Albion College Announces National Search for New President

Dr. Mathew Johnson Resigns to Focus on Expanded Role with Commission for Public Purpose in Higher Education in Partnership with the Carnegie Foundation; Albion Native, Alumnus Joe Calvaruso Appointed to Serve as Interim President

December 24, 2021

The Board of Trustees of Albion College has announced a national search for a new president after accepting the resignation of Dr. Mathew Johnson, who is moving into an expanded role to lead a global initiative in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation.

The Board appointed trustee Joseph S. Calvaruso ’78, who traces his family’s roots back five generations in Albion, as interim president effective immediately. Calvaruso recently retired as executive director for the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation in Grand Rapids after a career that included nearly three decades in banking.

The Board is currently evaluating search firms to lead a national search for the next president of the private liberal arts college. Trustees will convene a search committee of faculty, staff, alumni, a student and community leaders to identify its 18th president.

“Mathew joined Albion College during one of the most tumultuous periods of the past century,” said Board Chair Michael J. Harrington ’85. “Despite the overwhelming challenges of COVID-19, he was able to achieve significant academic and financial accomplishments during his tenure.

“He inherited no playbook for how to navigate a global pandemic, yet his decisive actions and strong leadership enabled us to provide an exceptional residential experience at a time when many institutions were entirely remote and others were closing.”

Johnson will serve as president of the Commission for Public Purpose in Higher Education in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation. The Commission is responsible for the stewardship and continuous development of the basic and elective classification systems of higher education institutions. The Commission has expanded the reach of the elective classifications to international settings and will embark on a new revision in 2023 in anticipation of their 50th anniversary.

In addition to navigating successfully through the pandemic, key accomplishments during Johnson’s tenure at Albion include:

  • Opening the School for Public Purpose and Professional Advancement, which will expand experiential and professional learning opportunities to become a national model for a new, engaged approach to the liberal arts and establishing the Curtis Institute for Race and Belonging.
  • Strengthening the new Cutler Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement, which brings together all academic success services in one location to support academic excellence for all students.
  • Launching the new Office of Belonging and the Blueprint for Belonging, a multi-year process in which all departments on campus create actionable continuous improvement goals to solidify the College’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Guiding plans to significantly restructure financial operations and capital structure to ensure the College’s sustainability, securing a BBB+ bond rating.

“Though incredibly challenging, I have loved my time serving Albion and successfully leading the College through the pandemic and strengthening our financial position,” Johnson said. “I am proud of the change we accomplished together – and the change still under way.

“This new role will allow me to focus full time on the work I love of strengthening the public purpose of higher education institutions at the national and international level and to build on the lessons learned in the work we have done at Albion. I have complete confidence in the skill and commitment of the cabinet and Interim President Joe Calvaruso to lead through the presidential search process and to extend and build on our successes.”

Calvaruso brings more than four decades of financial expertise and leadership experience to his role as interim president. He
graduated from Albion High School before studying economics and management at Albion College. Along with his grandfather and father, Calvaruso worked for the Albion Malleable Iron Co. His mother owned a beauty salon in town for decades.

Calvaruso served as executive director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation for 12 years, retiring in 2020. During his tenure, he led the Campaign for the Legacy of Gerald R. Ford to build the DeVos Learning Center and the new Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum permanent exhibits in Grand Rapids. He also led a series of ceremonies to honor President Ford and his wife, including tributes to First Lady Betty Ford when she passed away in 2011, centennial events in tribute to President Ford’s 100th birthday and commissioning the USS Gerald R. Ford.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Calvaruso served as a banker for nearly 30 years, holding several senior management positions at Chemical Bank and Mercantile Bank of Michigan. He currently serves on the board of First National Bank of Michigan. He also served in leadership positions with the Risk Management Association, including on its international board of directors. In addition to his role as a trustee of Albion College, he serves on the board of the Michigan Certified Development Corp.

“It is an honor to serve my alma mater and the Albion community,” said Calvaruso, who maintains a home in Calhoun County. “My roots in the Albion area run deep: I am the fifth generation of my mother’s side of the family to live in the area, and the third generation on my father’s side. I even got married on this beautiful campus, and my wife, Donna, has adopted Albion College and the Albion community as her own. I really look forward to connecting with campus and the community. I’m excited to be working with a number of people on different initiatives that will make a difference in the community I have long called home.”

About Albion College

Albion College is a private liberal arts college of approximately 1,500 students and is nationally recognized for its academic excellence in the liberal arts tradition, a learning-centered commitment and a future-oriented perspective. The College is a leader in preparing students to anticipate, solve and prevent problems in order to improve the human and global condition. Albion immerses students in the creation and processing of knowledge and graduates skilled architects of societal change, active citizens and future leaders. The College is dedicated to the highest quality in undergraduate education and is committed to diversity as a core institutional value.

Albion, Michigan is a culturally diverse community in the south-central part of the state. The College recognizes the value of community, both on- and off-campus and has invested resources in supporting the revitalization of the greater Albion community. This work offers an increasingly vibrant city around the campus that provides students with a fuller experience as they prepare to become engaged citizens in their own communities. For more information, visit albion.edu.