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June 08, 2021

Temple appoints first Black president in university history

Dr. Jason Wingard, a former dean and professor at Columbia University, will lead the North Philly school

Education Universities
Stock_Carroll - Temple University Baptist Temple Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Baptist Temple building on the campus of Temple University.

After a 10-month-long nationwide search, Temple University's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Jason Wingard as the next president of the North Philadelphia school. He will become the first Black president in Temple's 137-year history when he replaces retiring president Dr. Richard Englert on July 1.

A West Chester native, Wingard comes to Temple after serving as a dean and professor at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies, along with a range of private sector roles on his resume.

His other teaching and senior leadership experience includes positions at Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and Goldman Sachs. He also founded The Education Board, Inc., a management consultancy specializing in executive coaching and corporate advisory services.

"Dr. Wingard is a dynamic and innovative leader who is extraordinarily qualified to lead our university in the 21st century," said Mitchell L. Morgan, chair of the Temple University Board of Trustees. "Like many of Temple’s faculty, Dr. Wingard combines academic accomplishments with real-world experience. That’s been a hallmark of Temple’s education for generations.

"At the same time, Dr. Wingard recognizes that higher education is changing, and his unique combination of academic and business success, together with his skills in the fields of leadership development, organizational strategy and the future of work, make him a compelling choice to lead Temple into an exciting future filled with promise and new opportunity," Morgan continued.

Wingard's arrival at Temple comes during a period of growing enrollment at the university. Record freshman classes in recent years have boosted the student body to just under 40,000 at a school with more than 600 academic programs. The university's presence in North Philadelphia has expanded considerably over the last 25 years, with Temple emerging as one of the nation's leading educators in dentistry, law, medicine, pharmacy and podiatry.

But the university's ambition to expand in recent years has led to renewed conflict with community members in the surrounding neighborhood, particularly around the years-long effort to gain support for a football stadium. 

Wingard will be tasked with leading Temple into a post-pandemic future while strengthening trust in the communities that share the area with its growing campus and student population. 

Jason WingardSource/Columbia University

Dr. James Wingard

"I am honored by the board’s selection and excited to lead one of the nation’s premier urban research universities," said Wingard, who now resides in Chestnut Hill. "Temple will continue to provide its diverse and talented community of learners an unparalleled, accessible opportunity to leverage a best-in-class network of faculty and academic resources in support of dynamic and lifelong professional goals."

Wingard also indicated he will leverage his academic and business expertise to ensure Temple produces graduates who are prepared to compete and flourish in the workforce.

"At a time when the uncertainty of the global marketplace is challenging the future of learning and work, Temple will lead the progression of a career readiness agenda, built on a foundation of innovation and adaptability, to advance knowledge for relevant impact," Wingard said. "I look forward to the work that we will undertake together, and I believe that for all this institution has achieved over the past 137 years, Temple University’s best days are yet to come."

Wingard's selection as president — the 12th in the university's history — also comes nearly five years after Temple was mired in a leadership crisis that led to the resignation of former president Neil Theobald. The Board of Trustees had voted "no confidence" in Theobald after discovering a $22 million over-allocation of merit scholarships in the school's 2016-17 budget. The university believed Theobald knew about the deficit when he fired provost Hai-Lung Dai, who was tied to the budget problems, but did not immediately disclose it to the board.

Temple's Fox School of Business also was ensnared in controversy when several of its programs were found to have submitted false data to U.S. News & World Report to inflate the school's rankings. The university reached a $700,000 settlement with the Department of Education last December.

Englert, who has led the university since Theobald's departure, said he is confident in Wingard and expects a smooth transition.

"My years at Temple have taught me that this university is constantly evolving, while remaining true to its mission," Englert said. "I have every reason to believe that Dr. Wingard will find the faculty, staff and students excited for the future and ready to move the university forward. I wish him well, and I look forward to working together to ensure a seamless transition."