Richard L. McCormick is president emeritus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, a community of more than 58,000 students, over 11,000 faculty and staff, and 400,000 living alumni. A scholar of American political history who began his academic career on the Rutgers faculty, he returned as the university’s 19th president in 2002 after serving as provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and president of the University of Washington.
Upon his arrival as president, Dr. McCormick set a goal of advancing Rutgers to the top tier of American public research universities. Adopting the university tagline “Jersey Roots, Global Reach,” his ambitions for Rutgers included an enriched learning experience for every student; teaching and research focused on global human problems; diversity of students, faculty, staff, and programs; and deeper connections with the people of New Jersey. He promoted strategically selected interdisciplinary research initiatives in advanced materials and devices, nanotechnology, transportation, nutrition, homeland security, stem cell research, climate change and renewable energy, and global and international studies. In support of these ambitions, Dr. McCormick worked to ensure administrative efficiency, accountability, and transparency; to gain increased funding from public and private sources; and to provide attractive campuses that offer natural venues for interactions among members of the university community.
Innovations were a hallmark of Dr. McCormick’s tenure, most notably a major restructuring and reinvigoration of undergraduate education on the university’s largest campus. The plan reconnected the New Brunswick faculty to the work of undergraduate education and offered all New Brunswick undergraduates equal access to Rutgers’ high-quality academic programs, participation in the intellectual work that characterizes the university, and access to learning communities of students with similar interests. Among the programs developed under this reorganization was the Byrne Family First-Year Seminar Program, which offers more than 100 courses—each with no more than 20 students—on a wide range of topics taught by top faculty. Related initiatives established under Dr. McCormick were the Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates and the Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Dr. McCormick was a strong proponent of the proposal made by the New Jersey Higher Education Task Force and Governor Chris Christie’s University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) Advisory Committee to integrate the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey into Rutgers. His and the university’s advocacy efforts were rewarded on June 28, 2012—two days before the end of his tenure—when the New Jersey Legislature approved a bill (later signed by Gov. Christie and supported by the Rutgers governing boards) to move nearly all units of UMDNJ into Rutgers, effective July 1, 2013.
Over his tenure, Dr. McCormick worked to strengthen Rutgers’ relationship with New Jersey’s leaders, businesses, and citizens. He established the first-ever Rutgers Day, inviting the public to a daylong event showcasing the university’s academic, research, cultural, and recreational programs. In response to the economic recession, he announced Rutgers Against Hunger, an initiative to stock food banks in the state, provide consumer education on nutrition, and help community organizations fight hunger. He expanded the university’s commitment to veterans, including coordinators of veterans’ services on each campus, a dedicated website, and a veteran mentors program.
In 2007, Dr. McCormick announced a series of initiatives to strengthen diversity at Rutgers. Its components included establishment of a president’s council on institutional diversity and equity, a cluster-hiring initiative, and a national conference on diversity in higher education hosted by Rutgers. Along with these efforts, Dr. McCormick launched the Rutgers Future Scholars program, a pilot project to encourage minority and low-income teenagers from the university’s host municipalities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Piscataway to pursue higher education by offering mentorship and college preparation support, and the promise of free tuition to those admitted to Rutgers.
A number of milestones were achieved at Rutgers during Dr. McCormick’s tenure, including the establishment of Rutgers’ first-ever universitywide alumni body, the Rutgers University Alumni Association. In 2007, Dr. McCormick helped the university surpass $100 million in annual giving for the first time in its history.
Also in 2007, Rutgers–Camden established its initial doctoral-level academic program: a Ph.D. in childhood studies, the first in the nation in this emerging discipline. Dr. McCormick supported a major expansion of Rutgers School of Law–Camden, including a new, state-of-the-art law school building and renovation of the existing facility. He also supported growth in computational biology at Rutgers–Camden.
With the founding of the School of Public Affairs and Administration in 2006, Rutgers–Newark opened its first new school in more than three decades. In 2006, Rutgers–Newark also expanded its teaching and research capacity by opening a Life Sciences Center and welcomed students to University Square, its first new residence hall in 16 years.
Dr. McCormick advanced a vision to reshape the university’s Livingston Campus in Piscataway as the home of business and professional studies. On that campus, the university built a new dining hall, a dramatically renovated student center, and a new apartment-style residence hall complex for 1,500 students, and began construction on a new business school building.
In 2010, under Dr. McCormick’s leadership and with faculty input, the Rutgers University Foundation announced the public phase of a fundraising campaign, “Our Rutgers, Our Future,” with a $1 billion goal. By the time he left office, the campaign had raised more than $650 million.
As he announced in May 2011, Dr. McCormick stepped down from the presidency on June 30, 2012, and returned to the Rutgers faculty as Board of Governors Professor of History and Education. Neuroscientist Dr. Robert L. Barchi, retiring president of Thomas Jefferson University and former provost of the University of Pennsylvania, was appointed by the Rutgers Boards of Governors and Trustees as the 20th president of Rutgers, effective September 1, 2012. Dr. Richard L. Edwards, interim executive vice president for academic affairs, was appointed to serve as interim president from July 1 to August 31, 2012.
The author of three books and numerous articles on American history, Dr. McCormick earned fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Born in 1947, Dr. McCormick is the son of the late Katheryne Levis McCormick, a longtime Rutgers administrator, and the late Richard P. McCormick RC’38, GSNB’40, a celebrated member of the Rutgers history faculty, university historian, and champion of New Jersey historical scholarship. He earned a B.A. in American studies from Amherst College in 1969 and a Ph.D. in history from Yale University in 1976. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Rutgers in 2012 in recognition of his efforts as president. He has written a memoir of his tenure, Raised at Rutgers: A President's Story, published in 2014.
Dr. McCormick is married to Joan Barry McCormick RU’88. Her undergraduate degree is in journalism, and she received her master’s degree in public administration from Kean University. Dr. McCormick has three children, Betsy, Michael, and Katie.