by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
As we celebrate the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence this week, a college founded by one of the signers also marks a new era of leadership. Margee Ensign officially took the reins as Dickinson’s 29th president on July 1, while longtime Board of Trustee members Judge John Jones ’77, P’11 and Jim Chambers ’78 begin the new fiscal year as the board's chair and vice chair, respectively.
All three are proven pacesetters who are dedicated to the college and bring exceptional skill sets to their posts. And, as outgoing board chair and 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Jennifer Ward Reynolds ’77 noted in a June 23 email to the Dickinson community, Jones and Chambers "are eager to work with President Ensign and all Dickinsonians as we propel Dickinson forward, raise the visibility of this great college and continue to be an international leader in liberal-arts education."
Ensign is a skilled educator, administrator and widely published scholar whose work focuses on the challenges of international development and the implications of development assistance. She comes to Dickinson after serving for seven years as president of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), a private university based on the U.S. model of higher education and the first development university in Africa.
At AUN, Ensign oversaw the construction of a sustainable campus and the creation of the finest digital library on the continent. She also co-founded and led the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), a response to the escalating violence brought on by the Boko Haram insurgency that successfully promoted peace in the area through education, empowerment and community development while feeding 300,000 refugees fleeing the fighting to the north. Prior to that presidency, Ensign was dean of the School of International Studies and associate provost for international initiatives at the University of the Pacific in California.
Recognizing her significant contributions, the London-based African Leadership Magazine named Ensign the recipient of its 2011 African Leadership Award in Educational Excellence. Other honors include a 2012 Paul Harris Fellowship, granted by Rotary International, and the 2014 African Leadership Award, bestowed by the World Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. In 2015, the Women of Jama’atul Nasril Islam in Nigeria honored Ensign for her contributions to leadership, philanthropy and education of women and girls in northeast Nigeria. Ensign also received an honorary degree from the American University of Paris for her pioneering academic and humanitarian work.
Named by Time magazine as one of its 2006 “Time 100” most influential people in the world, Jones was a political science major at Dickinson and member of the Raven’s Claw honorary society who went on to earn a J.D. from the Dickinson School of Law. He served in private practice before being named chair of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge in 1995, and he held that position until 2002, when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President George W. Bush.
In the years since, Jones has presided over several high-profile national cases, most notably the landmark 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, after which he held that it was unconstitutional to teach intelligent design within a public-school science curriculum, and 2014’s Whitewood v. Wolf, in which he ruled that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed Jones to the Pennsylvania Commission on Judicial Independence, and in 2013, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Jones to serve as a member of the Committee on Judicial Security, a standing committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
The judge’s many honors include the John Marshall Judicial Independence Award, election to the American Law Institute, a Rave Award from Wired magazine, honorary doctorates from Dickinson and Muhlenberg College, the Geological Society of America’s inaugural president’s medal and an Outstanding Alumni Award from the Dickinson School of Law. Following his ruling on the Kitzmiller case, which inspired his inclusion on the “Time 100” list, Jones was featured in the Peabody Award-winning Nova special "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." He also appeared on The Today Show, PBS NewsHour, C-SPAN, CNN and Al Jazeera America.
Jones has been a Dickinson Board of Trustees member since 2008, and he has delivered numerous lectures on campus, including the 2006 Commencement address. He co-chairs the 2017 presidential transition committee along with fellow trustee Carol Campbell Haislip ’79, P’11.
Chambers studied history and political science at Dickinson and earned an MBA in finance from Southern Methodist University and a master’s in international management from Thunderbird’s American Graduate School of International Management. He then launched a distinguished career in international business, serving policy-level executive positions in diverse businesses, including Conoco Inc., Quest Diagnostics and Corning Incorporated. He is also a consultant, investor and founding partner of Conundrum Capital Partners LLC, as well as partner and owner of Vision Ace Hardware Stores.
An energetic leader and impassioned volunteer, Chambers serves on several not-for-profit and privately held company boards, including Dickinson’s Board of Trustees, which he joined in 2008. The following year, he and wife Niecy Armstrong Chambers established the John Robert Paul Brock Scholarship Fund in honor of Dickinson’s first-known black graduate.
This past spring, the Chambers made a $1 million gift commitment to Dickinson, supporting scholarships, financial aid and the preservation of historic campus buildings, and they hope to inspire fellow alumni to likewise give back. Chambers also led the 2016-17 search for Dickinson’s 29th president.
Published June 27, 2017