“A liberal arts education has always been about changing community, bettering lives, solving problems. … An Alma education has for 125 years been this type of liberal arts education, an education that, at its heart, prepares citizens to take on the most vexing of society’s problems.” — Jeff Abernathy
13th President of Alma College
Jeff Abernathy, Alma College’s 13th president, arrived on campus in June 2010 with a strong commitment to the values of a liberal arts education — values that celebrate student achievement, excellent teaching, service and citizenship.
In his first year at Alma, Dr. Abernathy launched a strategic planning process to guide the college in the years ahead. The strategic plan, endorsed by the Board of Trustees in October 2011, includes goals that address the development of new programs that reflect on the personal and professional growth of students through their years at Alma, enrollment growth, and creating a sustainable campus and community.
Dr. Abernathy also has expressed his interest in engaging new audiences with the Alma story and continues to reach out to students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community through social media, campus involvement and alumni gatherings.
An Advocate for the Liberal Arts
He is a leading authority on important issues in higher education, particularly those faced by small liberal arts colleges. As an active participant with the Midwestern Alliance for Learning in the Liberal Arts, a consortium of seven liberal arts colleges that studies student learning and growth, Dr. Abernathy advocates focusing faculty work around essential areas of student learning, such as critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing.
Dr. Abernathy served as vice president and dean of Augustana College from 2004 until his appointment at Alma. He joined Augustana after serving West Virginia Wesleyan College as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, prior to which he was a faculty member in English at Illinois College, where he also served as associate dean.
Author and Scholar
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Abernathy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Longwood College. He earned a master’s degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of Florida.
He is the author of a book, To Hell and Back: Race and Betrayal in the Southern Novel, published by University of Georgia Press in December 2003. The book considers the construction of race in the southern novel and American culture, using Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as archetypal text.