West Virginia University President James P. Clements will receive a 2009 Alumni of the Year award from his alma mater tonight (Oct. 15).
The award is given annually by the University of Maryland Baltimore County Alumni Association for personal and professional achievements. Clements, who won in the Engineering and Information Technology category, had plenty of both this year.
Chief among them was being named WVU’s 23rd president, effective June 30. His appointment followed a celebrated career at Towson University, where he served as provost, vice president and the Robert W. Deutsch Distinguished Professor of Information Technology. Under his leadership, Towson achieved remarkable spikes in enrollment, retention and graduation rates. He also helped to secure additional funding for research.
At WVU, Clements has plans to continue his emphasis on research, positioning the University as an international leader in fields such as energy, biometrics and health care.
According to former colleagues in Maryland, with Clements at the helm, West Virginia University is very likely to achieve those goals.
“Jim represents one of our best,” UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski said. “His rise to provost at our sister institution and now to lead WVU speaks volumes about his ability to command respect. He’s one of our favorite sons – both of the state and the university.”
Clements earned three degrees from UMBC – Maryland’s prestigious honors college – including a B.S. in computer science and an M.S. and Ph.D. in operations analysis.
While Clements’ technological background is likely to benefit the University, Hrabowski also believes his experience as a leader and fundraiser will benefit the entire community.
“It’s clear that he understands the role of science and technology in building the economy and American competitiveness, and he’ll be a strong supporter of WVU in those areas,” Hrabowski said. “But what’s exceptional about Jim beyond that is that he understands the role other disciplines – the humanities, for example – play in building our communities. He’s aware of the balance that’s needed.”
Clements’ former classmate Jack Suess, who now serves as UMBC’s vice president of information technology, agrees with Hrabowski’s assessment. First as a student, and later as an administrator, he watched three critical skills – interdisciplinary thinking, strategic focus and an ability to connect with people – emerge in Clements. And he believes those skills will translate into success at WVU.
“Jim has an ability to bring people together and help them leverage their strengths through partnerships with other groups,” Suess said.
One of the partnerships Clements formed was with Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. They first met when Ruppersberger was serving as the executive of Baltimore County (akin to mayor of a city). His position kept him active in the business community, where he often worked with Clements on education, workforce development and technology initiatives.
“Jim is extremely dynamic, has great people skills and he’s very upbeat. There are half-empty people and half-full people – Jim’s a half-full guy,” Ruppersberger said.
Clements credits UMBC for helping to form the foundation on which he’s built the kind of success his colleagues envisioned.
“The education I received at UMBC rivaled the top institutions in the country and fully prepared me for the leadership roles I’ve achieved since I left,” Clements said. “I’m glad to see that UMBC has been receiving some well-earned recognition for its stellar faculty, administration and graduates, and I’m proud to be able to say I am part of that tradition.”
The entire UMBC campus community has been invited to celebrate with Clements and other alumni award recipients at tonight’s reception. For Hrabowski, the gathering represents the level of success that UMBC graduates are able to achieve, such as a respected attorney, a government leader, an arts educator and a university president.
“WVU was very wise to select Jim Clements and Jim was very fortunate to become president there,” Hrabowski said. “It’s going to be a great match. I know we’ll be hearing more about the University and its president in the future.”
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