FDU President J. Michael Adams, 1947-2012

Teaneck, NJ (June 21, 2012) — J. Michael Adams, president of Fairleigh Dickinson University since 1999, who recently announced his retirement, passed away early this morning. He was 64 years old.

“Our entire University owes an enormous debt to this great leader, and we will never forget how much he did and how much he meant to us,” said Acting President Sheldon Drucker. “On behalf of the entire community, I want to extend my deepest condolences to Michael’s wife, Susan, and all his family members and friends.”

Drucker added, “We are in mourning today but at the same time we promise to continue to celebrate his life, his service to others and his belief in the power of education to change the world.”

The president was on medical leave since the fall, and in a note to the University community on May 16 said, “I have reluctantly concluded that my continuing medical issues make it impossible for me to provide the leadership that you and our students deserve.”

In the fall, Adams was diagnosed with a blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). A bone marrow transplant in February failed to cure the disease, and he was subsequently diagnosed with a cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

“I’ve always known that I was only the caretaker for a time and that I would eventually pass the torch,” Adams wrote to faculty and staff at the time of his retirement announcement. “I’m so proud of all that we have accomplished together, and I’m so proud of the institution that we are today.”

He added, “I anchored my heart and soul to FDU. Although I’m sorry to have to step down, I’m extremely gratified to have played a small role in this institution’s incredible history.”

During Adams’ presidency, the University created a new mission; raised enrollment; established a new campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; dedicated $135 million to new facilities and campus improvements; and successfully concluded the largest capital campaign in FDU’s history.

Adams led the creation of a nationally recognized distance-learning program and established a new category of Global Virtual Faculty — scholars and professionals from around the world who contribute to the online-learning environment. He launched the United Nations Pathways program, which brings members of the diplomatic corps to campus for interaction with students; and helped the institution gain nongovernmental organization (NGO) status with the United Nations Department of Public Information. FDU also became the first university in the world to earn “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). And Adams helped develop and FDU was the first to join the U.N. Academic Impact, an alliance of universities committed to supporting U.N. projects and goals.

In addition, Adams spearheaded numerous innovative offerings including the Spanish-to-English degree program Puerta al Futuro, community college partnerships, a national model support program for veterans and a new school of pharmacy, which will open soon.

At the time of Adams’ retirement announcement, Board Chairman Patrick J. Zenner said, “J. Michael Adams has transformed Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the entire University community expresses its appreciation and gratitude for his extraordinary leadership. Dr. Adams inspired our community and changed the lives of all those fortunate enough to be influenced by him. We particularly cherished his warmth, his wisdom, his sensitivity and his passion.”

Zenner added, “His professional accomplishments speak for themselves and greatly distinguished our University. His talent, vision and dedication were second to none. But the presidency of Michael Adams will perhaps best be remembered for his ability to make it personal. He responded to every note, returned every call and always reached out to help colleagues and friends in need. He was always there for us. He once said, ‘You make a legacy by giving others opportunities.’ Through the opportunities he created for students and colleague alike, Dr. Adams’ legacy will last for generations to come.”

In addition to serving as FDU president, Adams earned an international reputation for his advocacy of global education and was the president of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP). Prior to his inauguration in 2011, he was chairperson of the organization’s North American Council and a member of the IAUP Executive Committee. Under his leadership, the organization embarked on bold new initiatives, including the WISE Education Leadership Program, which provides leadership training for newly appointed university presidents in the developing world, and the IAUP/Microsoft Academic Summit, which helps equip university leaders around the world to more effectively use technology to address institutional challenges. He dedicated his IAUP presidency to the goal of using higher education to build bridges to a more peaceful and prosperous future.

He also served as a Governing Council member of the United Nations University, a National Council member of the United Nations Association of the United States of America and a Steering Committee member of the World Bank’s Researchers Alliance for Development. The author of nine books, Adams most recently wrote Coming of Age in a Globalized World: The Next Generation, which explores the impact of globalization on education.

Following news of the death of President Adams, U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon released the following statement: “The Secretary-General has learned with sadness of the death of Dr J. Michael Adams, president of the International Association of University Presidents and of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Dr. Adams was a strong United Nations champion and partner, and a personal friend. He brought his wisdom and energy, and that of the institutions he led, to serve the greater global cause, in particular, through his meaningful contribution to the United Nations Academic Impact. The eloquence of Michael Adams’ scholarship and writing had a democratic, inter-generational appeal, which brought the power and promise of the United Nations home to so many in a world whose globalization he saw as a resource of strength and possibility. He will be deeply missed.”

Adams is survived by his wife, Susan M. Adams; son Benjamin Carl Adams and his wife, Jennifer Rose Adams; daughter Rebecca Ann Milligan; daughter Elizabeth Ann Queen and her husband Jeffrey Donald Queen; grandchildren Claire Mignon Adams, Michael Francis Adams, Zachary John Queen and Amelia Grace Queen; sister Mary Carla Grube; niece Lisa Roth Grube and her husband Doug Nutter; niece Jennifer Cory Fennerty and her husband Devon Fennerty; and brother Drew Joseph Adams.  

A visitation will be held Thursday, June 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Lenfell Hall, Hennessy Hall, College at Florham, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, N.J. In addition, a university-wide memorial event will be held in the fall. More details will be shared as they are finalized.

In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted for the J. Michael Adams Scholarships in Global Education. For more information, contact Executive Director of Development Susan McConville at 201-692-7008 or write to mcconvil@fdu.edu or visit www.myfdu.net/jma

Drucker, who served as acting president while Adams was on medical leave, will serve as interim president until a new permanent president is appointed. A national search is under way.

For Immediate Release

More information on Dr. Adams can be found at About J. Michael Adams.

FDU Office of Public Relations

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