THIS WEEK IN PHOTOS: FDU community members gather outside the John and Joan Monninger Center for Learning and Research. Photo by Monique Vitche.
The stage of Dickinson Hall’s Wilson Auditorium was softly lit by a vibrant, violet hue, as a solemn rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” filled the venue while faculty members, alumni and a few students ambled in. Gathering at the Metropolitan Campus on Oct. 10 were those who held President J. Michael Adams close to their hearts.
Adams, the sixth president of Fairleigh Dickinson University (from 1991 to 2012), until his retirement last spring, died in June. During his time leading the university, he touched the lives of many.
An institution that encompasses four campuses and three countries, aside from partnerships all across the world, FDU calls itself “the leader in global education.” This achievement is said by many to have been the vision of Adams.
The ceremony, “Remembering Michael Adams,” showed the breadth of the impact of his dedication, as individuals shared their memories of him.
The program was opened by Interim President Sheldon Drucker. “For a man of his stature and accomplishments, Michael Adams was the most humble person I ever met,” he began. “He lived by the Gandhi quote, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’; Michael was that change.
“For all of Michael’s accomplishments, and you will hear a lot of them today, he always believed that he was merely minding the store,” he said. “He was a custodian, entrusted with the legacy of a great institution, and responsible for handing the keys to the next generation. That is the lesson, above all, that I live with today as interim president.”
As the program continued, those gathered for the ceremony did, in fact, hear of Adams’ many accomplishments.
University Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Christopher A. Capuano took the stage and said, “I can say with confidence that Michael Adams was the most visionary and transformational president Fairleigh Dickinson University has ever known.
“The gifts that Dr. Adams brought to the university weren’t just his leadership and his ability to think creatively. It was his unique ability to engage and inspire others,” he said. “He created transformational programs and an unparalleled sense of mission, a truly global mission.”
Capuano listed many additions and improvements to FDU and said we must thank Adams for making them part of his vision.
These changes included: The Office of Global Learning, the founding of the Vancouver campus of the university, the Global Virtual Faculty Program, the United Nations Pathways lecture series, the University’s NGO status with the United Nations and the opening of the School of Pharmacy.
As a thank you for Adams’ commitment to making the School of Pharmacy a reality, the interim dean of the school, Michael Avaltroni, presented Adams’ wife and son with a white coat “in commemoration of our inaugural class of students, and in recognition of President Adams’ inspiring role in establishing our school.”
The Inspirational Gospel Ensemble, a student group on the Metropolitan Campus, performed a song, “Keep the Dream Alive,” in honor of Adams’ legacy, which they believe will live on.
Among the other speakers was College at Florham alumna (and former Editor-in-Chief of The Pillar) Melissa Hartz ’11, who shared memories of Adams and how he taught her the importance of becoming a “global citizen.” Hartz spent six months in Beijing, China, after her graduation.
The somber, but beautiful, ceremony was concluded with an emotional response from Adams’ wife Susan, a special tribute by New Jersey Honor Guard Members, in recognition of the time Adams served in the U.S. Army, and these final words from Drucker:
“In honor of Michael, let us all be the change we wish to see in this world… Thank you, Michael, for all you have given to FDU and everyone close to you. Your voice will continue to echo within all of us, and your legacy will continue for generations to come.”