In the best Madison tradition

Forty-eight hours. That’s roughly the time left until James Madison University sees an event that has occurred only four other times in its 104-year history: the transfer of the presidency from an incumbent to a new leader. In a matter of hours, the Rose era will end and the Alger era will begin.

Few responsibilities of leaders are more important than preparing for the future, a duty that begins immediately and absorbs enormous time and effort over an array of years and arenas. For a university president, envisioning the future is complex. There will always be discussions about the direction of higher education, about where science is taking us, about the tension between tradition and progress, about how education impacts the marketplace, about addressing society’s greatest needs.

While decisions are many and vision is important to the life of every institution, all great leaders share one final task that impacts the future as much any other. They must consider the futures in which they won’t take an active part. Many overlook it. Some deliberately ignore it, imagining instead that their leadership will or should never end. Some delay the job until there is no time to do it properly.

During the past year and a half, since Dr. Rose announced his retirement, the wheels of change have moved. The Madison Community has watched a process that has been interesting, deliberative and orderly — reflective of the way in which Dr. Rose has led the university for 14 years. It has granted  the board of visitors and the presidential search committee the luxury of careful consideration. It has allowed the faculty and staff to consider how best they can move forward as well.

While nothing guarantees the success of a new leader, a hurried, forced or disruptive change produces unnecessary challenges. JMU has faced none such. Much of the credit for this methodical change is Dr. Rose’s understanding of the time it takes to do it well. He made sure he gave the university ample time to get it right.

And while Dr. Rose’s attention to succession reflects his modus operandi, the stability of the university during his tenure reveals the impact of his style. Over the past 14 years, there has been a remarkable consistency within JMU’s top ranks. The same people who started with him stayed with him. Perhaps it’s because, as one retired faculty member said to me, “He’s the best boss I ever had.”

Dr. Rose had a tough act to follow when he succeeded Dr. Carrier, but he followed success with success. And now Dr. Rose has presented his own successor with the same challenge and strategic opportunity that he himself received.

A presidency in higher education impacts thousands of people, and by extension millions of lives are touched indirectly. It requires a deep and abiding respect for life and learning, as well as the ability to meet and finesse the needs of hundreds of different and sometimes competing constituencies with decisive, visionary and thoughtful actions.

Dr. Rose has done his job well. And as we say farewell, we are grateful that — in the best Madison tradition — he has generously and wisely opened wide the door to welcome JMU’s next president and the university’s bright future.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

2 Responses to In the best Madison tradition

  1. Shell Hite says:

    Thanks for everything Dr. Rose. And, WELCOME President Alger. You’ve got the JMU Nation behind you and at your service. You’re gonna love it here!! GO DUUUUUUUUUUKES!!!!! The best is yet to come! \,,/ \,,/


  2. We wish Dr. Rose well!


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