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Biography of President John Strassburger

Ursinus College (founded in 1869) has emerged under President John Strassburger as a national model of liberal education and has been recognized for its programs in such in national publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and by peers at Princeton, Columbia and Harvard universities.

During the 15 years since John Strassburger arrived at Ursinus in January 1995, student achievement has been the focus of his tenure, and the springboard to success in national competitions for fellowships and scholarships and presenting research at national and regional conferences. The Summer Fellows program was instituted, and The college became affiliated with several elite groups, including The Annapolis Group, the Watson Foundation, the Kemper Scholars program, Colleges that Change Lives, the Mellon Foundation, the Bonner Leaders Program, Project Pericles and Project DEEP. Through the latter, Ursinus was featured in a landmark study, “Documenting Effective Educational Practices,” by George Kuh and others, and earned praise from the Washington Post for the college’s Common Intellectual Experience.
Enrollment has grown from 1,100 to 1,700, and the percentage of incoming high school students in the top ten-percent of their class rank, has increased to half.

An American historian, Dr. Strassburger earned a B.A. at Bates College, M.A. at Cambridge, Ph.D. at Princeton and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tohoku Gakuin University in Japan. He is past-chair of the board of the Council of Independent Colleges and until recently served on the boards of the American Academic Leadership Institute, the American Council on Education, the President’s Council of Project Pericles; he remains on the Lenfest Foundation Board. He has written and lectured about architecture, colonial history, and liberal education in this country and abroad. He has produced seven Occasional Papers on liberal education.

Among other places his commentaries have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, University Business and the Harrisburg Patriot News on SATs, on college rankings, academic quality, contemporary political discourse, the federal government’s role in higher education, and the relevance and importance of liberal education. He and his wife, Trudy, have two daughters and two grandchildren.



Ursinus College President John Strassburger told a campus gathering today that he will step down from the Presidency June 30, for personal and health reasons. President Strassburger, the 12th president of Ursinus College, is serving in his 16th year. After announcing his plans to the campus in historic Bomberger auditorium along side Board vice-chair Jef Corson, he was given a heartfelt thank you from the community.

The Board of Trustees has begun to address the presidential transition. At its regular Winter meeting later this month, the Board will refine the process of a national search to select and appoint President Strassburger’s successor. Faculty and students will be involved throughout.

President Strassburger told the campus gathering: “With truly bittersweet feelings of both anticipation and regret, I have decided the time is right for my family and for me, personally and for health reasons, and right for Ursinus as well, for me to step down as president of the College June 30. I am proud to say that the College has never been stronger or more secure in its identity.” He added that the recent re-accreditation report declaring Ursinus to be a “model of liberal education” provides a natural coda for his service. “More importantly, it provides a great starting point for the college to move forward with the vigorous new leadership it deserves.”

A prepared statement from Dr. Spencer Foreman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, was sent to the campus community, announcing that “With pride in our college’s extraordinary accomplishments during his tenure, but also with profound feelings of regret,” the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has agreed to President Strassburger’s request to step down this coming June 30 as President of the College. Dr. Foreman added that the Board is delighted, however, that President Strassburger will serve as President Emeritus for two years, so Ursinus will continue to benefit from his “remarkable public and philanthropic advocacy of Ursinus and liberal education.”

“Owing to President Strassburger’s extraordinary leadership, and his role in Ursinus emerging as a national leader among liberal arts colleges, we are confident that Ursinus could hardly be in a better position to select the next great leader in liberal education,” stated Dr. Foreman in his message. “We all know President Strassburger’s leadership has gone well beyond new buildings, bigger endowment, more better students, improved salaries and increasing national recognition. All that has been driven by a focus permeating the entire college on the very heart of what the model of a liberal arts college should be.

Expanding his comments he said, “We all have recognized for some time the extent to which Ursinus has become a model liberal arts institution. It is fitting that the climax of this presidency comes on the heels of last spring’s ten-year accreditation review. It was gratifying to all of us who care about the college and admire what it has become to have our views affirmed, when the team wrote that ‘Ursinus…is now a national leader in its commitment to the high impact practices that facilitate deep and long-lasting learning by students in the liberal arts,’ and ‘Ursinus is truly inspiring… One comes away [from a visit to Ursinus] with a renewed appreciation of what is possible in liberal education.’”

Dr. Foreman also noted that while the accrediting team was struck by the remarkable transformation of the campus and new programs ranging from dance to neuroscience, but what had most pleased the Trustees is that the heart of the praise was for our overall programs— Ursinus’s way of defining the meaning of liberal education with the Common Intellectual Experience first-year course; success at nurturing intellectual autonomy with an Independent Learning requirement, and the proliferation of programs such as international study and undergraduate research. As the accrediting team noted, the college’s ‘focus on student achievement over the past ten years has transformed the undergraduate experience at Ursinus.’

“The Trustees are confident that Ursinus’ upward trajectory will continue well into the future,” he said. “I personally want to convey my sincerest gratitude for the dedicated service President Strassburger has given Ursinus College. It is an honor to serve as Chair during his presidency.”


Christian Rice,
Minor Co-Coordinator
Bomberger 207
Campus Extension: 4334

Rebecca Evans,
Minor Co-Coordinator
Bomberger 213
Campus Extension: 3416