Mark R. Nemec, PhD has been elected as Fairfield University’s ninth president, a position which he will assume on July 1. In addition, Dr. Nemec will serve as Fairfield’s first lay president. Fairfield has now joined 12 other Jesuit schools with lay presidents.
Dr. Nemec is currently the dean of the William B. and Catherine V. Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Chicago, according to a press release sent to the student body.
In addition to serving as president of the University, Nemec will teach courses in the politics department in the College of Arts and Sciences.
In his statement following his appointment as president, Nemec said, “I am honored and delighted by the opportunity to lead and to serve Fairfield University at this critical moment in the evolution of higher education. Fairfield is a university with a reputation for excellence and one that is clearly rising in stature.”
Nemec is eager to begin his time at Fairfield, saying, “My family and I are very excited to be joining the Fairfield University community this summer, and look forward to being a part of campus life.”
Interim President Lynn Babington acknowledged that the University is pleased to announce Nemec’s position as Fairfield’s ninth president. “Dr. Nemec’s passion and commitment to Jesuit higher education along with his successful leadership experiences in business and higher education will serve the University well and we continue to strive for excellence,” Babington stated.
Nemec added that he’s excited to join a Jesuit university because he received a Jesuit education while growing up. Nemec graduated from Loyola High School in Los Angeles, a Jesuit preparatory college. He continued his education at Yale University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and then at the University of Michigan where he received a PhD in political science and his master’s in education. Since then, he taught American politics as a visiting assistant professor at Davidson College and as an instructor at the University of Michigan. More recently, Nemec has served as the dean of the Graham School at the University of Chicago since 2014.
Nemec has also authored several books, including “Ivory Towers and Nationalist Minds: Universities, Leadership, and the Development of the American State” and contributed to the book “The Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson.”
In terms of involvement in the current political sphere, Nemec has spoken worldwide to numerous audiences ranging from the White House’s Forum on College Affordability to the British Council’s Going Global conference.
Rev. Mark Scalese, S.J. touched on the difficulty of finding a Jesuit president in today’s changing society, saying “With the decreasing number of Jesuits in the United States, and about half of the Jesuit schools having lay presidents already, it was only a matter of time before Fairfield had its first permanent lay president.”
Scalese admitted that despite this, he’s excited to welcome Nemec to campus, as it “marks a new chapter in Fairfield’s history.”
Freshman Jimmy Lipko also acknowledged the dwindling pool of Jesuits, and how this makes it more difficult to find a Jesuit to serve at a school like Fairfield. Despite this, Lipko believes that “as long as the president is committed to our Jesuit values, I think it’s completely fine. I think we’re willing to accept him and work with him to enhance our Jesuit nature.”
Many students, like Scott Daly ‘19, are pleased for the appointment of Nemec in July, despite him not being a Jesuit president at a Jesuit university.
“It’s always interesting to get an outside perspective, and I’m sure he’ll be able to pick up the Jesuit values and definitely become part of the community,” Daly said.