his activities at Princeton and at Mellon, he has been a strong, very visible spokesperson for the strengthening of social values and for matters of cultural heritage.

One would expect the president of the United States to appear on any list reflecting powerful voices on public policy matters, but President Clinton has earned a particular place in this survey. From his days as chair of the Education Commission of the States’ board of directors (while serving as governor of Arkansas), to his administration’s record in the White House, he has championed the reshaping of higher education’s commitment to broadened access and college affordability, backed by an emphasis on high academic standards for all levels of education. When one adds to this his commitment to service learning, his program placing college students as mentors in third-grade classrooms to strengthen reading capability, and further his increase of Pell funding and the extension of Hope Scholarships across the country, this president is readily identified as an absolutely vital influence upon all of our efforts.

Ordinarily, it would be difficult for a single member of a particular governing board to emerge as a person who impacts policy at the national level. Nonetheless, through his forceful advocacy on affirmative action issues, including California’s Proposition 209 and the University of California’s shift of admission and hiring practices, Ward Connerly brought legitimacy (and controversy) to nationwide attempts to roll back what had been a cornerstone of the academy’s effort to expand opportunities.

A number of entrepreneurs in the country’ s technology sector have had a profound influence on the shape of educational practice, but none can be said to have been more influential than Bill Gates at Microsoft. From his post as founder-CEO of a massively complicated publicly held company, and his personal status as GATES star of an enterprise culture (and as the country’s wealthiest person), he has forced our attention toward his vision of the potential for computers in everyday society, especially in the classroom and library. A good bet: the greater part of Gates’ influence may be yet to come.

University of Phoenix founder and chairman John Sperling rewrote the rules for success in the postsecondary marketplace, in the process creating a publicly held company worth an estimated $400 million. Starting almost from scratch in the 1980s, the University of Phoenix now describes itself as the second-largest private university in the country; at the least, it is the market leader among a whole set of proprietary institutions growing at a phenomenal rate. Sperling’s model may be seen by some as all-too-full of shortcuts, but its market success has certainly caught the eye of campus policymakers searching for when, where, and how education will be offered to the next generation of non-traditional (and traditional) students.

Beyond Change, seekers of information about higher education turn inevitably to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Corbin Gwaltney has been the person who nurtured this newspaper from its inception about 30 years ago and turned it into the well-edited “must read” that it is today. The privately held Chronicle bears the unmistakable stamp of its owner-publisher: it has no front page; eschews editorials, obituaries, book reviews, and investigative reporting; and ignores a host of topics from teaching to accreditation … even as it shines week after week with its coverage of scholarship, technology, publishing, sports, fund-raising, and appointments.

As Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in 1994, a new group of committee and subcommittee heads emerged with the assignment to oversee budgets and programs related to higher education. Senator Jim Jeffords, and Congressmen Bill Goodling and Buck McKeon have been three critical voices in the reexamination of higher education policy at the federal level. They were instrumental in carving out critical compromises with the executive branch during budget deliberations of the past two years, and they will play an even more important role this year as higher education’s reauthorization steps onto the congressional agenda.

Western governors Roy Romer of Colorado and Mike Levitt of Utah have focused national attention on technology’s role in higher education with their plan to launch an Internet-based Western Governors University. At least half a dozen “me too” networks were announced as a result last year, spawning vigorous debate about distance learning, non-traditional delivery systems, and the meaning of degrees.

Another voice from Washington emerging repeatedly in the Leadership Project’s poll is that of Secretary of Education Richard Riley. During his two-term service as governor of South Carolina and in his six years as secretary, Riley has consistently fought and won battles on issues also identified with then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton: access, high standards, and work force preparation.

Many survey participants and consultants suggested that Riley was the strongest leader his department has had since its inception, citing his efforts to expand federal grant and loan programs, reform the lending process, cut defaults, and reduce regulatory burdens on colleges and universities,


In the last two decades, much of the leadership in higher educations has come less from individuals in “influential positions” than from people who carverd out an issue and found or created ways to bring it persuasively to the attention of the academy as a whole. For their roles as agenda-setters, Change recognizes these 11 influential leaders:

Alexander Astin of UCLA has used his yearly student surveys to roll out powerful arguments for research-based efforts to improve undergraduate education. Father of the “value added” approach to college quality, he is also a theorist-advocate-practitioner of assessment.

Alison Bernstein, from her position at the Ford Foundation, has been strategist, prompter, and funder of dozens of projects that over time have reshaped campus appreciation of the benefits of diversity. She is also a champion of the importance to minorities of community college and transfer.

Richard Chait, currently at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has been an influential writer and consultant to boards of trustees for years. Now, not without controversy, he leads efforts to rethink faculty careers and the future of tenure.

Christopher Edley, Jr., of the Harvard Law School, came to attention as President Clinton’s point man in the administration’s rethinking of affirmative action. He now continues this effort through his writing, speaking, and co-leadership (with Gary Orfield) of the Harvard Civil Rights Project.

Peter Ewell of NCHEMS probably has consulted in more statehouses and on more campuses than any other individual over the past dozen years. From that knowledge base he has become the academy’s chief analyst for issues of accountability, accreditation, assessment, and now distance education.

John Gardner of the University of South Carolina turned sincere care for freshmen into a “Freshman Experience” secretariat, with conferences and consultancies nationwide and abroad. Hundreds of campuses have implemented his “University 101” and related program elements.

Jean MacGregor of the Evergreen State College used grassroots organizing skills to co-found (with Barbara Leigh Smith) the much-admired Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education. She now heads up a national consortium to advance the idea of freshman learning communities.

Parker Palmer, an independent teacher and writer living in Madison, Wisconsin, has inspired a generation of teachers and reformers with evocative visions of community, knowing, and spiritual wholeness. His latest book, The Courage to Teach, was published in December.

Eugene Rice of AAHE was first noticed through his leadership of an experimental college at the University of the Pacific, then as a foundation executive and originator of the four-part view of scholarship brought to wider attention by the late Ernest Boyer. He now heads the influential Forum on Faculty Roles and Rewards.

Terry O’Banion has turned the League for Innovation from a small club into the most dynamic organization in the community college world–now championing Barr and Tagg’s “learning paradigm” ideas, which call colleges to shift the emphasis from teaching to learning.

Robert Zemsky of the University of Pennsylvania has influenced administrative thought for two decades, initially on matters of budget and strategy, more recently on restructuring, technology, and the power of markets. His Pew/Knight roundtables now function on 140 campuses.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Heldref Publications

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