Friday, February 25, 2011

Michael Howland: Five questions with...

On February 1st, JU Alumni Michael Howland returned to campus, as he has done quite a bit since receiving his degree as part of the class of 1976. Instead of touring the grounds or watching a sporting event, this time he returned to begin the next phase of his career as Vice President for University Advancement.
Michael Howland

Mr. Howland is joining the JU staff from his previous position as president and CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF), one of the nation’s largest regional associations of grantmakers. He has also been CEO of Noble of Indiana, an Indianapolis-based community organization that serves people with developmental disabilities; CEO of four associations in Springfield, Virginia that raise funds on behalf of more than 150 diverse national charities; and director the U.S. Small Business Administration in San Francisco.

Early on, JU students and faculty could see Mr. Howland’s potential as he won the Outstanding Leadership Award at his graduation, primarily for his work as Student Government Association president and newspaper editor. He has always been committed to helping JU succeed, serving as a member on the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors (where he received the Distinguished Service Award) and, in 2009, was named a Distinguished Dolphin as part of the university’s 75th Anniversary.

The Dolphin Network is honored to kick off its second year with an exclusive interview with Mr. Howland as he discusses his goals for the school and his thoughts on educational issues.

1. You have literally viewed Jacksonville University from nearly every angle possible (student, alumni, board of trustee member and now, administrator). Can you share your thoughts on how your Alma mater has grown since you first set foot on campus?
When I arrived at JU, we were defined to a great extent by the success of our basketball team. I don’t say that in a negative way – Artis et. al. put JU on the map for much of the country and ultimately helped to attract a lot of students here. However, we’ve grown well beyond basketball in the four decades since that foray into the national spotlight. On the athletic front alone, we’ve moved into new frontiers like football, lacrosse and track, and women’s sports have gained in prominence. More importantly, we’ve moved beyond a typical liberal arts offering and developed a strong reputation in nursing, aviation and even orthodontics. We have added some extraordinary buildings to enhance student life, and we’ve begun to take advantage of our spectacular riverfront location.
2. What types of goals or projects do you hope to have implemented by the beginning of the 2011 fall semester?
I hope to have a full, strong Alumni Board of Governors in place, along with a new Director of Alumni Relations. I want us to plan and orchestrate the best - and the best attended - Homecoming in years, and I am going to ask our faculty and retired faculty to help make that happen. I expect by that time to have a good handle on all of our needs as a university, beyond scholarship funds and general support, and to have begun the process of identifying individual donors, Dolphin Clubs and community partners to meet some of those needs.
3. Define the role a four-year college experience plays in today’s world. How does JU – and other similar institutes of higher education – need to evolve to continue being an essential part of an individual’s path to success?
I think that the privilege of defining the role that JU, or an institution like JU, plays in today’s world belongs to President Romesburg and the Board of Trustees, and that they have done so quite admirably with JU’s bold strategic plan developed under the leadership of Fred Pruitt. Our challenge now is to develop the connections and partnerships that can help to fund the implementation of that vision.
4. As this interview is part of the Dolphin Network blog, we would be remiss if we didn’t ask about your thoughts on social media as a way to learn, connect and share information.
Let’s face it, anyone 25 and under has grown up communicating via social media, and the rest of us have embraced it, accepted it or adapted to it with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We have, and will continue to have JU alumni, friends and donors that will want to see everything in print… but that population will continue to diminish, and we will be able to re-engage and stay connected, disseminate more information, celebrate all things JU and even raise funds faster and less expensive via social media.
5. This new position is the latest chapter in a remarkable career. Is this what the Michael Howland of 1976 – fresh out of college and ready to conquer the world – imagined he would be doing?
Back in 1976, I envisioned a life in politics and public service. It didn’t take long to conclude that I could enjoy a life of public service, even have an influence on public policy, without running for public office. I have been incredibly blessed to enjoy the myriad experiences I’ve had in government, philanthropy and the non-profit arena, to have lived all over the country and made so many wonderful friends. And while my new life at JU today is certainly not what I imagined doing in 1976, I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing today than to take all of these experiences and use them to help grow JU’s resources for both today and tomorrow. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of our immense potential. That’s what is really fun to imagine!

For more information on the role of University Advancement, please visit the JU website.


  1. Congratulations Mike!! This is a great win for JU, and a logical next step for a man so dedicated to his alma mater.

    I am proud to say "I knew you when..."


  2. Congratulations, Mike! I am happy for both you and JU!!
    Lesley Gher Richardson

  3. Congratulations, Mike. I am so happy for you. I have known you since 1980 and your love for Jacksonville University has always been evident to me. I know that you have had such a special appreciation for the university experience. I envy you and am proud that you have landed at Jacksonville University. It goes without saying, Jacksonville University is so fortunate getting someone of your caliber and someone who has such a big heart for the academic world.