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A Midwesterner by birth, Jo Young Switzer grew up in a home filled with educators. Her father was a school superintendent and her mother an elementary school teacher. Her two sisters are professional educators. Her maternal grandfather taught in a one-room school near Middlebury, Indiana.
After graduating from Manchester in 1969, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas. Switzer taught at Purdue University (Fort Wayne campus) and at what was then Manchester College. Her gift of administration resulted in an unexpected offer to serve as interim vice president and dean of academic affairs at Manchester in 1993. She quickly adjusted to the “big picture” perspective needed to be an effective dean and was appointed be the permanent dean in 1994.
In 2004 following a national search, she was selected to serve as the 14th President of Manchester College. She was deeply committed to the University’s mission: “Manchester University graduates persons of ability and conviction who draw on their education and faith to live principled, productive, and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.”
During her 10 years as the first female president at Manchester, she exhibited many of the values of “servant leadership” and motivated faculty and staff to bring their best values and abilities to their work. She used her monthly “Notes from the President” to keep alumni and friends connected to Manchester.
Switzer was an energetic fundraiser, raising $108 million a full 18 months ahead of the scheduled end for the Students First! Campaign. She spearheaded the largest gift in the University’s history, a $35 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to launch a College of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was honored with the 2013 Chief Executive Leadership Award of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for her “transformative leadership.”
As president, she oversaw enrollment increases of 30 percent, recruited an excellent Board of Trustees, and initiated a three-year Fast Forward bachelor’s degree program as well as the Triple Guarantee of financial aid, graduation in four years, and a job within six months of graduation. She served on the boards of directors of the Council of Independent Colleges, the Independent Colleges of Indiana, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, and the Indiana Commission on College Completion.
She established MU as an active partner in northeast Indiana education and economic development, serving on the Regional Economic Development Executive Board and initial Vision 2020 Council, a group dedicated to stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development in northeast Indiana.
The University earned national publicity each of the last five years of Switzer’s presidency, when The Chronicle of Higher Education recognized Manchester University on its national Honor Roll as a “Best College to Work For” based on employee surveys.
In 2014, she received Indiana’s highest distinction, Sagamore of the Wabash, for her visionary leadership.
Perhaps most important, she developed warm and respectful relationships with faculty, staff, trustees, students, presidential colleagues, donors, graduates, and members of the wider community in which Manchester University exists. Hundreds of people count her as a friend, and they are right.