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Drew University Interim President Thomas J. Schwarz Takes Office

Looks to build on Drew’s recent success amid challenging climate

August 2020 – Drew University Interim President Thomas J. Schwarz has not wasted time in making tough decisions in his new role.

Shortly after taking office on August 1, Schwarz wrote to the Drew community to announce that all fall 2020 courses would be online only, a change of course to the school’s intentions for a hybrid in-person reopening of campus.

“Though certainly a disappointment, it is my hope that this decision has provided some clarity during an unsettled time,” he said in the statement.

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Schwarz was appointed President Emeritus of Purchase College in recognition of his 17 years of distinguished service to the college.

Schwarz, who served as president of Purchase College, SUNY, from 2002 to 2019, made the determination after being thoroughly briefed by Cabinet, staff leaders, members of the Board of Trustees, and former president MaryAnn Baenninger, who stepped down on July 31 after a six-year tenure.

While the difficult decision represents the challenging environment facing higher education during the Covid-19 pandemic, Schwarz noted Drew’s recent progress as reason for optimism.

“President Baenninger made decisions which set Drew University up for success,” Schwarz said of his predecessor.

Since 2017, Drew has experienced an 11 percent increase in full-time student enrollment, with an average first-year retention rate of 90 percent.

Drew’s appeal has garnered national recognition as recently as this week when The Princeton Review ranked Drew among the top 386 schools in the country—which it has for many years running—and in the nation’s top 20 in theater production and race/class interaction categories. Last month, Drew was named one of Fiske Guide to College‘s top 10 ‘Best Buy’ private schools in the country for the second straight year.

Last year, Drew earned praise as a national top 100 school in Washington Monthly Liberal Arts Rankings; the only New Jersey school in the nation’s top 100 by Kiplinger’s Best College Values; 8th in the nation in international student enrollment by the Institute of International Education; and a part of the nation’s top 20 percent of colleges and universities by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education Rankings. The Princeton Review also placed Drew on selective lists like Best Value CollegeColleges That Creates Futures and Guide to Green Colleges.

During Baenninger’s six years at Drew, she oversaw the addition of nine new majors, two minors, five combined degree programs and four NYC Semesters in the College of Liberal Arts. Three new degree programs and two certification programs were added in the Caspersen School of Graduate Students, and the Theological School created a new curriculum for many of its degrees and added seven vocational tracks—with two more coming this year—and five new graduate certificates.

These new programs and experiences tie into the creation of Launch, Drew’s reimagined undergraduate experience which pairs Drew’s rigorous skill-building curriculum with meaningful and robust real-world learning experiences, and ensures that every student has an opportunity to explore a comprehensive set of career and affinity communities and benefit from a network of mentors inside and outside of Drew. After extensive research, planning and execution under Baenninger, the flagship program took off in fall of 2019.

“This is a challenging yet exciting time at Drew, as it is at all institutions of higher education,” said Schwarz.

“We have a strong foundation to build on and I believe our student-first approach—focused on student success during and after their time here—will guide us into an even brighter future.”

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