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Long-time James Madison University, President Jonathan Alger, has been appointed as the 16th President of American University effective July 2024.

Jon Alger is highly regarded as a visionary leader in higher education who has an impressive record of accomplishments at JMU and throughout his career in academia.

Alger previously served as senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers University.  While assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan, he played a leading role in two landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases on race and admissions. While at both Michigan and Rutgers, Alger taught courses in leadership, law, higher education, public policy and diversity. He also worked as counsel for the American Association of University Professors and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Alger earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School.


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In February 2024, WittKieffer released a report, Talent Insights: The Path to the College Presidency, where they confirmed that while presidents specialize in a wide variety of academic areas, 13% have a legal education (J.D.) background. This statistic reiterates the finding in May it Please the Campus: Lawyers Leading Higher Education. The report also notes that while provosts positions are typical stepping stones to the presidency (38%), 22% of presidents previously served as a dean immediately prior to their presidential appointment. A recent blog post about lawyer provosts also shows this connection, and the data in May it Please the campus shows the number of law school deans who later became presidents (some went right to the presidency while others stopped in the provost office first).

The report contains infographics with lots of interesting data points including:

  • The average age of current presidents is 63 years old.

  • 68% of presidents are male and 32% are female.

  • The average tenure of a president is 8 years.

  • 55 years of age is the average for first appointment as a president.

  • One quarter of current university presidents at leading institutions previously held the role elsewhere.

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Prominent legal scholar L. Song Richardson left UC Davis three years ago to assume the presidency at Colorado College.  She has resigned from the presidency effective June 2024 citing constraints on her ability to engage in national policy discussions on what have become hot topic or controversial issues.  She wrote that as the national dialogue around “equity and fairness” has intensified, and that she has felt “increasingly torn between my desire to pursue that work as an academic with the freedom to fully engage in these debates, express my personal views, and challenge the status quo” and her responsibilities as president of the college. Richardson, who is Black and Korean, is the first woman of color to hold the presidency at Colorado College. She received her A.B. from Harvard College and her J.D. from Yale Law School.

President Richardson plans to return to the UC Davis law faculty (where she had served as dean prior to joining Colorado College) and she plans to launch a new institute focused on equity, opportunity and leadership.

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