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RMU Names Christopher Howard Next President

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dr. Christopher B. Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College, has been named the eighth president of Robert Morris University.

“The Robert Morris University Board of Trustees is pleased to appoint Dr. Christopher Howard as RMU’s next president,” said Gary Claus ’74, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. “Dr. Howard is a high-energy, charismatic, and visionary leader who believes in the power of mentorship – a perfect fit for RMU. 

Howard, 46, joins Robert Morris on February 1, 2016.

Howard and his wife, Barbara Noble Howard, met with RMU faculty, staff, and students during the university’s Fall Mixer at the Joe Walton Stadium Plaza at the university’s Moon Township campus. The university provided a live stream from the town-hall style Q & A with Howard via the mobile app Periscope (@RMU).

Hampden-Sydney is a private college for men in Hampden-Sydney, Va., and one of the nation’s top liberal arts institutions.

"In the future, it is those higher education institutions truly committed to providing the foundational tools of critical thinking, written and oral communication, and a deep understanding of the world we live in, coupled with the opportunity to delve deeply into the professions, that are poised for success,” said Howard. “RMU is an 'all of the above' university bolstered by an exceptional faculty, able staff, engaged alumni, dedicated board, supportive friends, and bright and motivated students.”

Howard added, “Just as importantly, members of the RMU community have demonstrated a willingness to innovate in a manner rarely seen in the academic world, resulting in remarkable growth and success. I am both honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as its eighth president."

Richard Harshman, ’78, chair of the Board’s Presidential Search Committee and vice chair of the RMU Board of Trustees, said RMU’s growth and transformation over the past 10 years attracted outstanding candidates from across the nation. Assisting the committee with its search was executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.

Harshman said Howard rose to the top of a list of finalists because of his vision, energy, and charisma, as well as his record of success at Hampden-Sydney.

“The Search Committee was impressed with the way Dr. Howard was able to build on the traditions of his current institution and to translate those traditions to contemporary and more diverse generations of students,” said Harshman, chairman, president, and CEO of ATI. “He expressed early insights on how RMU’s distinctive culture and core values can foster an even stronger, common bond between students and graduates of different eras and demographics. This will be essential as RMU continues to evolve in order to achieve its next level of success.”

Howard has been president of Hampden-Sydney since 2009, during which time enrollment and retention have grown, alumni giving has reached 33 percent, and the grade-point average of the incoming freshman class has risen. In 2011-12, Hampden-Sydney climbed 17 spots in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, the largest jump among any Top 100 liberal arts colleges.

During Howard’s tenure as president, Hampden-Sydney produced its first Truman and Goldwater scholars in 20 years, as well as a Rhodes finalist and numerous Fulbright and Rotary scholars – thanks in part to the Office of Fellowship and Advising the college created under his leadership. Hampden-Sydney received the largest gift in its 240-year history under Howard, and the college will soon break ground on a new student center.

“Dr. Howard has experience both within and outside of higher education, having worked in the corporate world and having a distinguished career in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve,” said Claus. “He has experience with and insights into different models of education, from Ivy Leagues to large publics, from small, liberal arts institutions to military academies. And, on the more personal side, his own background reflects the character and values we see in RMU’s students and alumni.”

Howard previously was vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives at the University of Oklahoma, and he has worked for General Electric’s Corporate Initiatives Group and for Bristol-Myers Squibb. He is the co-author of the book Money Makers: Inside the New World of Finance and Business.

He is a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, where he received the Campbell Trophy, the nation’s highest academic honor for a senior college football player. He earned an MBA with Distinction from the Harvard Business School and a doctorate in politics from Oxford University while on a Rhodes Scholarship. Howard was raised in Plano, Texas.

Howard served as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, and earned a Bronze Star for military service in Afghanistan. He served as U.S. Reserve Air Attaché to Liberia and as intelligence operations and places officer with the elite Joint Special Operations Command. In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Howard to the National Security Education Program Board.

He is a cofounder and trustee of the Impact Young Lives Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that brings South African students of color to the U.S. for summer educational and cultural tours. He is a member of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council, the Baylor University Board of Regents, and is also one of the few college chief executive officers in the United States to be invited to join the prestigious Young Presidents’ Organization. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education.

Barbara Noble Howard is the executive director of the Impact Young Lives Foundation, and she serves on the board of directors of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation, among others. She is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, and graduated from Temple University. The couple has two sons, Cohen, a senior at the University of the South, and Joshua, a freshman at Middlebury College.

“To paraphrase one of the trustees, this place has many ‘Ph.D.s’: Proud, Hungry and Driven individuals committed to taking RMU to even higher levels of accomplishment in all aspects of performance,” said Howard. “I commend former President Dell'Omo and Interim President David Jamison on their inspired leadership and look forward to working with the RMU community on a seamless transition culminating in my Feb. 1 start date."

Former President Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D., left Robert Morris in June after 10 years to become the president of Rider University in his home state of New Jersey. Since Dell’Omo’s departure, RMU has been led by David Jamison, J.D., who is also the university’s provost.

“I was fortunate to spend a good bit of time with Dr. Howard during the search process,” said Jamison. “And, from the beginning, he saw RMU holding an ideal position to lead higher education in the 21st century. He cited our relevant strengths in both teaching and the liberal arts approach to critical thinking, combined with a track record of success in professionally focused education.

“I believe Dr. Howard demonstrates the intellectual vision, insight, and passion to partner with the faculty and administration to help us meet our goals for enhancing our quality teaching and academics while making our applied, engaged learning experiences even more relevant and pervasive among all types of students. We believe that’s the best way RMU can continue the strategy we started under Greg Dell’Omo’s presidency and have outlined in our current five-year strategic plan in order to prepare students and support our alumni for lifelong success at work and in life.”

Dell’Omo’s tenure was a period of unparalleled growth at Robert Morris and saw the university complete its transformation from a commuter business school to a comprehensive, residential university with nationally acclaimed degree programs across five academic schools.

Full-time undergraduate enrollment climbed 35 percent, and residential enrollment grew 75 percent over the past 10 years. The university completed two new academic buildings, added three residence halls, completed a record $41 million capital campaign, and made engaged learning the hallmark of a Robert Morris degree.

During the same period, several of Robert Morris’s NCAA Division I sports teams enjoyed unprecedented success. The men’s and women’s basketball teams, for example, earned berths at the NCAA tournament, with the men’s team winning a first-round game in the 2015 tournament. In 2014, the Colonials men’s ice hockey team earned its first bid in the NCAA tournament, and in 2012, the women’s ice hockey team won the College Hockey America tournament championship. 

“RMU has continued to thrive during this period of transition, for which we want to thank Interim President and Provost David Jamison for the excellent leadership he has provided – and will continue to provide until Dr. Howard’s arrival,” said Claus. “The Board of Trustees also owes a debt of gratitude to the University Advisory Committee, which provided invaluable input to the Presidential Search Committee. And, above all, our appreciation goes out to the 14 members of the Presidential Search Committee, 11 Trustees and three faculty, for devoting countless hours and tremendous personal commitment to search for our next leader.”