Upon taking office in 2002, president Richard L. McCormick set a goal of moving Rutgers into the top tier of public research universities. During his tenure, the university invigorated undergraduate education, achieved dramatic increases in grant funding for globally important research, made strategic investments in its campuses, bolstered connections with its 400,000 living alumni, and strengthened its service to New Jersey and its host communities. At the end of Dr. McCormick's presidency, Rutgers was also ahead of schedule in a campaign to raise $1 billion in private support, having raised more than $650 million. The university achieved increasing recognition during his tenure, with more than a dozen academic programs rated among the nation’s top 10, high international rankings among public universities, and citation in SmartMoney magazine for return on student investment and in the Wall Street Journal for the corporate recruiting of its graduates.
President McCormick led a historic restructuring of undergraduate education on the university’s largest campus, New Brunswick. The far-reaching changes included combining four separate liberal arts colleges into a single School of Arts and Sciences, thus unifying admissions and graduation standards and enabling students to live anywhere and take advantage of any program or service in New Brunswick. Other features of the transformation included a popular first-year seminar program, a new core curriculum, signature courses on topics of grand intellectual sweep, enhanced opportunities for undergraduate research and service learning, a residential college for women that builds on the history and traditions of Douglass College, and a senior-year capstone experience. During his presidency, demand for a Rutgers education grew, with a 25 percent increase in new student enrollment universitywide and a more than tripling of Presidential Scholars, recipients of the university’s top scholarship.
Arguing that New Jersey would benefit enormously by having an academic medical center within its state university, President McCormick advocated strongly for the integration into Rutgers of the New Brunswick-based elements of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). This proposal, formally made by the New Jersey Higher Education Task Force in 2010 and by Gov. Christie’s UMDNJ Advisory Council in 2011, was incorporated and enhanced in the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Act of 2012. This legislation, passed by the Legislature in June and signed by Gov. Christie in August, integrates into Rutgers all Newark- and New Brunswick-based units of UMDNJ, with the exception of University Hospital in Newark, effective July 1, 2013.
During Dr. McCormick’s tenure, funded research at Rutgers increased dramatically. In the latter years of his presidency, faculty research attracted $400 million or more annually in federal, state, corporate, and foundation grants. President McCormick identified several discrete areas of academic opportunity in which to capitalize on Rutgers’ interdisciplinary strength, the availability of resources, distinctive excellence, and widespread relevance, among them climate change, renewable energy, advanced materials and devices, nanotechnology, transportation, nutrition, and homeland security. Rutgers placed a priority on seeking the funding to develop these as research areas in which to gain international distinction.
Working with faculty and staff, President McCormick developed a new vision for the once-neglected Livingston Campus in Piscataway to become the hub of business and professional education for the New Brunswick Campus and a model for 21st Century higher education. Livingston will host the schools of business, education, social work, and management and labor relations, and become the center of continuing education. Already completed or in progress by the time he left office were a state-of-the-art student center and dining commons, new apartment-style housing for 1,500 students, and a business school building. In the works was a hotel and conference center that would be available to all Rutgers programs.
In June 2012, President McCormick gained approval by the Rutgers governing boards for a public-private partnership with New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco) to pursue one of the most significant campus development initiatives in the university’s history. The plan, contingent upon Devco’s receipt of a state tax credit, would construct on the College Avenue Campus by 2016 a 500-student Honors College, a dining facility, an 800-bed, apartment-style residence hall, a parking deck, and a major academic building, the first such facility built on the College Avenue Campus in nearly half a century.
Immediately after restructuring undergraduate education, President McCormick championed a reinvigoration of the programs serving Rutgers’ 400,000 living graduates. With alumni leadership and support, his administration replaced a federated system of alumni organizations with Rutgers’ first-ever universitywide alumni association, featuring automatic membership for all graduates and no membership fees. More than 100 chartered alumni groups affiliated with the Rutgers University Alumni Association, and alumni involvement in Homecoming, Reunion, and other facets of university life rose dramatically.
President McCormick expanded Rutgers’ commitment to New Jersey and to its hometowns. He took new faculty on weeklong bus tours of New Jersey and encouraged them to make their teaching and research relevant to the state. He inaugurated Rutgers Day, an annual invitation for residents to experience their state university, and Rutgers Against Hunger, an ongoing effort to address hunger and poverty in the state. He helped establish the Rutgers Future Scholars program, which encourages selected teenagers from the university’s host communities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Piscataway to pursue higher education, with the promise of free tuition for those admitted to Rutgers.
Private giving to Rutgers achieved new levels of generosity during Dr. McCormick’s tenure despite a weak economy. The university raised well over $100 million annually in private gifts in the latter years of his presidency, and one donor gave $40 million, the most from an individual in Rutgers’ history. In October 2010, President McCormick announced the public phase of “Our Rutgers, Our Future: A Campaign for Excellence,” a billion-dollar fundraising effort with a goal double that of the university’s previous campaign.
See a more extensive list of accomplishments during Dr. McCormick’s tenure.