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President Francine G. McNairy: A History of Caring

Millersville University is fortunate to have a president who is not only willing to serve her campus in a diligent and prestigious manner behind the scenes, but to lead an overall inspiring life that students are fortunate to learn from.

Since her 2003 inauguration, Dr. Francine McNairy has kept Millersville nationally ranked by both U.S. News & World Report and Kiplinger’s in the midst of economic crisis. Her exuberant leadership has impacted the greater community as well, through involvement with Millersville borough and its upcoming 250th anniversary celebration.

When asked to reflect on her own greatest achievements, an increase in diversity among both faculty and students was at the top of President McNairy’s list. President McNairy takes pride in the fact that Black History Month is not an isolated event on campus, explaining that, “At Millersville we celebrate diversity on our campus all year round, not just during one month. We were honored in January to have Dr. Cornel West with us to help celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the Frederick Douglass Celebration of Black Culture speakers cover diverse issues across many cultures and races throughout the year.”

Millersville University is thriving in all areas under President McNairy’s outstanding leadership. During her presidency she has finalized a $40 million capital campaign. President McNairy explains that she has also initiated the next one, “a $60 million effort with emphasis on endowment growth, a major renovation and expansion of the performing arts center, and continuation of major academic facility upgrades including technology equipment advancements in the sciences, humanities, and education.”

Yet another incredible achievement during President McNairy’s six year presidency has been the establishment of a new university vision statement. This came as the result of a strategic planning process, which President McNairy said includes, “a more intentional commitment to the University’s promise to its students, a redesign of the budget process to encourage greater constituent participation, a focus on securing new revenue sources, and the strategic process of aligning the University’s budget with institutional priorities and goals.”

A prominent source of inspiration for the students and faculty alike at Millersville, President McNairy finds her own inspiration from many people in her own life. Her own mother, Gladys McNairy, was also an activist who strongly believed in quality education for all in children in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Gladys McNairy was the first African American woman appointed to the Pittsburgh School Board as well as its first African American president. President McNairy said, “She taught me that it was important to ‘give back to the community’ and to work hard to make a difference in the lives of others. She was a great diplomat who knew how to solve problems and create new ways of thinking and working together with her adversaries as well as co-workers.”

Another person who powerfully influences the ongoing legacy of President McNairy is one of her close friends, Marsha. President McNairy said, “For many years my friend, Marsha, was a warrior against cancer. She approached each day as a precious gift from her Creator. While she is no longer with us, she taught me to value the life that I have and to refrain from self pity. She taught me to be a cheerleader for others and to applaud every little success, because it is the small victories that build the foundation for the big successes.”

As someone with her fair share of both small and large successes, any advice from President McNairy is someone for everyone to treasure. When asked to offer some personal advice to Millersville students, she said, “Dare to pursue the road less traveled. Anyone can follow a safe path that others have traveled. Learn to take appropriate risks in life that lead to the improved quality of life for humankind. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take time to understand as many cultures as possible – this world requires that we learn to communicate and interact with those who may not believe in the same values as we do, however, the future of the planet requires that we learn to respect and live with those who are different. We might learn that they are not so very different from us.”