Statement on the Appointment of the Hon. Edward B. Montgomery as Ninth President of Western Michigan University

by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

Your effectiveness as a leader is a product of recruiting and retaining strong and independent people to work for you.”

— The Honorable Edward B. Montgomery,
Ninth President of Western Michigan University

After seven months serving on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee alongside 21 colleagues from a diverse variety of campus constituencies, under the capable (and also generous and respectful) leadership of Trustees Bill Johnston and Jim Bolger, I could not be more delighted to welcome the Honorable Edward B. Montgomery to Western Michigan University as its ninth president.

Dr. Montgomery’s vitae is beyond impressive by any standard. An accomplished academic with a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, he has published widely, directed over two dozen doctoral dissertations, taught graduate and undergraduate courses in economics, labor relations, and public policy, and performed extensive university and professional service. Dr. Montgomery understands the work of the faculty because for much of his adult life, that has been – and continues to be – his work, including in his most recent role as founding dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is truly one of us.

Beyond his success in the academic realm, Dr. Montgomery also has a highly distinguished record of public service and executive experience. He served as Chief Economist (1997-99) and as Chief Operating Officer (1999-2001) for the U.S. Department of Labor, under Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and President Bill Clinton. In the latter role, he was responsible for a cabinet-level department with an annual budget of over $30 billion and 17,000 employees.

In 2009, Dr. Montgomery was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the Department of Labor Presidential Transition Team, to lead the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers, and to serve on the Auto Task Force.

But his extensive leadership experience, impressive and valuable political talents and connectedness, and stellar academic credentials are only part of the story. The son of a proud union machinist and organizer who went on to earn his Ph.D. in history and become a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and later at Yale, Dr. Montgomery brings a unique personal history and sensibility to the job of university president. In his application materials and interview, he made a strong case for the values of shared governance, academic freedom, diversity and inclusion as “central to everything,” affordability and accessibility for students, and the importance of recognizing and respecting staff and offering them paths for advancement.

Dr. Montgomery emphasizes that “Top-down management rarely works and the best institutions are made up of units and people striving for excellence (defined in the myriad of ways that reflect the range of unit missions) who recognize the importance of the common good and are supported by central administration investments and structures that allow them to make progress.”

“Presidents can shape and guide this progress,” he adds, “but at the end of the day success comes because the faculty, staff, students, and alumni have become animated around a common vision for the future.”

Please join me in welcoming the Honorable Edward B. Montgomery, Ninth President of Western Michigan University,  to our community, along with wife Kari and their grown children, E.J. (already a Bronco and on track to graduate this year), Lindsay, and Elizabeth.

Along with our campus community, I appreciate the leadership these past 10 years of President John Dunn, particularly his unwavering commitment to students and unrelenting passion for Western Michigan University. With many thanks for his dedication to this institution and especially to our students, I wish him a satisfying retirement and many more fulfilling years of continuing public service.

This is a transformational moment for Western Michigan University. As a faculty member as well as in my role as WMU-AAUP president, I am feeling newly energized at the prospect of working with Dr. Montgomery as he shares with us the leading-edge vision he is here to collaborate with us to achieve. Onward!

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