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President’s Biography

Dr. Peter Philip Mercer became Ramapo College’s fourth president on July 1, 2005. He previously served as dean of the law school and then as vice president (administration) and general counsel at the University of Western Ontario, where he was a professor of law. A former visiting research scholar at the University of Michigan, he also has been a faculty member at the University of Calgary, the University of Detroit and the University of Windsor.

He has authored, co-authored and edited two books, numerous articles, book chapters and reviews. His recent publications have focused on the legal profession and professional standards as well as the unique features of higher education administration. He earned his L.L.M. and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, and a J.D. from the University of Western Ontario. For sixteen years, he also has served as principal instructor in the Senior University Administrators Course held at the Banff Center, Banff Alberta each June and he is a member of the faculty of the Harvard University Seminar for New Presidents held every July.

Dr. Mercer is vice chair of the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities and he also is immediate past chair of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities Presidents Council. He presently co-chairs the Transfer Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council.

In addition to the higher education sector, Dr. Mercer’s service also includes membership on the Board of Directors of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey and the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce. He has in the past also held a number of leadership positions with the Children’s Hospital of the Western Ontario Foundation, including two terms as chair.

During Dr. Mercer’s tenure at Ramapo, the College has been increasingly regarded as a great value and a superior institution. Ramapo College has been ranked by US News and World Report as among the “Best Regional Universities in the North,” and by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine as one of the “100 Best Values in Public Colleges.”

Ramapo is also ranked 13th in the category “Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the Northeast” of the 2015 Washington Monthly college guide and rankings. The 2015 Niche Rankings for Best Dorms in New Jersey gives Ramapo a high ranking for its campus housing.

Over the past several years, Dr. Mercer has led Ramapo College through an ambitious and transformative campus-wide building program that has resulted in the completion of the Anisfield School of Business, the Bill Bradley Sports and Recreation Center, the Overlook and Laurel residence halls, the Sharp Sustainability Education Center, the Salameno Spiritual Center and the Adler Center for Nursing Excellence.

The College has recently completed renovation to its academic complex that houses state-of-the-art science and research laboratories and other instructional and social space, in addition to ongoing projects across campus.

Dr. Mercer is married to Dr. Jacqueline Ehlert Mercer, a registered dietitian. His son, Ryan, lives and works in Toronto, and his daughter, Imogen, is a social worker and policy analyst with the Ontario government.

Ramapo

Past Presidents

George T. Potter * (1969 to 1984)

George T. Potter became Ramapo College’s first president when it was founded in 1969. Prior to that, 1962-1969, Potter served as vice president for academic affairs at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan and was instrumental in helping to plan the institution prior to its opening in 1963. George Potter was born in England and obtained a social science degree at Stanford Hall, Loughborough and a master’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics at Oriel College, Oxford. He also holds an Ed.D. degree from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ramapo. Working with Ramapo’s first board, Potter helped to plan the College’s new campus on the Birch Estate in Mahwah as well as the academic structure of the institution. Potter returned to teaching in the School of Administration and Business following his retirement as president in 1984.

Dr. Robert A. Scott (1985 to 2000)

Dr. Robert A. Scott served as president of Ramapo College of New Jersey from June 1985 through June 30, 2000, when he was elected President of Adelphi University. His tenure at Ramapo was marked by rising enrollments, increasingly rigorous admissions standards, a construction boom, fiscal stability, the addition of three graduate degree programs and numerous other programmatic improvements and new undergraduate majors; new global partnerships with schools, universities, corporations and both local and international organizations; a renewed focus on “the four pillars” of a Ramapo education: international, multicultural, interdisciplinary, experiential learning, and successful fundraising. While at Ramapo, Scott helped create the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and Ramapo was designated as New Jersey’s public liberal arts college. Prior to assuming the presidency at Ramapo, Scott was assistant commissioner for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and associate dean and senior administrator of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University. During his term at Ramapo, he was on loan to the Governor to head the committee charged with launching the Commission on Higher Education. He earned a B.A. from Bucknell University and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. The Ramapo College Student Center now bears his name.

Dr. Rodney David Smith (2001 to 2004)

Dr. Rodney David Smith, Ramapo College of New Jersey’s third president, served as president from July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2004. Smith successfully dealt with the challenges of two consecutive years of state budget cuts, presiding over the construction of several new facilities and significant growth in enrollment and student preparedness. He completed the College’s first campus-wide strategic plan, instituted the Offices of the Provost and Chief Information Officer and brought distinguished lecturers such as Lech Walesa, Julian Bond, Cornel West and Oliver Sachs to the campus. Smith placed an emphasis on strengthening academic administration and pursuing major grants, securing a federal appropriation for an academic facility to be named for former Congresswoman Marge Roukema. He also oversaw the signing of a multi-million dollar agreement with the Meadowlands Commission.

Originally from The Bahamas, Smith served as senior psychologist with the Ministry of Education and Culture, held several vice presidential positions at Hampton University over a ten-year period and held the position of program coordinator at the Harvard Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.

He was named an MLI Fellow by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities for 2000, a Bush Foundation Fellow in 1997 and an Organization of American States Fellow for training and research at Harvard University from 1983 to 1986. He has served on the ACE Commission for International Education; AASCU Committee for International Education; Board member for the New Jersey Board of Examiners and other leadership positions.

Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in ecology from St. John’s University in Minnesota. He holds a master’s in clinical psychology from Fisk University in Tennessee, a master’s with a concentration in international development from Harvard University and a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University.

*deceased