President's Office

Since 1886, Alma College has prepared graduates who think critically, serve generously, lead purposefully, live responsibly and contribute to meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

Jeff Abernathy Jeff Abernathy
Alma College President Jeff Abernathy takes a selfie with 2019 Alma graduates Alma College President Jeff Abernathy takes a selfie with 2019 Alma graduates

Jeff Abernathy
13th President of Alma College

Since his appointment by the Board of Trustees in 2010, Dr. Abernathy has provided a stable foundation of guidance at Alma through periods of both unprecedented growth as well as tumult throughout the world.

In 2020, Dr. Abernathy worked together with faculty, staff and students on the development of a strategic plan to guide the college in the years ahead. What followed was “Evergreen,” a dynamic plan guided by themes that represent the highest goals for the future of Alma College: Purpose and Place, Experiential Learning, New Programs and Innovation, Financial Vitality and Creating a Just and Inclusive Community. With Dr. Abernathy’s leadership and direction, Evergreen will be continuously updated in years to come.

A commitment to outstanding academics

When Dr. Abernathy joined Alma College in 2010, the college had not launched a new major in 17 years. Since then — and with a steady focus on the needs of society, now and in the future — the Bachelor of Science in Nursing has been introduced, and a total of 27 new undergraduate programs have been added. A new core curriculum was launched to better-emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts education. The business program was revamped, allowing students to focus on in-demand areas of the job market.

Alma College in 2021 launched the first graduate program in its history with the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree. Since then, its graduate degree offerings have expanded to include special education, communication and information technology and mental health counseling. Under Dr. Abernathy’s leadership, more graduate degree programs are expected to follow.

Investing in Alma

Thanks to the successful “Our Time is Now” philanthropic campaign, which raised more than $120 million, Alma College has renovated or replaced several key buildings during Dr. Abernathy’s tenure, including student housing facilities, the Hamilton Commons dining hall, the Hogan Center for athletics, the Wright Leppien Opera House, and the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons.

Dr. Abernathy has worked to ensure that every student has opportunities for success at Alma College. This is evident through the Alma Venture program, which provides students with resources and professional support for a meaningful junior or senior year experiential learning opportunity, as well as the Julius Chatman Living Learning Community, which provides space to support students of color.

More students than ever — upwards of 70 percent of all incoming first-year students — participate in athletics and Dr. Abernathy has worked to benefit their interests as well. Since the beginning of his tenure, nine new intercollegiate varsity teams have been added, bringing the number of sports teams at Alma to 30.

Strengthening community ties

Dr. Abernathy has said that Alma College will be a vital part of Michigan’s education infrastructure for generations — and has worked to ensure that it will.

Following a devastating fire in 2010, the historic Wright Opera House Block in downtown Alma was all but destroyed. Dr. Abernathy saw the potential of Alma College working with the city of Alma in this space and worked to save it. Following a successful fundraising campaign, the building — now known as the Wright-Leppien Opera House — opened in 2019 with commercial space and housing for Alma College students.

Founded in 2020, the Center for College and Community Engagement offers students the opportunity to engage, learn and grow in partnership with the local community. Through the 3CE, students mentor local youth, serve meals at the Community Cafe and go on Alternative Breaks, while gaining an understanding of what it all means through engaged classroom activity.

Alma College is currently in the process of developing the Center for Small Business Innovation, Incubation, and Development (BIID) for Mid-Michigan. When complete, the BIID hub will support and enhance the launching or growth potential of small businesses and entrepreneurs in critical sectors of the mid-Michigan economy.

Alma College campus President Abernathy is pictured at far left at the Alma-Dearborn Connection Initiative event in 2023.
Alma College commencement 2023 Alma College commencement 2023

Author. Scholar. Leader.

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.

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 “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.


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(989) 463-7146