Campus greets Eric R. Jensen, Illinois Wesleyan’s 19th President
The Board of Trustees announced Sept. 14 that Eric R. Jensen of Hamline University
has been selected to serve as the University’s 19th president. Jensen was named following
a national search, which began in February. He succeeds Richard F. Wilson, who announced
his retirement in December 2014 and will step down at the end of October.
Jensen served as Hamline’s provost from 2012 to 2015. Located in Saint Paul, Minn.,
Hamline enrolls some 4,900 undergraduate and graduate students in its College of Liberal
Arts, School of Business, School of Education and School of Law. Previously, Jensen
served as a professor of economics and public policy at the College of William and
Mary in Williamsburg, Va. From 2004 to 2012, Jensen also served as director of William
and Mary’s Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy. A research university with a
strong liberal arts curriculum, William and Mary is also the nation’s second oldest
institution of higher learning.
“I am extremely proud to have been selected to lead this fine institution and to join
with you in promoting the values and importance of the University’s liberal arts mission,”
said Jensen. “I remarked on my recent campus visit how at home I felt walking onto
this campus and how impressed I have been with the people I’ve met. It’s the people
who bring a university’s mission to life, and through their efforts and innovative
approaches, distinguish it and prepare it for the future. Today this is more important
than ever, as we face a changing higher education landscape. I look forward to working
with the Wesleyan community to address the challenges that lie ahead.”
Jensen will bring to IWU a broad portfolio of academic and administrative experience.
As Hamline provost, he oversaw undergraduate and graduate programming, academic advising,
student affairs, intercollegiate athletics, the libraries and the international and
diversity programs. In addition, Jensen had significant budgetary responsibility,
working closely with the chief financial officer in developing the university’s overall
budget. He also created a process to successfully deal with the significant budget
shortfall that existed when he arrived at Hamline. Jensen also led curricular strategic
planning and preparations for an upcoming major fundraising campaign.
“We are delighted that someone with Dr. Jensen’s passion for the liberal arts and
extensive experience and impressive record of accomplishment as an administrator,
faculty member and scholar has accepted our invitation to serve as the 19th president
of Illinois Wesleyan University,” said George A. Vinyard ’71, chairman of the Board
of Trustees. In addition to being appointed to the presidency, Jensen was awarded
a tenured professorship in economics.
Vinyard expressed the University’s gratitude to outgoing President Richard F. Wilson
and to Mrs. Pat Wilson (see also the story about the Wilsons on page 22). He also
extended the board’s thanks to Search Committee Chair Jean Baird ’80 and each of the
committee’s trustee, faculty, staff and student members for their hard work and dedication.
In commenting on the presidential search process, Baird noted how well Jensen connected
with faculty, staff and students during his visit to campus. “We received feedback
from representatives of all campus constituents that he had the kind of personal qualities
they were looking for to lead the institution in these very challenging times,” she
Baird pointed out that Jensen’s role at Hamline University “went beyond that of most
provosts and included overseeing student affairs and working with the chief financial
officer in the development of the institutional budget. We also valued the fact that
he has had fundraising and external relations experience, both of which are important
roles for our president.”
Also impressive, said Baird, was Jensen’s tenure as director of William and Mary’s
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, where he was responsible for programmatic
and curricular initiatives and managed relationships with government agencies, nonprofits
and private firms on a range of policy-relevant projects. He was also actively engaged
in recruiting and cultivating donors and recruiting and working with a 30-plus member
external board of advisors.
As a faculty member at William and Mary, Jensen was an active scholar and researcher.
He worked for four years with the College Board to develop and implement its Financial
Aid Strategy Tool, which enabled participating institutions to individually tailor
financial aid offers to admitted students. He was named a Senior Fellow in the Program
in Population at the East–West Center, Honolulu, and served concurrently as Economist,
Office of Population, USAID and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs
Fellow, based in Washington, D.C.
Jensen was also a Visiting Scholar in Economics at the University of Indonesia, has
evaluated HIV-AIDS efforts for the World Bank and reproductive health programs for
USAID and served as guest editor of the Journal of Philippine Development and the Philippine Population Journal.
A native of Homewood, Ill., Jensen earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University
of Michigan and a bachelor of business administration in economics from the University
of Miami. His wife, Elizabeth Jensen, is a former middle school teacher. The couple
has two grown children: Joseph works for University of Washington Medicine in Seattle,
and Jessica is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University of Minnesota
and resides in Saint Paul.