Opelika High School alum named as Wagner College president

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

Opelika High School alum Joel W. Martin, was named as the 19th president of Wagner College in Staten Island, New York.
Martin will begin his tenure as president on July 1, 2019. He succeeds Richard Guarasci, Wagner’s longest-serving president, who retires June 30, 2019.
“It is with a great deal of excitement and anticipation that I can announce to the Wagner College community that Joel Martin has been selected as our next President,” said Warren R. Procci, chair of the Wagner College Board of Trustees. “He has a very impressive background in multiple aspects of academia and he will undoubtedly lead Wagner toward a shining future.”
Martin comes to the Wagner College presidency with a distinguished record of teaching, service and leadership at colleges and universities large and small. He has served since 2014 as provost and dean of the faculty at Franklin and Marshall College, a leading liberal arts college of 2,400 students located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“Joel Martin is a visionary leader who knows how to get things done,” said Daniel Porterfield, former president of Franklin and Marshall, who now serves as the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “He supports students and faculty doing breakthrough work. He positions liberal arts institutions to enhance their value for the one and the many, and to serve the common good. He holds high academic standards while empowering students, faculty, and staff to use their initiative and follow their passions in reaching those standards. He will engage the full Wagner College community and lead wisely and well.”
Martin earned his bachelor’s degree at a liberal arts college, Birmingham-Southern. He holds a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in the history of religions from Duke University. He began his academic career at Franklin and Marshall in 1988 as a professor and, later, chair of the religious studies department. A noted expert on Native American religions, he is the author and editor of several books in this field.
In 2000, he was named the Costo Endowed Chairholder in American Indian Affairs and professor at the University of California Riverside, one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation. He served as interim dean of UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences from 2004-2006, where he led successful efforts to recruit diverse faculty and improve student retention.
From 2006-2014, he held academic leadership positions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a flagship research university. He served as dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, then as vice provost for academic personnel and dean of the faculty for the university. His accomplishments included improving the gender balance and diversity of the faculty, and strengthening the finances of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
“Over the course of seven months, a very diverse search committee evaluated a large and talented pool of candidates and unanimously endorsed Joel Martin to be the next president of Wagner College,” said Andrew F. Cortese ’72, a Wagner trustee and chair of the presidential search committee. “The Board of Trustees then unanimously and enthusiastically voted to select Dr. Martin. We are thrilled to welcome him as our next president.”
“Wagner College initially attracted me because of its pioneering curriculum, the famous Wagner Plan, integrating practical liberal arts with professional programs in ways that hold great promise for today’s students and their future success,” Martin said. “Then I saw the campus itself and recognized how its location, affording that grand view of New York City, embodies higher education’s deep mission to serve as an empowering gateway, a portal to opportunity for all who dare to dream big.
“Then, my wife, Jan, and I met the people of Wagner — students, faculty, staff, trustees, President Guarasci and Carin, all to a person warm and committed to the mission, each one proud but not pretentious — and we were 100 percent sold. Wagner’s people are its true strength and, with people like the ones we met, there is no limit to what we can accomplish together.”
“One of the first things Jan and I want to do is celebrate the people of Wagner. We look forward to getting to know every single person here. We feel as if we have found our true home. For all of these reasons, we feel called to serve Wagner, where our talents and energies and experience seem so well aligned with the College’s contemporary needs and future aspirations.”
“I am thrilled with the appointment of Dr. Joel Martin as the nineteenth president of Wagner College,” said President Richard Guarasci. “Joel is a gifted educator and an accomplished scholar, and he is a strong advocate for the Practical Liberal Arts. Joel will be an excellent leader for Wagner College. He and his charming wife, Jan, hold a deep commitment for building and sustaining positive and caring relationships with students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as with their local communities.”
“Joel Martin has a vision in terms of how to balance the liberal arts, the professional programs, and the practical skills required for success in the workforce today. This combination is a key feature of Wagner College’s unique academic program,” said search committee member Margarita Sánchez, professor of Spanish language, literature and culture. “He’s a scholar who understands research and education. I’m also excited about the fact that his research is unique, focused on minority communities in the U.S., and complements well the areas of study offered at Wagner.
Founded in 1883 in Rochester, New York, Wagner College is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its beautiful campus on Grymes Hill in Staten Island, a borough of New York City, in 2018–19. Wagner is a private, residential, liberal arts college with a close-knit community of 2,200 students and 110 full-time faculty members.
Wagner’s nationally recognized academic program, the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts, combines learning communities with civic engagement, internships, and research, and ensures that students graduate with skills that employers value. The school offers 33 undergraduate majors, master’s degrees in six fields, and the doctor of nursing practice.
For more information, visit www.wagner.edu.

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