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September 10, 2015
Robert Morris University has announced that Dr. Christopher B. Howard will serve as the 8th president of the university.
Currently, the 46-year-old U.S. Air Force Reserve veteran is the president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Hampden-Sydney is “a private college for men that is one of the nation’s top liberal arts institutions,” according to an email sent out by the RMU Board of Trustees Chair, Gary Claus.
Interim President and Provost Jamison will continue to serve until President-Elect Howard takes over on Feb. 1, 2016. As of now, President-Elect Howard is very eager to serve as the new leader of Robert Morris.
“I feel like I landed on the moon! But I landed in Moon, which is even better. And I am honored and I am humbled and I am just so proud to be a part of this institution,” said President-Elect Howard.
President-Elect Howard was excited to have his wife, Barbara Noble Howard, right beside him. Although their two sons were unable to join them, the entire family is excited to be joining Colonial Nation.
Since this is not President-Elect Howard’s first time serving as the president of a university, he is well aware of what higher education entails. Listening intently and asking the right questions are just a few of his plans. He believes RMU is a well-run institution and hopes to continue that standard with help.
“I have been a president (for) close to seven years and before that I was a vice president. You quickly learn in this world of higher education that it’s about shared governance—it’s about community,” said President-Elect Howard.
Academics are of utmost importance to the president-elect, but he is also eager for things beyond that.
“…winning a lot of sports games is also always high on my list! I love that part,” he said. “And getting students graduated into jobs they want—that’s also always very important.”
Since Hampden-Sydney is an all male institution, the transition to RMU, with both genders enrolled, will be different for President-Elect Howard. The female enrollment for Robert Morris is lower than that of male enrollment. He has a plan to combat this.
“In terms of Robert Morris University, I think that some of the works that have been done thus far, with the (Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program)… (And) having spoken with the deans, who I think also, to a person, happen to all be women, I think that listening and making it a priority and continuing the great work that has already been done before me, we will move in the right direction,” he said.
According to U.S. News & World Report Education, of the 4,574 undergraduate students currently enrolled, 56 percent are male and 44 percent are female.
“If I get the numbers correctly, from the head of enrollment management… we are 48.5 percent women in the freshman class. So the number’s moving in the right direction…” said President-Elect Howard, “Let’s just keep working hard and put the power and resource of the Presidential Office behind that initiative. And I know we’re going to move in the right direction.”
The First Lady is looking to help with the university, as well. After being heavily involved at Hampden-Sydney, she hopes to continue to be engaged at Robert Morris. She has no exact plans yet, just ideas of what she wants to focus on.
“I think the biggest one is I would just like to get to know the students better and see what their interests are and really participate and be apart of the programs for the different men and women,” she said. “Of course, women I have a special place, but I just want to learn more from all of you about the community.”
She plans to use her previous endeavors to help her here in Moon Township.
“My background is actually in fundraising. I was sitting on a few boards in Virginia. So, I am really hoping to bring some of those skills to the greater Pittsburgh community… We still have two kids in college, too, so I’ll still be spending some time with my two boys,” she said.
Not only did Robert Morris choose Howard, but he also chose the university. When asked what drew him to RMU, he pointed to all of the students in the room and saying, “you and you and you…” It was not any specific thing, but rather the students that brought him here.
“…there is something palpable about the excitement on this campus,” said President-Elect Howard. “…I’m not really kidding when I say it’s the members of the RMU community that led me here. I have a real commitment to getting it right and helping (RMU) move in the right direction, with the community.”
President-Elect Howard thinks that his age of 46 helps him to relate to the student body, but he said he will not try to be a student. He discussed how he was been in the students’ shoes not that long ago. He believes there is a “natural bridge” between him and the students because of his younger age.
“I think it helps me be somewhat contemporary and relevant, but never to say, ‘I am you,’” he said.
President-Elect Howard and the First Lady plan to get to know the student body and continue to move the university forward. The entire Howard family is looking forward to beginning its journey at Robert Morris.
“On behalf of (me), my wife, and our two sons… we just have one thing to say: go Colonials!”