Wittenberg President Mark Erickson To Step Down In 2012
“One of the greatest challenges and opportunities a president and Board of Directors must face is knowing when to pass the baton of leadership,” Erickson said. “After a great deal of contemplation and discussions with trusted and thoughtful members of the campus community, I believe that time has come.”
Erickson decided to announce his departure a year early in order to allow the university’s Board of Directors the appropriate amount of time to conduct a national search for Wittenberg’s next president and to ensure that the momentum at the university continues.
“Mark Erickson has brought outstanding leadership, strategic vision, unbridled energy and impeccable integrity to the role of president,” said Steve Buchenroth, chair of the Wittenberg Board of Directors and a 1970 alumnus. “His passion for Wittenberg and commitment to our mission is unwavering. Simply put, Wittenberg is a much better place today than it was six years ago when Mark arrived. We have been blessed to have someone of Mark’s caliber and ability lead Wittenberg, and I look forward to Mark’s final year at the helm.”
During Erickson’s tenure, Wittenberg has made significant progress in many areas, including:
Academics. A tireless cheerleader for the Wittenberg faculty, Erickson has often stated that he would put the Wittenberg faculty up against any faculty in the country. Under his leadership, the faculty this year ranked #1 in the nation in the liberal arts category for most Fulbright Fellows, and ranked #11 in the country for Best Classroom Experience and #15 for Faculty Get High Marks by the Princeton Review. Physics Professor Dan Fleisch was also named the 2010 Ohio Professor of the Year. President Erickson often reminds visitors that Wittenberg has won more “Ohio Professors of the Year” awards than any other four-year college in the state.
Numerous innovative and interdisciplinary academic programs were also established during Erickson’s tenure, including a new entrepreneurship program that features student-run businesses, a Mellon/U.S. Department of State-funded Languages Across the Curriculum initiative, a Screenwriters Institute, an East Asian Institute, new majors in international relations and financial economics, and minors in sports management and neuroscience to name a few. Under his leadership, an investment fund was created to seed programs and activities that flow from Wittenberg’s Strategic Plan including several mentioned above.
Student Life. Wittenberg’s scores on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which measure student engagement and satisfaction, have made steady and significant improvement throughout Erickson’s tenure and now outperform all of Wittenberg’s peer comparison groups. Erickson also initiated a new program that engages more than 100 faculty and staff annually to assist new students as they move into their residence halls on the first day of college. A “student-focused” president, Erickson lived in a student residence for several days after arriving at Wittenberg, and Princeton Review has described him as an “engaged president” in its annual publication.
Undergraduate Student Recruitment. This year, applications to Wittenberg topped 6080, the highest number in Wittenberg’s history. As a result, the incoming class looks to be one of the largest and strongest classes in recent memory with greater geographic diversity and academic quality. Last year, the University enrolled its largest incoming class of African-American students, and it appears on track to match that number again this year. New admission initiatives also launched under Erickson’s leadership included an enhanced focus on transfer students, international recruitment, and the addition of admissions counselors in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Campus Enhancements and Restoration. The campus also received a major “face lift” during the Erickson era. In addition to razing South and Hanley Halls, and building New Hall, Wittenberg also acquired the Springfield Museum of Art facility on Cliff Park Road, renovated Blair Hall, Recitation Hall, Commencement Hollow and the Student Center, enhanced technology, and added a new boiler plant.
Regional Partnership. Erickson is credited with creating a strong bond between Wittenberg and the City of Springfield, Clark County, and the regional business community. On the Board for both the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Development Coalition, Erickson has created a vision that blurs the line between Wittenberg and the community, engaging students and faculty in the community, and inviting the community to partner with Wittenberg. He has also worked tirelessly with state and federal governments to make the region a better place to live, work and learn, all the while strengthening the university and spurring regional economic development. The development of Wittenberg’s Center for Civic & Urban Engagement is the most visible manifestation of the university’s commitment to community service, civic engagement, and economic partnership with the local and regional community. In recognition of his service, Erickson was named “Leader of the Year” this spring by Leadership Clark County.
Sustainability. Erickson has also been a strong supporter of Wittenberg’s sustainability efforts. During his tenure, Wittenberg dedicated Clark County’s first LEED-certified building (Blair Hall), instituted a campus-wide recycling program, opened a farmer’s market and an Eco-House, and developed a strong and vibrant grassroots Green Wittenberg program. He also established an investment fund to fuel sustainability initiatives proposed by faculty/student research teams with cost savings reinvested in future sustainability projects. This past fall, President Erickson signed the President’s Climate Commitment as a culmination of these efforts.
Enhanced alumni outreach and engagement. Wittenberg’s award-winning, nationally recognized “Witt Nation Tour” has engaged or re-engaged thousands of alumni through 75 events held during the last three summers. In addition, Wittenberg has raised more than $40M since 2007, including two endowed chairs and significant investments in the campus infrastructure. During the same timeframe, Wittenberg has also garnered more than $5.8M in government support.
International engagement. One of President Erickson’s frequent refrains is “Bring the World to Wittenberg and Wittenberg to the World.” During his tenure the number of visiting Fulbright scholars, faculty Fulbrights, and student Fulbrights all increased. Wittenberg also established the Wittenberg in Wittenberg program and the East Asian Institute, partnered with the Springfield Rotary to expand its service to orphans in Lesotho, developed several direct exchanges with foreign universities, and broadened its Russian program to include Eurasia. Erickson also serves on the Board of IES Abroad, a preeminent study-abroad organization.
Prior to arriving at Wittenberg, Erickson served as the vice president for administrative and government affairs at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and top adviser to Lehigh’s president.
Erickson earned his A.B. in American history from Princeton University, his Ed.M. from Harvard University and his Ed.D. in educational leadership from Lehigh University where he received the Matthew W. Gaffney Award for academic excellence. He also completed additional study in world religions and pastoral care at Harvard Divinity School.
Erickson’s wife, Lin, is the director of government, corporate and foundations relations at Wittenberg. They are the proud parents of two grown children, Sarah and David.
Written By: Karen Gerboth
Photo By: Erin Pence