Russell Reynolds Associates Places First Non-Jesuit President at Fairfield University

June 8, 2017 – A number of top schools around the country are looking for high-profile leaders to take them into the future. In most cases, executive recruiting firms have had a hand in some aspect of the search and selection process.

Fairfield University recently named Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., as its ninth president, the first non-Jesuit to lead the school. Assisting with the search was Russell Reynolds Associates. Meredith Rosenberg and Jett Pihakis led the assignment for the New York-based recruitment and assessment firm.

“Russell Reynolds Associates’ experience in leading searches for university presidents, combined with the firm’s deep understanding of the changing landscape of higher education, makes this the perfect fit given the transformative period of growth and evolution that Fairfield is experiencing today,” said Andrew McMahon, Fairfield University trustee and chair of the presidential search committee.

The Assignment

“Fairfield was fortunate to have had an extremely strong slate of interested candidates during our national search,” said Mr. McMahon. “Along with the search committee, I am confident that Dr. Nemec is the ideal leader for Fairfield. His passion for higher education, commitment to Jesuit values and experiences in academia and business, bring a distinctive set of skills and experiences to this critical role as we begin this new chapter in our history.”

Dr. Nemec assumes the role July 1, taking over from interim president Lynn M. Babington. Dr. Nemec is currently dean of the William B. and Catherine V. Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Chicago. A thought leader in the area of higher education, he has worked both in academia and in business, with a foundation in Jesuit education. Dr. Nemec will also join the politics department as professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

He previously served as president and chief executive officer of Eduventures, a Boston-based information services firm that provides research and consulting to the higher education community. Prior to that, he had been a member of the executive team of Forrester Research, a provider of similar services to the technology industry

Fairfield University’s search committee consisted of university trustees, faculty, administrators, students, and members of the Fairfield Jesuit community.


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Jesuit University

One of the nation’s top 10 Catholic universities, the Fairfield, CT school has had a string of eight Jesuit leaders during its 75-year history. A female interim president, Dr. Babington, was installed last year while the search for a full-time leader progressed. That was seen as a litmus test of sorts for a move into 21st century academic leadership that could have far reaching ramifications for both the incoming leader and the institution.

Fairfield University was founded by the Society of Jesus as an all-boys school. Today it is a co-educational institution. Its stated objectives are to develop the creative intellectual potential of its students and to foster in them ethical and religious values and a sense of social responsibility. Jesuit education, which began in 1547, today remains committed to the service of faith, justice and truth.

“The significance of Jesuit education has stood the test of time,” said Russell Reynolds CEO Clarke Murphy. “We are proud to partner with Fairfield University during this critical time of evolution and transformation both at Fairfield and within the landscape of higher education today.”

According to Mr. Murphy, higher education has entered an era of change and transformation in which its leaders must be adept at responding to increasing demands for accountability while also effecting appropriate change to some of the decades-long traditions that have characterized the great institutions of higher learning. Modern leaders, he said, must be able to navigate through that changing environment while ensuring an institution’s strategic relevance.

“Of paramount importance to all of us at Fairfield is that while we continue to grow and evolve, we also stay true to our traditions as a Jesuit university,” said Frank J. Carroll, chairman of the board of trustees. “We are so fortunate that we have found in Dr. Nemec, a leader in higher education who was educated himself in the Jesuit tradition, and is fully committed to ensuring that those traditions will inform all that we do in the future.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Chase Barbe, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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