Michael Avaltroni Inaugurated as President of FDU
By Kenna Caprio
September 28, 2023 — For the first time in University history, an alumnus holds the title of president.
On Wednesday, September 27, the University community and honored guests gathered for the inauguration of Michael Avaltroni, BS’99 (Flor), as the ninth president of FDU, and the annual Academic Convocation ceremony.
His history with FDU is rich and longstanding, dating back to his days as an undergraduate student studying chemistry and his subsequent faculty and administrative roles.
“I am humbled by the great people and rich history that precede me and admire those who join me today in serving the institution. I am committed with everything in my power to ensure a stronger and more sustainable path for FDU,” he said.
As Board of Trustees member and FDU alumnus Winston Lowe, BA’71 (Ruth), performed the investiture ceremony, he said the decision to select Avaltroni as president was an easy one.
“Michael Avaltroni represents all that Fairleigh Dickinson University has stood for over the decades,” said Lowe. “He is intelligent and talented. He is innovative and entrepreneurial. He is compassionate and empathetic. He has experienced much and grown steadily in his various leadership positions. He does his homework and works as hard as possible to always be prepared. And most of all, he is passionate and tirelessly driven, committed to taking every measure possible to serve this community and transform the lives of our students, as he himself was transformed as a student here at FDU. Michael, your work during this year as president has only reinforced our faith in your leadership and we are excited at the direction you are moving us in.”
He then presented Avaltroni with the president medallion. “It is my honor to now bestow upon you the medallion of office of the president of Fairleigh Dickinson University as a sign of rank and privilege and responsibilities of your office,” Lowe said.
In his inaugural address, the president referenced the words personal, global and transformational — “the three pillars of an FDU education” — describing his own journey in relation to those pillars.
In a touching personal moment, the president presented a bouquet of flowers to his wife, Jill Avaltroni, thanking her for her sacrifices and for being his “rock of stability,” before thanking his three children, one of whom is a current FDU student, for their kindness, their spirit and for making him better every day.
He continued by emphasizing the challenges facing higher education and the road forward. Institutions of higher learning must adapt, he said. “We need to move toward offering knowledge, skills that are adaptable and transferable, applied and experiential learning and the necessary support for whole-person development.” The president has often said “we need to meet students where they are” and he elaborated on that essential point, adding this means “focusing on every facet of the student experience … supporting them in their academic, physical, social and emotional development. It means offering services that work for their schedules and circumstances. And it means adapting when necessary to provide them the opportunity to overcome problems.”
He emphasized, “If we embrace our role as navigators, parental figures, coaches and mentors, we can and will create a supportive environment where students can thrive.”
Highlighting the recent strategic plan, “FDU Will Soar,” the president said, “We are starting the process of reimagining FDU by providing even greater personal support, by focusing on immersive learning opportunities that provide a competitive advantage and we are evaluating all programs and services to see what can be done better.” He added, “As an institution, we have defined our North Star. The path forward means focusing people and resources on the programs and priorities that best serve students.”
The president said the road ahead will be a challenging one with significant changes to come. “We must carefully consider who we serve and align our offerings so that those we serve have the support and services they need.”
Despite the challenges ahead, the president is optimistic that FDU will succeed because of its ability to adapt and its track record of serving students and transforming lives. “Most of all though, I am confident in our future because of our people. This has been and always will continue to be our greatest strength.”
He concluded, “Through devoted service to our students, FDU can continue to forge an impactful presence in higher education so our graduates will continue to transform their lives and the world around them. Our best days lie ahead, and I look forward to embarking upon them with each of you on the path forward.”
Faculty and administrative representatives also offered words of encouragement, support and congratulations to Avaltroni during the ceremony.
Patricia Melloy, professor of biology and president of the Faculty Senate, said, “We are confident that you have the skills and dedication to lead us as we work together to realize our vision for the future of FDU.”
“Seeing how hard Michael works and how much he cares is truly inspiring,” says Benjamin Rifkin, interim provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “I have no doubt that with our help, he will be a very successful president, and that the University has and will have a bright future.” He presided over the event, and closed by praising Avaltroni as a tremendous leader. “We are very fortunate to have you lead us in this important time in our University’s history.”
Michael Avaltroni completed an M.A. in chemistry in 2001 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 2003, both at Princeton University. He joined FDU in 2003, serving as a faculty member and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences; he was instrumental in the process of creating the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Avaltroni took over as interim dean in 2012 and was appointed permanently to the position of dean in 2013. He became provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in January 2022, before being named interim president in January 2023 and president in April 2023.