Drexel University names new president

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
John Fry

Drexel University, seeking to fill the big shoes of an ambitious and gregarious longtime leader, tapped Franklin & Marshall College president John Fry to head the Philadelphia institution, trustees announced Wednesday.

Fry, 49, replaces Drexel president Constantine Papadakis, who died in April of complications from lung cancer. Fry begins his new job Aug. 1.

He said Wednesday his main goals include increasing Drexel's $450 million endowment, strengthening the university's technological culture, broadening Drexel toward a global reach and improving undergraduate life through a sense of community.

"This is the thrill of a lifetime," Fry said after being unanimously elected by Drexel trustees. "I'll work as hard as I know how to work."

The job will be a return to Philadelphia for Fry, who before taking the Franklin & Marshall job in 2002 worked for seven years as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel's neighbor.

As Drexel president, Fry will oversee a large urban campus with an enrollment of 22,000 - about 10 times as many students as Franklin & Marshall, a selective liberal arts school in the central Pennsylvania city of Lancaster.

Fry also will inherit what may have been Papadakis' boldest project - a proposal to build a second Drexel campus near Roseville, Calif. Though still in its earliest stages, the university has put down roots in the area by offering master's degree programs in nearby Sacramento.

Drexel underwent tremendous expansion during the 14-year tenure of Papadakis, who was credited with boosting the private school's endowment, enrollment and national profile. He added numerous campus buildings, an extensive online degree program, and schools of law, medicine, nursing and public health.

Trustees chairman Richard Greenawalt said that Fry, in beating out about 150 other candidates, will "lead us to even greater heights."

Still, Fry said his predecessor's shoes could never be filled.

While at Penn, Fry worked with Papadakis - who was known as "Taki" - to improve the neighborhood shared by both universities. Taking over for Papadakis is like being passed a large baton and trying to keep up the pace, he said.

"Taki can't be replaced," Fry said. "The work he did was truly astounding."

Former trustees board chairman C.R. "Chuck" Pennoni has been serving as Drexel's interim president since Papadakis died.

At Franklin & Marshall, trustees credit Fry with record fundraising, new campus facilities, increased financial aid, a lower student-to-faculty ratio, expanded academic expertise and improved student quality, as measured by increased applications and higher average SAT scores.

"John has been a visionary and remarkably effective and energetic leader," Dale Frey, chairman of Franklin & Marshall's board of trustees, said in a statement.

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray said the city's fortunes improved with Fry's work at Franklin & Marshall. The college has contributed much to the revitalization efforts in Lancaster, a one-time manufacturing city that lost thousands of jobs over the past few decades, he said.

Fry did have detractors in Lancaster who opposed Franklin & Marshall's expansion efforts. He could face similar issues at Drexel, which is located in densely populated West Philadelphia, though his work at Penn gives him valuable local experience and background.

Fry will leave Franklin & Marshall on June 30. Franklin & Marshall expects to name an interim president by the end of the semester, said college spokeswoman Dulcey Antonucci.

Fry studied American civilization as an undergraduate at Lafayette College and received a master's in business administration from New York University. He worked as an educational consultant before taking the job at Penn.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Fry is married with three children.


Drexel: www.drexel.edu
Franklin & Marshall: www.fandm.edu

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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