Campus unknown named next dean of Japan campus

By Christopher Wink | Jan. 22, 2008 | The Temple News

Bruce Stronach was named the next dean of Temple University-Japan on Jan. 10, to replace the retiring dean, Kirk R. Patterson. Stronach will officially join TUJ on Feb. 1 but will not assume the role of dean until April 1.

An interim dean has not been named.

Currently, Stronach, a campus outsider with an academic career that spans three decades and two continents, is transitioning from his term as president of Yokohama City University, where he has been since 2004.

“I am very happy to have been selected as dean,” wrote Stronach in an email from Japan. “I am very much looking forward to working with everyone on the Temple team in Philadelphia, Tokyo, and elsewhere around the world.”

Stronach is accomplished, having been the first foreign president of a Japanese public university when he was first hired as president of YCU, a mid-sized school of 4,500 in a city of 3.5 million some 20 miles south of Tokyo.

Prior to that appointment, Stronach had been acting president at Becker College in Worcester, M.A. since 2003 and its chief operating officer before then since 1998. From 1990 to 1997, he held faculty and administrative positions at the Graduate School of International Relations at the International University of Japan in Niigata, eventually serving as the school’s dean beginning in 1994. Stronach also has held faculty appointments at Merrimack College in North Andover, M.A, and at Keio University in Tokyo.

Indeed, Stronach, 57, is the accomplished academic to his former competition, 37-year-old attorney Matthew J. Wilson, TUJ’s current chief legal counsel and the only other candidate to be named a finalist by the university’s search advisory committee.

Wilson had been a frequent de facto acting dean when Patterson was away on leave, most recently in the interim between Patterson’s TUJ departure Dec. 17 and Stronach’s appointment, according to some at the campus. However, some university sources said Wilson’s exact role was unclear.

No official announcement regarding an interim dean was named between Patterson’s official exit Dec. 31 and Stronach’s official entrance Feb. 1. TUJ’s semester began on Jan. 14, according to Stephanie Gillin, chief of staff to University Provost Lisa Staiano-Coico, who, with President Ann Weaver Hart, made the final decision on Patterson’s successor.

There had been some question to the delay in the decision to nominate Stronach, a longtime friend of Patterson’s. Official comment on the timing of the announcement has not been made.

“I am just beginning to absorb all the pressures of the transition and to bring myself up to speed on matters pertaining to both the home campus and the Tokyo campus,” wrote Stronach in the same email from Saturday.

He has not spoken to what, if anything, his friendship with Patterson, who was not active in the selection of his replacement, might mean for his plans and goals.

Patterson, who served from 2002 to 2007 and announced his retirement on Aug. 27, will likely be remembered for a tenure highlighted by unprecedented growth, though marred with late coming criticism of his leadership style, which some suggested was too controlling. Sources, including TUJ administrators and faculty, who afforded this characterization would not speak on the record but additionally praised the fiscal successes Patterson led.

“My successor will inherit an institution that is very optimistic,” wrote Patterson in an email from early December. “TUJ is becoming a first in the world model for international education.”

The man Stronach beat out, Wilson, had a leading role in the Patterson administration. He noted during interviews on Main Campus in November that his direct experience with TUJ was a prize advantage in his quest to become dean.

“I won’t have an on-the-job learning period,” he said while on Main Campus in November.

Despite watching an outside leapfrog him for the chief spot he coveted, Wilson intoned his intentions to stay on with his role at the branch campus.

“I am excited that Dr. Bruce Stronach has agreed to join the Temple family,” he wrote in an email to The Temple News from Tokyo on the day of the announcement. “[I] look forward to working with him in my capacities as Associate Dean and General Counsel.”

Wilson, who is narrow, blonde and noted for his boyish features, rapidly ascended through administrative ranks during a four and a half year TUJ career.

Wilson was taken on as a professor of law at TUJ in April 2003 and began what has been a startling ascension. Just two months later he was named the law program’s director. Then, a little over a year later, he was installed both as TUJ’s chief legal counsel and associate dean. Those positions, which he still holds, were coupled with a semester as director of TUJ’s undergraduate program last spring. If he had been appointed, he would have been the youngest dean in that campus’s history.

But he wasn’t and, where Wilson’s rise through Temple administrative ranks has been heralded, Stronach’s youth was less direct. His first attempt at college failed.

“You should be committed to your education because I wasn’t,” he told The Temple News in a November interview on Main Campus.

Young Stronach grew up on a small farm in Massachusetts and first left home for Boston College in the late 1960s. The football player who got caught up in the anti-war movement struggled to find a desire for academics, so he left in 1970. The next three years of his life were spent working as a truck driver and in various manufacturing capacities.

“The first half of my life was spent in factories, on trucks,” he said in the same interview. “So, I think I have a pretty good idea what the real world is like.”

Stronach has two daughters, one of whom currently attends Wake Forest University, another is a student at a high school outside of Boston.

In speaking with The Temple News, Stronach expressed an interest in further developing TUJ’s image as a permanent fixture of higher education in Japan and working on partnerships with other Japanese universities.

“I want TUJ to become more of a Japanese institution,” he said in November, while still just a candidate for the position. “Not just the extension campus of Temple University.”

Still, he admitted not knowing much about the daily operations of TUJ.

“I don’t know all that much about TUJ,” he said. “But I think that is more of an asset than a deficit.”

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The Temple News originally misreported when Stronach will officially become dean. He will join TUJ on Feb. 1, but won’t become dean until April 1 as changed on Jan. 23 at 6:21 p.m.

This story was prepared for the 1/22/2008 edition of The Temple News. See it here. This is a follow-up in continued coverage of this story. See the original on this Web site here.