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Eckerd College trustees name James J. Annarelli the school’s sixth president

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published February 14, 2023
Categories: About Eckerd

President Jim Annarelli speaks at a recent event for sophomore students. Photo: Penh Alicandro ’22

Eckerd College’s Board of Trustees appointed James J. Annarelli, Ph.D., as the institution’s sixth president following a unanimous vote at its winter meeting on Feb. 10. Annarelli has served as the school’s interim leader since August 2022.

“Dr. Annarelli’s tenure with the College puts him in a unique position to understand the history and trajectory of the institution and its current opportunities and challenges,” says Ian P. Johnson ’89, chair of the Trustee Board. “His long-standing relationship with the various constituencies of Eckerd and his understanding of the College’s recently adopted strategic plan have enabled him to seamlessly step into the presidency as the interim and allowed the Board to observe his ability to lead Eckerd forward. Our observations over the past six months led us to the conclusion that Eckerd was best served today and moving forward with Jim Annarelli at the helm.”

Prior to his appointment as interim, Annarelli served in a variety of capacities at Eckerd during his 32-year tenure—most recently as vice president for student life and dean of students from 2008 to 2022. Annarelli succeeds the College’s fifth president, Damián J. Fernández, Ph.D., who served from 2020 to 2022 and led the school’s strategic planning initiative.

James J. Annarelli

James J. Annarelli, Ph.D.

Jim Annarelli at the Eckerd College Commencement of the Class of 2005

“Stable leadership is extremely important to allow faculty to focus their time on teaching and mentoring our students and conducting their research agendas, with fewer competing peripheral demands,” says interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Julienne Empric, Ph.D. “Serving with a president who is known, well liked and trusted—and who has proven his stewardship over the past six months—not only will enable the faculty to make decisions for the next academic year, a task well underway, it will also facilitate faculty, administration and trustees working together toward a renewed vision of Eckerd College for the foreseeable future.”

Annarelli earned his Ph.D. in religion and society from Drew University in 1984 and has had a 42–year career in higher education. He taught at St. Francis College and Empire State College in the State University of New York and served 10 years as a member of the faculty at St. John’s University before joining Eckerd in 1990. Much of his academic work has centered around contemporary Christian issues, and in 1987 he published a book titled Academic Freedom and Catholic Higher Education. At Eckerd, he also held the titles of assistant director and coordinator of directed studies for the Program for Experienced Learners, the College’s former adult bachelor’s degree program; associate dean and director for The Center for the Applied Liberal Arts; and associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of students. He also has been a member of the extended faculty since arriving at Eckerd.

Jim Annarelli leans over a chair to speak with Eckerd College students

Jim Annarelli has served in a variety of capacities at Eckerd during his 32-year tenure.

“I am deeply grateful to Board Chairman Ian Johnson and Vice Chair Sue Slaugenhaupt for the confidence that they and the Board of Trustees have placed in me by appointing me the sixth president of Eckerd College,” Annarelli wrote in a message to the community Monday, Feb. 13. “I view this appointment as an affirmation not only of my efforts in recent months but also of the collaborative work to advance our beloved College. … I am humbled by this confidence and energized by the charge given to me to lead the Eckerd community toward its bright future.”

Annarelli told the campus that he was committed to thoughtful revision of the  liberal arts that all institutions must undertake in the current academic environment. “The strategic plan offers direction for this exploration in the immediate future, guided by the value commitments that undergird the plan: the commitment to educational creativity and innovation; to deep, meaningful and mutually beneficial engagement with our city, our region and beyond; to expansion of field-based learning opportunities for our students within the Tampa Bay region and throughout the globe; to ensuring that inclusivity imbues all aspects of our College’s life; and to thoughtful planning to secure the future of Eckerd College through the enhancement of the College’s financial and physical resilience,” he elaborated.

Annarelli noted that his approach to leadership is collaborative and community-based. “Great things can only come from organizations that pay proper heed to the development of strong and healthy organizational cultures—communities characterized by effective communication, collaboration, mutual empowerment, and trust,” he added.

Annarelli’s appointment also means the Board of Trustees will suspend its search for the next leader of Eckerd. “Dr. Annarelli’s appointment further solidifies the movement of Eckerd forward in terms of the Board’s recently adopted strategic plan and maintains the momentum towards achieving progress towards goals associated with that plan,” Johnson explains. “[Because of his being] a member of the executive team involved in the creation of the strategic plan and his strong relationships within the College community, we are confident in Jim’s ability to move the College forward seamlessly and effectively.”

No plans for an inauguration have been announced.

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