Fairleigh Dickinson University President J. Michael Adams, who was set to retire after being diagnosed with cancer, died early Thursday, according to a message from the school.
Dr. Adams, 64, said in May health issues to continue leading the University and planned to step down effective June 30.
In an email message to the FDU community, Acting University President Sheldon Drucker said Dr. Adams was diagnosed with a cancer called acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Adams died at Morristown Medical Center, the message said.
Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick J. Zenner said Dr. Adams was a talented leader who always made time to help those in need.
“His professional accomplishments speak for themselves and greatly distinguished our University. His talent, vision and dedication were second to none. But the presidency of Michael Adams will perhaps best be remembered for his ability to make it personal. He responded to every note, returned every call and always reached out to help colleagues and friends in need. He was always there for us,” Zenner said in a message to the FDU community. “Our entire University owes an enormous debt to this great leader, and we will never forget how much he did and how much he meant to us.”
Dr. Adams was credited with bringing FDU onto the international stage. He oversaw the opening of FDU’s campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has led the development of the school’s international programs. He dedicated $135 million to new facilities and successfully concluded the largest capital campaign in University history.
He launched the United Nations Pathways program, which brings members of the diplomatic corps to campus. He also helped the University gain nongovernmental organization status with the United Nations Department of Public Information.
"Dr. Adams was a strong United Nations champion and partner, and a personal friend. He brought his wisdom and energy, and that of the institutions he led, to serve the greater global cause, in particular, through his meaningful contribution to the United Nations Academic Impact," a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. "The eloquence of Michael Adams' scholarship and writing had a democratic, inter-generational appeal which brought the power and promise of the United Nations home to so many in a world whose globalization he saw as a resource of strength and possibility. He will be deeply missed."
In addition to leading FDU, he was president of the International Association of University Presidents and the author of nine books.
"Michael Adams understood that higher education has the potential to be a transformative force for good in the world – but only when its leaders are able to make their case effectively. He was an inspiration and a mentor to many of us, who will deeply miss his dynamic leadership," IAUP Secretary General Neal King said in a statement.
Locally, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg expressed her condolences to the Adams' family and the FDU community.
"Dr. Adams was that rare breed of higher education administrator who returned every phone call and responded to every note in person. His dedication to the students, faculty and staff at FDU was remarkable, but his ability to make a personal connection, while at the same time staying true to his vision of global education, was what defined him as an educator," Weinberg said in a statement. "This is a tremendous loss for New Jersey's higher education system, but the work that he's done to advance higher education in New Jersey and beyond will be remembered for many years to come."
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen remembered Dr. Adams as an energetic educator who was passionate about how education could change lives.
“A passionate teacher and devoted mentor, Dr. Michael Adams understood better than most that a quality education could open doors and change lives," Frelinghuysen said. "Unencumbered by the physical boundaries of Fairleigh Dickinson’s campuses, he will be long remembered for his energetic work in the area of global education. I was proud to work alongside him and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at FDU.”
In the fall, Dr. Adams was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. A bone marrow transplant in February failed to cure the disease, and he was later diagnosed with a cancer, according to a University statement. Drucker, who was named acting president when Adams went on medical leave, has been named interim president while the school's board conducts a national search for its next leader.
Dr. Adams is survived by his wife, Susan, and three children. Funeral services will be private, but a public visitation is planned, the University’s message said.
Updated 8:45 p.m. Thursday.