21st president, August 1, 2008—June 2019
James Mullen was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on March 20, 1958, and grew up in the small town of Granby. On entering the College of the Holy Cross he planned a career in dentistry, emulating his father who had died when James was seven. Soon he turned to a history major. Following graduation in 1980, he earned a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1984. He received his doctorate in higher education from the University of Massachusetts in 1994.
In the mid-80’s Mullen worked as a management intern in New York City and next became an Assistant to the Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Subsequently he served as Special Assistant to the Director of Aviation of the Port Authority and moved, in 1988, to a post as Special Projects Coordinator for Springfield, Massachusetts. Very quickly thereafter he became part of Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Connecticut, serving over time in several posts: Assistant to the President; Dean of Planning, Research and Development; Vice President for Fiscal and Development Affairs; and then Executive Vice President.
Experience in both municipal and academic governance proved valuable when Mullen moved in 1995 to become Vice President for Strategic Planning and Community Relations at Trinity College in Hartford. He subsequently would become Vice President for Student Services. While at Trinity, Mullen developed a comprehensive plan for Trinity and oversaw a major public-private partnership with the city meant to address decay in the neighborhood surrounding the college. A $110 million effort, the latter resulted in construction of a Learning Corridor hosting one elementary, one middle, and two high-schools. The partnership brought significant change, still being carried forward by a Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance. It also marked a major enhancement in town-gown relations and college commitment to the community.
In 1999 Mullen became Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. There he continued to work at building contacts with students and the larger community. He was called away, however, by personal and family factors including a sense of duty to his faith and home region. Elms College, a small college in Chicopee, Massachusetts, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph was experiencing enrollment and financial difficulties. In 2005 Mullen agreed to assume the presidency of the institution and in three years guided it back on track. Having accomplished this task, in 2008 he accepted the post of president of Allegheny College.
Mullen spent his first year in the presidency establishing connections with alumni, linkages with the local community, and listening. He also appointed a planning committee to formulate a strategic plan for the coming decade. “Combinations 2020” calls for further strengthening of the academic program, continuing linkages with the local community, and enhancement of the College’s national visibility. Increase in the College’s endowment is central to achievement of the plans’ goals. Mullen has therefore bent great effort to that task, made all the more challenging by sudden and severe economic recession in the nation. His outgoing personality and extensive travel schedule have been of aid, as have increased notice and good rankings given Allegheny in various college reviews and listings. The president’s first years in office have witnessed the completion and dedication of the Founders House, a new admissions building, the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts, the second stage of the North Village dormitory complex, and the Richard J. Cook Center for Environmental Science in Carr Hall. Ahead lie the challenge of completing the new financial campaign and, in 2015, celebration of the bicentennial of the founding of the College.