Asst. News Editor
John M. Anderson became the 14th president of Millersville University on Friday October 25, 2013.
Dr. Anderson opened his inaugural address with a clear vision that would sustain the American Dream: the opportunity to access higher education is the key to securing that dream.
It has become more and more difficult for students to obtain their goals and access higher education due to soaring tuition, debt loans, and state budget cuts.
“The future of public higher education, as we know it, is seriously threatened by a lack of bold visionaries with a bold commitment,” said Dr. Anderson. He explained that state funding for public higher education dramatically decreased within the last five years across the entire country, not only in Pennsylvania. He added, “It’s occurred, quite frankly, without any political debate.”
Dr. Anderson addressed a crowd of about 1,500 students, faculty, staff, alumni, business leaders, family and friends at his inauguration, which took place in Pucillo Gymnasium.
The commencement emphasized Dr. Anderson’s pledge to strengthen public higher education. A number of speakers at the inauguration acknowledged a common concern: Millersville University is facing many obstacles and there is a dire need for a new direction in leadership.
“Today, more than at any other time in our history, the state and the universities of Pennsylvania require strong, and effective yet compassionate leadership,” said Dr. Greg Weisenstein, the 14th President of West Chester University. “It’s a time of great challenges and equally great opportunities. I’m confident that we will all persevere and prosper because of the quality of our leaders.”
Dr. Anderson described himself as the “poster child for higher education”. He was part of the first generation in his family to attend college, after his older sister received her undergraduate degree from a public institution of higher education.
He worked two part-time jobs while attending a community college. He had to take a semester off before transferring to another public university in order to complete his baccalaureate degree.
“If it wasn’t for the high-quality educational experience I received and the opportunity I had, I would not be here today. It’s that simple,” said Dr. Anderson.
Dr. Anderson had a variety of teaching and administrative experiences that made him a top candidate for the president of Millersville University.
In 2008 he was named president of Alfred State College in New York. He has over 20 years of experience as a provost, vice president of student services and vice president for institutional advancement. He was also an instructor and professor of chemistry and physics for 15 years. In addition to these accomplishments, Dr. Anderson completed postgraduate work at Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management, the State University of New York at Buffalo and Alfred State.
In addition to all of his scholarly experiences, Dr. Anderson had a knack for leadership at an early age.
“He was president of the eighth grade class in junior high school,” said Robert Brache, a childhood friend of President Anderson’s and fellow Alfred State colleague. The two have known each other since they were in fifth grade.
“John is an amazing, and always was, person, and politician,” said Brache. “He bridged gaps between all the groups in school.”
Brache listed three groups from their school, Yorktown High School in Westchester County, N.Y., that Dr. Anderson was part of: the athletes — Dr. Anderson was a football player, the greasers — who were “muscle guys with big, noisy cars”, and the nerds — “They were all the kids who were really smart and in tough classes,” said Brache.
Brache described Dr. Anderson as an ambassador to the different activities that were available at their school.
“Growing up he was always a great friend to a lot of people,” said Brache. “He always had a civil conscience about what he did and about what he strained for in life.”
Josiah Ackley, a Secondary Education English Major, reacted to Dr. Anderson’s address to the Millersville community.
“He’s very genial, and very earnest. He’s very well spoken. I could feel like he was a real person,” said Ackley.
After seeing Dr. Anderson’s photo on the University’s website, Ackley described his initial reaction of Dr. Anderson as someone who was not relatable or approachable.
“But he was an actual person and it really showed through his speech,” Ackley said. “It was a good speech.”
Ackley believes that Dr. Anderson brings a genuine commitment to Millersville.
“I hear speeches like this all the time,” said Ackley. “I kind of just roll my eyes at them because people like to quote, and say nice things, and talk about high and lofty ambitions without tackling the anchors that pin them down. He seems like he really wants to do good things and it sounds like he’s already been doing good things since April.”
Ackley expressed his disappointment in former Millersville president, Dr. Francine McNairy. He stated that a professor, who Ackley did not name, criticized McNairy’s policies which seemed contradictory to one another.
“It seemed like she was trying to sort of gild her nest in preparation for her retirement, and it’s a lot more take than give,” said Ackley. “To me that’s what I kept hearing, although I looked for people who were saying the opposite, there were very few and far between who believed she was doing a good thing. It’s a lot more pomp and circumstance than I feel that she deserves. Let’s put it that way.”
Ackley also voiced disapproval of the library being re-named after Dr. McNairy.
“I don’t think it’s a good move. I can’t help but feel that there may have been certain meetings that were pushing towards that all along,” Ackley said. “I think she wanted a last minute ‘hey me’ type of moment.”
Other students fondly reminisced about the former university president.
“Oh, yeah. McNairy was awesome. I liked her a lot,” said Erik Ballard, a caterer and Millersville student who is majoring in Elementary Education. “We catered a lot of events for her, back when she was still here. She was always really nice and really gracious to catering staff.”
Ballard stated that although he did not know too much about McNairy, he did notice her school spirit.
“I know she was always at events,” he said. “You could tell that she really enjoyed being with the university.”
Keith Coasy, a fellow caterer and Millersville student who is majoring in physics, expressed his first impression of Dr. Anderson.
“I think he brings a certain prestige to the school,” Coasy said. “Last year I know there weren’t many celebrations, but so far with the banners, it brings a lot of change to Millersville.”
Millersville University formally welcomed a man who came from a humble background and worked his way up to set ambitious dreams as the 14th president of the university.
“Those that are fortunate enough and close enough to know John Anderson, know that you guys have got an unbelievable president, because he truly is not in it for the glory,” said Brache. “He’s in it for the people that are here.”