TEANECK — Michael Adams, 64, president of Fairleigh Dickinson University since 1999, has announced his retirement, effective June 30.
The president has been on medical leave since the fall, and in a note to the University community on May 16 said, “I have reluctantly concluded that my continuing medical issues make it impossible for me to provide the leadership that you and our students deserve.”
In the fall, Adams was diagnosed with a blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). A bone marrow transplant in February failed to cure the disease, and he was subsequently diagnosed with a cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
“I’ve always known that I was only the caretaker for a time and that I would eventually pass the torch,” Adams wrote to faculty and staff. “I’m so proud of all that we have accomplished together, and I’m so proud of the institution that we are today.”
Adams added, “I anchored my heart and soul to FDU. Although I’m sorry to have to step down, I’m extremely gratified to have played a small role in this institution’s incredible history.”
During Adams’ presidency, the University created a new mission and raised enrollment; established a new campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; dedicated $135 million to new facilities and capital improvements; and successfully concluded the largest capital campaign in FDU’s history.
Adams led the creation of a nationally recognized distance-learning program and established a new category of Global Virtual Faculty — scholars and professionals from around the world who contribute to the online-learning environment. He launched the United Nations Pathways program, which brings members of the diplomatic corps to campus for interaction with students; and helped the institution gain nongovernmental organization (NGO) status with the United Nations Department of Public Information. FDU also became the first university in the world to earn “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the first university to join the U.N. Academic Impact, an alliance of universities committed to supporting U.N. projects and goals.
In addition, Adams spearheaded numerous innovative offerings including the Spanish-to-English degree program Puerta al Futuro, community college partnerships, a national model support program for veterans and a new school of pharmacy that will open soon.
“J. Michael Adams has transformed Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the entire University community expresses its appreciation and gratitude for his extraordinary leadership,” said FDU Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick J. Zenner.
“Dr. Adams inspired our community and changed the lives of all those fortunate enough to be influenced by him. We particularly cherished his warmth, his wisdom, his sensitivity and his passion,” he said.
Zenner added, “His professional accomplishments speak for themselves and greatly distinguished our University. His talent, vision and dedication were second to none. But the presidency of Michael Adams will perhaps best be remembered for his ability to make it personal. He responded to every note, returned every call and always reached out to help colleagues and friends in need. He was always there for us. He once said, ‘You make a legacy by giving others opportunities.’ Through the opportunities he created for students and colleague alike, Dr. Adams’ legacy will last for generations to come.”
In addition to serving as FDU president, Adams earned an international reputation for his advocacy of global education and served as the president of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), a Governing Council member of the United Nations University, a National Council member of the United Nations Association of the United States of America and a Steering Committee member of the World Bank’s Researchers Alliance for Development. The author of nine books, Adams most recently wrote Coming of Age in a Globalized World: The Next Generation, which explores the impact of globalization on education.
Zenner said that the Board of Trustees will conduct a national search for a new president and will be meeting shortly to plan the search. Sheldon Drucker has served as acting president while Adams has been on medical leave and, with Adams’ retirement, will serve as interim president until a new permanent president is apppointed. “We have a strong leadership team in place under Shelley Drucker,” Zenner said, “and we look forward to building on the momentum that Michael Adams helped create.”
Drucker joined FDU in 1996 as vice president for finance/treasurer and was named senior vice president and chief operating officer in 2007. He has led the continued financial growth of the University and played a major role in numerous initiatives including the establishment of FDU’s Vancouver campus.
“We are very grateful for the inspiration and foundation laid by President Adams,” Drucker said. “Because of him, the University is well positioned to respond to the challenges of today, and we will continue to focus on our mission of global education and preparing students for leading roles in our global society.”
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