President moves: 2 decade-plus leaders step back after a job well done

“There comes a moment when leaders know in their hearts that it is time to conclude their service, particularly when an organization is in such a strong position,” Colorado Mountain College President Carrie Hauser said in a press release.


Jonathan Alger (Source: James Madison University)
Jonathan Alger – American University (D.C.)

Following a successful 12-year presidential stint at James Madison University in Virginia, Jonathan Alger is packing his things and moving into D.C. to lead American University.

Alger leaves JMU in great shape. He helped double the university’s endowment, raise external research funding by more than 92% in the past four year, earn an R2 Carnegie Classification to R2 and transitioned its athletics program to the FBS as a Division 1 program. Alger has long established a strong commitment to civic engagement among student as well, becoming one of the first recipients of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Standout Campus President Award for increasing student voting rates.

Education leaders within AU and beyond have responded quite positively to Alger’s appointment. AU Faculty Senate Chair Thomas Merrill finds him to be the perfect man for the job as higher education endures an era of “crisis and transition” while AA&U President Lynn Pasquerella credits his ability to lead during this difficult time to his “wealth of experience to the presidency,” The Washington Post reports.

Alger steps into the role in July.

Marcheta Evans – St. Catherine University (Minn.)

St. Catherine University has found a new leader in Marcheta Evans, the current president of Bloomfield College of Montclair State University. She will the first African American female president at the all-women’s private Catholic University.

Evans is widely recognized for overseeing the merger of Bloomfield College and Montclair University in July. Leaders at Sr. Kate were drawn to the president’s experience in enacting university wide growth strategies and her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. She is the past president of the American Counseling Association as well as of the Association for Creativity in Counseling.

Earning here Doctor of Philosophy degree in Counselor Education and Supervision, Evans specialized in Student Affairs, Administration in Higher Education, and Human Resource Management.

Aondover Tarhule – Illinois State University

After searching far and wide, Illinois State University’s 29-member executive search committee has announced its choosing to stick with its in-house talent. The Board of Trustees has elevated Aondover Tarhule after proving himself over the past year as interim president.

Tarhule had drawn wide praise from board members, alumni, student government and various academic departments for his boots-on-the-ground approach to leadership and deep adherence to a shared governance structure.

The first-time president is also a first-time college student born and raised in Nigeria and who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in his native country.

The widely published scholar, however, is well-versed in academic leadership in the United States. Prior to Tarhule’s recent stint as president, he served as ISU’s vice president for academic affairs and provost for three years, as well as a professor in the Department of Geography. He’s also held high-level academic leadership positions at Binghamton University and the University of Oklahoma.

“Dr. Tarhule has a clear vision of how to lead Illinois State University through our next crucial stage of development and growth,” Martha Horst, chairperson for the Academic Senate, said in a press release. “As a former faculty member, chair, dean and provost, he understands the concerns and perspectives of faculty and is willing to sit down and work with us.”

More from UB: AI at HBCUs: The next digital divide or a great reset?

Stepping down

Carrie Besnette Hauser – Colorado Mountain College
Carrie Besnette Hauser (Source: Colorado Mountain College)

Carrie Besnette Hauser has served the longest tenure of any president at Colorado Mountain College. She is also among one of the most distinct, setting up the dual-mission institution as an epicenter for upskilling and career development in Colorado’s north-central region. With funding, leadership and student presence growing strong, Hauser has found this the perfect time to let go and welcome the next generation of leadership.

“There comes a moment when leaders know in their hearts that it is time to conclude their service, particularly when an organization is in such a strong position,” Hauser said in a press release.

Hauser steps down in August following nearly 11 years of service, according to a statement from the university. She plans to climb Mt. Whitney in California to decompress from her responsibilities, having already conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro, and base camp at Mt. Everest in her decorated mountain climbing career, The Aspen Times reports.

Fred Pestello (Source: Saint Louis University)
Fred Pestello – Saint Louis University (Miss.)

On the decade mark of Fred Pestello’s illustrious tenure as president at Saint Louis University, he announced he’d be resigning from his post. Now 71, he plans to dedicate his time to “less stressful” pursuits in the next year and return to teaching after he’s refreshed and caught up on the “stacks of books” he’s put off over his term, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The first layman leader at SLU, Pestello stepped in during a time of strife at the highest levels of the executive totem pole. Faculty and student relations with the former president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, began to sour after 26 years of leadership. Three months into the new president’s tenure, protestors angry with two nationally recognized cases of police brutality toward Black men occupied the campus for six days.

Through Pestello’s guided leadership, he’s helped raise SLU’s endowment by 88% and eclipse new levels in funding and enrollment.

Mark Walker – Lee University (Tenn.)

After “lots of prayer and reflection,” Lee University President Mark Walker announced he would not be seeking another contract to continue his tenure as president, Chatanooga Times Press reports. The former pastor will be concluding his four-year tenure on the last day of Lee’s spring class on May 5. a four-year tenure.

Walker joined Lee University in 2017 after serving 25 years on the pastoral ministry at Mount Paran North Church of God in Georgia. Before becoming president, he served as the vice president for Ministerial Development and the Chair of the Christian Ministries Department.

Former President Paul Conn has been asked to step in on a one-year contract as Lee transitions its leadership.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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