Biography: J. Michael Adams

Dr. J. Michael Adams devoted his professional life to building bridges across divides and transforming lives through higher education. His leadership in global education and his devotion to fostering international understanding was recognized throughout the world.

The president of Fairleigh Dickinson University from 1999 until his death in 2012, he inspired a new vision and mission dedicated to preparing world citizens through global education. He further led an institutional transformation that instilled a sense of mission across the University.

During his presidency, the University established a new campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; dedicated $135 million to new facilities and capital improvements; and successfully concluded the largest capital campaign in FDU’s history. He 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. Early in his FDU tenure, 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 at the United Nations. More recently, FDU became the first university in the world to earn “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In addition, Dr. 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 unique collaboration with The New York Times to offer online career studies certificates.

Dr. Adams was active with many national and international education organizations. He served as president of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) from 2011 until his death; his agenda engaged universities to help solve global problems. He was a member of the Governing Council of the United Nations University and also a National Council member of the United Nations Association of the United States of America. Dr. Adams participated as a member of the Steering Committee of the World Bank’s Researchers Alliance for Development and had served on the Editorial Advisory Board for International Educator, the flagship bimonthly magazine of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The author of nine books, Dr. Adams’ publications and research covered a wide variety of topics including print, publishing, communication and career development, as well as topics specific to the field of higher education. His last book, Coming of Age in a Globalized World: The Next Generation, explored the impact of globalization and examined the case for world citizenship through global education.

Prior to joining FDU, Dr. Adams served 15 years as academic dean of the Nesbitt College of Design Arts at Drexel University, in Philadelphia. There, he led the transformation of the college into one of the premier design schools in the United States. He came to Drexel University from the State University of New York at Oswego, where he moved through the academic ranks to full professor and earned the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. He also held positions as department head, director of research development and dean of the Alumni College and served as a U.S. Congressional Fellow under Representative Carl Perkins.

Dr. Adams’ numerous honors and awards included election as a Danforth Foundation Associate, for commitment to the liberal arts; the Soderstrom Society of Fellows, for lifetime contributions to print and publishing; and the New York State Award for Leadership in Sex Equity. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, which was founded in 1754 in London, England. In 2006, Dr. Adams was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters from Kyungnam University, Korea, in recognition of his international leadership in higher education.

Areas of Special Expertise

  • Global Education
  • World Citizenship
  • Career Development
  • Leadership and Strategic Planning
  • Print Communication

Formal Education

  • Institute for Educational Management, 1997, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Doctor of Philosophy, 1976, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
  • Master of Science, 1972, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
  • Bachelor of Science, 1969, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois