One of Cornell’s respected faculty members will leave Ithaca this June. D. Merrill Ewert, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) for the past four years, will become President of Fresno Pacific University (FPU) on July 1.
Ewert, the associate dean for outreach in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Human Ecology, will take over for current FPU president, Peter Klaasen.
“The search committee was very impressed with Dr. Ewert’s credentials,” Klaasen said. “We liked what we learned about how he had built cooperation between the University and the larger community. His emphasis on university involvement in issues confronting society seemed to us a remarkable demonstration of the kind of values we seek to emulate at Fresno Pacific University.”
According to Klaasen, the administrators in Fresno, Calif., were looking for someone who could help FPU expand its programs and position itself as an important center for higher education on the West coast.
“We liked his determination to build partnerships with other entities, whether these might be state, local, political, or non-political,” Klaasen said. “His vision seemed to be all-inclusive.”
Ewert addressed CCE’s technology and research problems during his tenure as director through his plan entitled “Committed to Excellence.” According to Ewert, the plan revitalized the CCE’s efforts to build partnerships with community leaders and the citizens of New York.
“We created a new program development process through which work teams define problems, carry out applied research, and develop extension programs,” Ewert said.
“We have also adopted a new vision statement that clearly shows what we do and where we’re going: ‘Building strong and vibrant New York communities,'” he added.
According to Nancy Fey, CCE Communications Coordinator and CCE administrator for CALS, faculty members and administrators are not likely to forget all the hard work that Ewert put into the program.
“Probably one of the biggest impacts [he made] was when he started doing something called a Monday morning memo, which was a weekly electronic newsletter to the 1,700 CCE employees across the state,” Fey said. “This was a tremendous tool in keeping everyone informed and keeping issues front and center.”
Ewert expresses regret about leaving his colleagues here in Ithaca.
“I’ll miss the people,” he said. “I’ve never been part of a better team of faculty and extension educators in my life. They are hardworking, deeply committed, passionate about the cause, very smart, and great fun to work with.”
However, he has high expectations for his future at Fresno Pacific University, which has a rapidly expanding student population.
“I hope to help Fresno Pacific become a truly engaged university where scholarship is viewed as more than simply preparing young people for life; it is life,” Ewert said. “I want people to see the university as a center of and catalyst for lifelong learning — a place where education helps strengthen local communities.”
Ewert will resign as director of CCE in June. Until then, he plans to continue with his work at CCE and as an advisor to several graduate students who are pursuing postdoctoral degrees.
“I leave Cornell University and my role within Cooperative Extension with very mixed emotions,” he said. “Without question, this has been the greatest experience of my professional life.”
Archived article by Meghan Barr