Honorary Degree Citation
J. MICHAEL ADAMS
Doctor of Humane Letters
(Presented by Acting President Sheldon Drucker on the 8th day of June, 2012.)
Your favorite riddle goes something like this: What is the difference in America between a carpenter and a college president? The answer: one generation. The riddle is personal. It describes your outstanding career success. Growing up on the plains of Illinois, you were raised in a family without a college graduate, and you never dreamed of becoming a college president. But then you went to college, and new worlds opened up to you. You quickly realized how education could expand horizons, open doors and change lives. You have been in a race ever since.
You once were described as a man with the mind of a scholar, the heart of an entrepreneur but the soul of a teacher. And teaching is where you began to make your mark, serving as a professor at the State University of New York at Oswego. There, you were honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, a recognition earned by less than 1 percent of the faculty. You consider this the proudest moment of your academic career.
Your gifts for leadership and strategic planning soon were discovered though, and in 1984, you became dean of the College of Design Arts at Drexel University. The college was suffering and near closing, but you engineered a remarkable turnaround, and in 15 years the school grew to one of the nation’s leading design institutions. In 1999, you were named president of Fairleigh Dickinson University. You reconnected our University to our founder’s vision and adapted our global roots to the complex realities of the 21st century. The result was a new mission — and more importantly a true sense of mission — to prepare world citizens through global education. Your extraordinary leadership style emphasized three key themes: agility, execution and making it personal. Every decision considered the individual. The result was a tremendous period of accomplishment marked by stronger enrollment, new and innovative programs, an improved learning-and-living environment and greater recognition for the institution.
At the same time, you extended our University’s reach, connecting with different populations through tools like the Internet, and connecting with different countries and cultures. Your remarkable influence in global education — epitomized through many efforts including your leadership of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) — brought even further renown for FDU. You firmly believe that you can change what you can touch, and FDU today reaches more people and is positioned to transform more lives because of you.
One of your favorite philosophers and a personal friend of yours, Buckminster Fuller, once said, “We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.” In your devotion to education and in your unique ability to positively influence everything you touch, you have improved the future for countless individuals and for generations to come. Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees of Fairleigh Dickinson University, the faculty concurring, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto attached, and cause you to be invested with the hood appropriate to that degree.