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September 9th, 2001

Ithaca College Mourns Passing of President Emeritus James J. Whalen

Ithaca, NY--James J. Whalen, who led Ithaca College with distinction during a period of unprecedented growth as its sixth president, passed away on Thursday, September 6, in Boston, Massachusetts, after a brief illness. During Whalen's presidency from 1975 to 1997, the College experienced increases in academic and cocurricular programs, in the size and caliber of the faculty, in the number and quality of the students, and in physical and fiscal resources. Upon his retirement he was named president emeritus and was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters. He had remained active as a supporter of the College and as a member of several higher education organizations.

He is survived by his wife, Gillian Hamer Whalen; brothers Robert, Frank, and Jerome; sister Mary Noel; and their families. The family will hold a private service; Ithaca College will be scheduling a memorial service at a later date.

"We are all saddened by this news," said Whalen's successor, current Ithaca College president Peggy R. Williams. "During Jim's 22 years as president, his vision and leadership significantly enhanced Ithaca College's reputation and visibility. He was a leader in higher education at the national level and contributed greatly to numerous important issues and initiatives. Jim left a legacy not only in Ithaca, but also across the country. He will be sorely missed."

Born March 6, 1927, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Whalen was a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College. He held master's and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the Pennsylvania State University and was a licensed clinical psychologist. Before coming to Ithaca College, he served as president of Newton College of the Sacred Heart and held a variety of administrative positions at Ohio University and the University of Maryland.

William Haines, chairman of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, had first met Whalen when both were administrators at Ohio University. "I knew Jim for close to 40 years, and he was a wonderful humanist and an educator who had such a feeling for people," said Haines. "His record of accomplishment will serve as a lasting testament to the success of his endeavors."

In a 1986 Exxon Foundation study, Whalen was named one of the nation's top 100 higher-education chief executive officers. Owing largely to his fiscal management and fund-raising leadership, Ithaca College's endowment and reserves grew during Whalen's tenure from $9 million to some $150 million. The College's financial strength was greatly enhanced, and total assets quadrupled to over $300 million. Ithaca's enrollment rose by over 25 percent, the number of degree programs more than doubled, and the size of the faculty increased by over 50 percent. Also during his presidency, 15 academic and residential buildings were added to the campus, and most of the existing facilities were completely renovated.

Shortly before he left office, Whalen launched a capital campaign to raise funds for an addition to meet the growing needs of the College's founding school, the School of Music. The overwhelming and generous response of donors to the fund-raising effort for the building not only demonstrated their appreciation for the music program but also affirmed their affection for and gratitude to Whalen, as most of the funds were donated in honor of his service to Ithaca College. In recognition of that, the board of trustees voted to name the building the James J. Whalen Center for Music, which was opened with a gala dedication ceremony in October 1999.

Whalen held leadership positions with a number of state and national higher-education associations. He served as chairman of the boards of directors of the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and New York's Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities; and was a member of the Education Commission of the States Task Force on State Policy and Independent Higher Education. A well-known champion of integrity in intercollegiate athletics, he was a charter member of the Presidents Commission of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and chair of its Division III subcommittee, cochair of the NCAA Task Force on Gender Equity, and a member of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. As a veteran of the United States Naval Reserve who had also served as a clinical psychologist in a Veterans Administration hospital, Whalen had an abiding interest in education for military men and women. He served as chairman of the board of visitors of both Air University (USAF) and the Army War College, and was a member of the board of visitors of the Marine Corps University. He was technical adviser to the Process for Accreditation of Joint Education of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as educational consultant for the chairman of that endeavor. For his contributions to higher education in the military, he received the Exceptional Service Award, the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. Air Force, and was named an honorary member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Whalen had most recently served on the board of advisers for the National Student Records Clearinghouse, EdVerifY, and as a mentor for the American Council on Education fellows program.

Whalen began his academic career in 1958 as assistant dean for the University of Maryland University College program in Munich, Germany, and served Maryland in a variety of capacities over the next six years, including assistant director of the European division. At Ohio University from 1964 to 1969, he served as director of the Center for Psychological Services, dean of students, vice president for administrative affairs, and, finally, as executive vice president. He left to assume his first college presidency at Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Massachusetts.

In 1997 the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities gave Whalen the Henry Paley Memorial Award for outstanding service. He was also awarded honorary doctor of laws degrees from both Newton College of the Sacred Heart and Ohio University. In 1999 the Ithaca College Alumni Association named in his honor the James J. Whalen Meritorious Service Award, which recognizes distinguished achievements and contributions to the College by nongraduates. Since 1998 the College has held the James J. Whalen Academic Symposium each March, celebrating the tradition of student and faculty collaboration in research and creative activity at Ithaca College and the support that Whalen provided for this work during his presidency.

Contributions in Whalen's name can be made to support the Turtle Bridge Scholarship, which was established by James and Gillian Whalen to annually honor outstanding seniors who have shown steady improvement in academic performance during their undergraduate careers and who are actively involved in the campus and/or local communities. Donations should be sent c/o Shelley Semmler, vice president for institutional advancement, Ithaca College, 237 Alumni Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850.

Contact: Dave Maley
Office: (607) 274-1440
Reference: 162

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