By ROI-NJ Staff (Florham Park) – April 26, 2023
Board Chair: He has unrelenting drive and determination to help institution excel
From March Madness moments to school functions, business meetings to social media appearances, many have seen Michael Avaltroni as a ubiquitous presence around Fairleigh Dickinson University since he was named interim president Jan. 1.
The truth is: Avaltroni’s connection to the school goes back much farther.
As a dean, professor, student and alum, Avaltroni has been connected to the school for nearly all of his adult life. On Wednesday, he got a new role: president.
The school’s board of trustees appointed the longtime FDU faculty member and administrator as the ninth president in the institution’s history, effective immediately.
“Dr. Avaltroni continues to impress the board of trustees and the entire university community,” board Chair Robert Zatta said. “Since becoming interim president — and, actually, far before that in his previous roles — Dr. Avaltroni has made a significant impact and inspired many with his intelligence, passion, empathy and his unrelenting drive and determination to help this institution excel and to provide the support and the education our students need to make their dreams come true.
“He knows this institution very well, he is aware of the challenges facing FDU and, indeed, all of higher education, and he has the experience and ability to make a powerful difference. I can think of no better individual to lead the next chapter in the university’s storied history.”
Avaltroni said he is honored to take the post — one that has a greater significance than even he realized.
“Since I have taken the role of interim president in January, I have gained an even deeper admiration for the FDU community and, in particular, our very determined and talented students, faculty and staff,” he said.
“I am deeply honored to be appointed president and I promise to devote everything I have to the advancement and success of this extraordinary institution. FDU has provided incredible opportunities for students from all walks of life for 80 years now, and I am certain the best is still to come.”
Avaltroni clearly has a strong personal connection with the institution and has forged a deep passion for FDU, first as an undergraduate and later as a faculty member and administrator. He graduated in 1999 with a B.S. in chemistry, summa cum laude. He is the first FDU graduate to serve as the institution’s president.
As interim president, he led many important early initiatives and held a series of town halls, listening sessions and other campus events to engage community members and gain insights from students, faculty and staff on issues facing the university and potential actions to strengthen the university.
With widespread input, the planning document titled “FDU Will Soar” was distributed throughout the community and provides the basis for development efforts across the university, focusing on key areas such as recruitment and retention, and philanthropy and collaborations.
Driving all the plans — those imminent and those longer-term — is a renewed emphasis on putting students first and on prioritizing those items and initiatives that will most significantly and positively impact students. Building from this emphasis, a new retention plan was developed and a new position was created of chief student experience officer for each New Jersey campus.
FDU received a major gift to help fund a new program called “Transforming College Campuses,” an initiative to support student psychological well-being. The gift will provide fellowship opportunities to FDU graduate and undergraduate students.
FDU successfully concluded the capital campaign “One University Many Dreams,” which raised approximately $90 million, easily surpassing its original goal of $75 million. The university will soon introduce a new fundraising campaign focusing exclusively on raising money to help students have access to and better afford an FDU education.
Among other plans being developed include establishing “FDU Health” by leveraging existing programs in nursing, allied health, pharmacy and health sciences and psychology and counseling, as well as creating an FDU Graduate Center with flexible options for students to pursue graduate education and degrees online, on campus and through blended delivery models.
Avaltroni also was a very visible presence during the FDU Knights’ Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament, as he traveled to Columbus, Ohio, and led the cheers for the Knights, who became only the second No. 16 seed ever to defeat a No. 1 seeded team. He was widely quoted in regional and national media explaining the significance of the historic run and the connection of the team to the identity and story of FDU, a story defined by students who, when given an opportunity, seize the moment, transform themselves and oftentimes change their world.