Shortly after James T. Harris became Widener’s ninth president in 2002, he implemented a strategic planning process involving the entire university community. 

Thirteen years later, after a new mission, vision, and campus master plan were developed by President Harris and the Widener Board of Trustees, Widener has been recognized for making a difference in the communities in which we live, learn, and work. 

  • Recognized in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for civic engagement efforts in the city of Chester. Widener is being used as a case study on the positive impact colleges and universities can have in stabilizing and improving the nation's struggling communities.
  • Invited by former president, Bill Clinton, to join the Clinton Global Initiative University Network, a growing consortium of colleges and universities that support, mentor, and provide seed funding to student leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs to develop solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. 
  • Ranked 19th in the U.S. by the 2011 Newsweek/The Daily Beast school ranking for service that combines public institutions and private liberal arts schools.
  • Ranked among the top 100 institutions in the annual Washington Monthly rankings since the magazine’s inaugural college issue in 2005.
  • Selected as a Presidential Award finalist for the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement. Widener has been named to the honor roll every year since its inception in 2006.and was one of only 14 institutions to be named a Presidential Award Finalist and  one of only 113 institutions to make the honor roll "With Distinction."
  • Among the first universities in the nation to be classified as a "community engagement institution" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 
  • Identified as a "Great College to Work For" by The Chronicle of Higher Education and selected as a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine for five consecutive years.
  • In 2011, Widener was included, along with 17 other colleges and universities, as an example of an exceptional academic institution in the book Leading Change: How Boards and Presidents Build Exceptional Academic Institutions (AGB Press, 2010). The author, Terrence MacTaggart observed: “Today, Widener is prospering. Rather than ignoring the problems of its hometown, [Widener] has found a way to become a positive part of its community….” 

It takes a true leader to inspire and promote the kind of positive changes that have occurred in Chester, and on all four of Widener’s campuses, as well as in the surrounding neighborhoods and communities. That is exactly the kind of leadership, citizenship, and commitment to society that we strive to develop in all of our students.

President James T. Harris III, who transformed Widener into one of the nation’s leading universities for civic engagement in his 13 years as president, announced to the Board of Trustees that he is resigning his post at the end of July to become president of the University of San Diego effective August 1. 

A search for a new president is underway.