Jonathan R. Alger

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Jonathan R. Alger is the sixth and current president of James Madison University. Alger became JMU's sixth president on July 1, 2012.[1][2]Alger is the sixth president since the university’s founding in 1908. He was formally inaugurated on March 15, 2013.[3]

Alger is also a scholar and speaker on higher education policy and law[4] and currently co-teaches a seminar on leadership in the JMU Honors Program.[5][6]


Before becoming president at JMU, Alger was the senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Before working at Rutgers, Alger served as assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan, where he played a key role[7][8] in in the university’s efforts in two landmark Supreme Court cases on diversity and admissions and coordinated one of the largest amicus brief coalitions in Supreme Court history.[9]At both Rutgers and Michigan, he taught courses, seminars and independent studies in law, higher education and public policy. He has also taught interdisciplinary courses for graduate students in law, education, public policy and information.[4][10]

Prior to his time at University of Michigan, he served as counsel for the American Association of University Professors, where he advised institutions on policies, procedures and cases on issues such as academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, due process and discrimination.[11]Earlier in his career he served as attorney-advisor for the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. He also previously served as an associate in the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.[2]

Because of Alger’s background in civil rights law, he has been credited with understanding the intricacies of how the Office for Civil Rights interprets and enforces Title IX. [12]

Academic career[edit]

Alger was a Phi Beta Kappa at Swarthmore College where he received his B.A. with high honors in political science with a history minor and a concentration in public policy. He earned his juris doctorate with honors from Harvard Law School.[13]

Boards, memberships and service[edit]

Current appointments:

  • Board Member, Division I Board of Directors for the National Collegiate Athletic Association[14]

Past appointments:

  • President, Board of Directors of the National Association of College and University Attorneys[15]
  • Board Member, The American Bar Association’s Accreditation Committee
  • Board Member, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health[16]

Published works[edit]

Personal history and family[edit]

Alger was born and raised outside Rochester, N.Y. His wife, Mary Ann, has a B.S. from Auburn University and an M.B.A. from the University of Miami. The Algers have a daughter named Eleanor.[17]

Alger has sung with acclaimed choral groups that have toured internationally, made professional recordings and performed on national television.[18]

JMU sexual assault controversy[edit]

In 2013, in an incident that attracted national attention, a JMU student was sexually assaulted by three fellow students. The victim pursued the school's judicial option and the attackers were found guilty and expelled. No criminal charges were filed, and the sanctions became effective only after the students graduated.[19] In an interview with a local TV station, the victim stated that she thought the university's response was not enough.[20] Other JMU students criticized the administration’s handling of the case, with many directing their criticism at President Alger, who – according to the student handbook – is ultimately responsible for determining sanctions.[21] An article in the Washington Post by two former JMU students pointed to troubling practices at the school and linked them to a nationwide failure to adequately protect students against sexual harassment.[19]

In response, the university conducted a comprehensive review of national best practices and developed a new sexual misconduct policy, which was detailed in eight pages of revisions to the student handbook.[21] It also promised to implement additional training for faculty, staff, and students, including “bystander” training for students to encourage them to act in such circumstances.[22] President Alger, while declining to comment on the specific case, acknowledged that he was concerned about public perceptions of the school, and appeared in a video created by JMU to raise public awareness of the problem. He also promised in a letter to the university community that the institution would do everything in its power to help keep its students safe.[12]


  1. ^ Schmidt, Peter (2012-01-01). "A Lawyer Takes an Uncommon Path to a University Presidency". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  2. ^ a b "James Madison University names new president". Virginia Business. 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  3. ^ Kapsidelis, Karin (2013-03-15). "JMU in 'moment of transition'". Richmond Times-Dispatch (BH Media). Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  4. ^ a b Trevor, Greg (2004-10-18). "Jonathan R. Alger appointed vice president and general counsel". Rutgers Focus. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  5. ^ Flynn, Erin (2014-10-12). "President Alger co-teaches leadership honors course". The Breeze (James Madison University). Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  6. ^ "Fall 2014 Honors Course Offerings" (pdf). James Madison University. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  7. ^ "Perspective, Reflections on Institutional Leadership" (pdf). National Association for College Admission Counseling. pp. 2–5. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  8. ^ Reed, Nick (2003-04-24). "Attorney in Michigan case speaks on importance of affirmative action". The Lantern. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  9. ^ "Grutter and Gratz: Amicus Briefs". University of Michigan Admissions Lawsuits. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  10. ^ Ostby, Kristin (2004-10-06). "'U' lawyer leaving for Rutgers position". The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan). Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  11. ^ "Search Results: Alger". American Association of University Professors. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  12. ^ a b Anderson, Nick (2014-09-26). "JMU president versed in civil rights law". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  13. ^ Gnagey, Laurel Thomas (2003-06-16). "The legal team: Jonathan Alger". The University Record Online. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  14. ^ "Agenda: National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Presidential Advisory Group" (pdf). NCAA. p. 3. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  15. ^ "Persons Who Have Served on the NACUA Executive Board/Board of Directors" (pdf). National Association of College and University Attorneys. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  16. ^ "National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council". National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  17. ^ Woodroof, Martha (2014-03-21). "The Spark: Mary Ann Alger". WMRA. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  18. ^ Parker, Alison (2012-02-12). "Q&A: President-Elect Jon Alger's agenda". The Breeze (James Madison University). Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  19. ^ a b Kildee, Brian H.; Jenkins Lemm, Laura (2014-08-03). "Culture of Callousness at JMU". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  20. ^ Cruise, Grant (2014-07-10). "Alleged Sexual Assault Victim Disapproves of University's Response". WHSV-TV. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  21. ^ a b "Changes to the 2014-15 Student Handbook". Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices, James Madison University. Archived from the original on 2014-11-18. 
  22. ^ "James Madison University's Response to Reports About Sexual Assault". WHSV-TV. 2014-07-19. Retrieved 2014-11-18.