President moves: New hires abound, 1 retires following a 20-year stint

Nancy Cantor was so appreciated in Newark that faculty, students and even the city's mayor deeply disapproved of the university system letting her go.

A spate of new hires breathes fresh life into higher education as the thick of winter slowly dissipates. One presidential heavyweight steps into her mother’s alma mater. And while a 20-year presidential tenure is one to celebrate in retirement, one particular decade-old stint is souring following proposed academic cuts.


CUNY Hunter College President Nancy Cantor
CUNY Hunter College President Nancy Cantor (Source: The City University of New York)
Nancy Cantor – CUNY Hunter College

CUNY Hunter College just gained a higher education heavyweight in Nancy Cantor, who brings her wealth of presidential experience to the New York City system’s largest institution.

Cantor is wrapping up her nine-year term at Rutgers University-Newark following the chancellor of Rutgers deciding not to renew her contract. The chancellor was so appreciated in Newark that faculty, students and even the city’s mayor deeply disapproved of the university system letting her go. Before Rutgers-Newark, she enjoyed a nine-year presidential stint at Syracuse University. Prior to that, she led the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for three. At all three universities, Cantor was the first woman president.

The Hunter College president-elect is well-known for her collaborative spirit and plans to integrate the institution with the rest of the city system, Diverse reports. Her passion for working with the community earned her the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award at Syracuse and was so convincing at Newark that she increased the enrollment rate of surrounding Newark community students by nearly 50%, CUNY reports.

But CUNY Hunter is more than a new project for Cantor; it’s her mother’s alma mater. Her father was a graduate of the neighboring City College of New York.

Jeffrey Doggett – Wagner College (N.Y.)

In July, Jeffrey Doggett will receive his first shot as a college president following a successful leadership stint at Merrimack College in Massachusetts and a decade-long run at Northeastern University that eventually culminated in his first taste of academic leadership. The new president will lead Wagner College, where he will be expected to help transform and grow the liberal arts college.

The Wagner College Board of Trustees has good reason to trust Doggett, considering he did similar work at Merrimack as its executive vice president and chief financial officer. Doggett is credited for helping upgrade Wagner’s athletics program to Division I and elevating its brand, academic reputation and financial position, Wagner’s newsroom reports.

Jens Frederiksen – University of New Haven (Conn.)
University of New Haven President Jens Frederiksen
University of New Haven President Jens Frederiksen (Source: University of New Haven)

The University of New Haven has bestowed some lofty expectations on its incoming president, Jens Frederiksen, after his recent success at Fisk University in Tennessee. The private university based out of Connecticut hopes Fredericksen can draw his expertise in enrollment management, fundraising and K12 and industry pipelines to sustain UNH’s long-term growth.

“The selection committee universally views him as an exceptionally forward-thinking and transformational leader,” said Michael Ambrose, chair of the search committee and vice chair of the University’s Board of Governors, in a statement. “Dr. Frederiksen distinguished himself with his bold vision for the University, his dedication to excellence and his commitment to collaboration, which perfectly aligns with our culture of innovation and success.”

Frederiksen’s efforts at Fisk drew in more than $100 million in donations, which contributed to its overall growth in endowment. He will be replacing Steven Kaplan, who finishes an 18-year run as president.

Jack Warner – Rhode Island College

Following a two-year stint as Rhode Island College’s interim president, Jack Warner has earned the executive role permanently after helping reverse declining enrollment rates and lifting the number of first-year and transfer students by 18%, Turn to 10 reports.

A college president doesn’t turn an institution around with just the click of a button. Warner cultivated excitement around RIC’s options by introducing a new cybersecurity center and creating an attractive dual enrollment scholarship. The new president has also spurred engagement with the business community through stronger communication channels.

RIC gained a prominent higher education leader in the interim position from the get-go; Warner was CEO and executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents for over six years, in which he oversaw 36,000 students.

“Jack knows Rhode Island and has laid down a strong foundation for the college, the board, and its students to build upon,” said state Gov. Dan McKee.


Florida Southern College President Anne Kerr
Florida Southern College President Anne Kerr (Source: Florida Southern College)
Anne Kerr – Florida Southern College

A private college titan is choosing to retire after a commendable 20 years of leadership. Anne Kerr, who was frequently recognized as one of the most influential business executives in Florida, steps away from Florida Southern College with an excellent track record to look back on.

FSC has buffed up its academic ranking and enrollment numbers under Kerr’s steady hand, WUSF reports. The private college in Lakeland has added more than 20 buildings and has expanded 20 more. Moreover, it’s added 19 new graduate programs and is routinely recognized as a Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars.

In tune with her business savviness, Kerr’s recent “Believe Campaign” earned the school over $300 million in fundraising. Overall, the outgoing president leaves the college with its highest enrollment numbers, more competitive academic and Division II athletic programs, and a higher endowment.

Stepping down

Kwang-Wu Kim – Columbia College Chicago
Columbia College Chicago President Kwang-Wu Kim
Columbia College Chicago President Kwang-Wu Kim (Source: Columbia College Chicago)

After a decade of serving as Columbia College Chicago’s president, Kwang-Wu Kim is exiting following unrest from faculty and students on his unpopular strategic decision to alleviate the institution’s $20 million deficit, Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Kim had proposed to cut over 300 classes deemed by the administration to lack sufficient enrollment numbers. However, students decried the decision, stating that highly sought-after classes were axed, disrupting their learning. The Columbia community pointed to Kim’s handsome salary of over $1 million as a potential asset to restructure instead of their academics. The proposal particularly stung faculty, who voted to go on a strike that lasted for six weeks.

The budget deficit has partially been incurred due to the institution’s declining enrollment. Based on federal data, the Sun-Times reported that the private art colleges lost nearly 5,000 students between 2010 and 2020.

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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