Margee Ensign Announces Resignation as President of Dickinson College

Old West fall

Board Chair and Dickinson alumnus John E. Jones III will serve as interim president

Margee Ensign has announced her resignation as president of Dickinson College effective June 30, 2021. The college’s Board of Trustees has appointed Board Chair John E. Jones III '77, P'11, to a two-year term as interim president. Jones is chief judge for the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania and a Dickinson alumnus.

Ensign is returning to Yola, Nigeria, this summer to become president of American University of Nigeria (AUN), a role she previously held before becoming president of Dickinson in 2017. “Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had to make many difficult decisions, but the decision to leave Dickinson is by far the most difficult of my career. "When I was asked to return to AUN, I felt called to continue the education and peace work we had started through the university. The institution has been without a president for six months and conditions for education are deteriorating. I must try to make a difference,” Ensign said. “In its 238-year history, Dickinson has never wavered in its mission to educate leaders for our democracy—leaders who will work for the common good. It is the education our world needs most at this moment, and it has been a privilege to lead Dickinson through these unprecedented times. I look forward to working with John to ensure a smooth leadership transition. He cares deeply about his alma mater. As an alumnus, he has championed and supported the liberal arts. As board chair, John serves Dickinson with a steadfast commitment. I consider him a mentor and friend.”

Jones, a nationally recognized legal scholar, will retire from the bench this summer and will resign from Dickinson’s board, which he has chaired for four years. He was appointed to the federal bench in 2002 and has presided over numerous high-profile cases, including the landmark 2005 case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, for which he ruled it unconstitutional to teach intelligent design within a public school science curriculum. In 2014, Jones resolved the matter of Whitewood v. Wolf by striking down as unconstitutional Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. Prior to becoming a judge, Jones served as co-chair for the transition team for Governor-elect Tom Ridge and in 1995 became chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

“I look forward to continuing the momentum President Ensign has created,” Jones said. “She achieved so much in her four years as president. Her visionary leadership and steady hand have catapulted Dickinson to the forefront of liberal-arts colleges.”

Ensign became Dickinson’s 29th president on July 1, 2017. During her distinguished tenure, she reconnected Dickinson to the roots of its founding—to provide a useful education for the common good. Her brave thought leadership and action during the COVID-19 pandemic brought national attention to Dickinson for its decisions to operate remotely for the fall 2020 semester and to pilot a test-free admissions model. Among her most notable achievements, Ensign:

  • established the Center for Civic Action & Learning to develop ethical leaders who will build resilient communities and to strengthen Dickinson’s commitment to and presence in the Carlisle community
  • expanded Dickinson’s global footprint by establishing new partner programs and led Dickinson to become the only U.S. college to twice receive the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization
  • deepened Dickinson’s relationship with the neighboring U.S. Army War College and created Dickinson’s first online master’s degree program in managing complex disasters
  • founded the Carlisle Community Action Network (CAN), which fosters dialogue, collaboration and action among community leaders (in 2020, The Pennsylvania Humanities Council bestowed its Heart & Soul Hero award in recognition of CAN’s quick and effective response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Carlisle community and the exceptional interorganizational collaboration that made this good work possible)
  • advanced Dickinson’s diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the campus community
  • and engaged alumni in learning opportunities and as partners in innovating for the future.

“I thank Margee Ensign for her extraordinary leadership as Dickinson’s president and wish her well in her return to Nigeria,” said Douglas J. Pauls, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. “And, as John prepares to serve as interim president, I know his deep knowledge and commitment to Dickinson, combined with his esteemed, nationally recognized career in the judiciary, make him the right person to lead the college at this time.”

Published May 14, 2021