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A Tribute to Dr. John Ebersole

December 08, 2016 10:02 PM | Anonymous

"John is the absolute leader in adult education in this country." — Brigadier General (Ret.) Jerry Neff, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees 

It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Dr. John F. Ebersole, former president of Excelsior College and a visionary leader in higher education. He had been president since 2006 and used the position to promote the education of nontraditional students through online and competency-based education. He also played an active role in encouraging higher education policies that reflected the needs of those students (posted in General, Mike Lesczinski, May 19, 2016). 

Before taking his leave from the College, Ebersole reflected on his time at Excelsior: 

“Serving as the president of Excelsior over the past ten years has been a source of great satisfaction and personal honor. This institution has the most mission–oriented commitment that I have experienced over three decades in higher education. Its staff, faculty, and leaders are passionate and committed to providing educational opportunity to those who need it most. The future is bright. Ever upward.” 

Dr. James N. Baldwin, current president of Excelsior College had this to say in a message to the university that was posted in Featured, General, Simone Arrington, on November 24, 2016:

"John was truly one of a kind, as those of us who knew him can well attest. He grew up in Windsor, Missouri. Unsure of his path he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. Having developed a love for the mission of the Coast Guard, he enrolled in officer candidate school and served for 21 years, including combat service in Viet Nam.

"A graduate of the Naval War College, he earned a master of public administration degree from John F. Kennedy University, and a doctorate in law and public policy from Northeastern University. 

"It was John’s personal experience as an adult learner that informed his approach to adult education. Throughout his more than 30-year career in higher education he was committed to expanding opportunity for underserved and non-traditional students. 

"John was initially drawn to Excelsior by its commitment to the underserved, its outstanding reputation in military and veteran circles, and its openness to innovation. In 2006, he was appointed president of Excelsior College, succeeding our first president, C. Wayne Williams. Prior to his serving at Excelsior he held leadership roles at UC Berkeley, Colorado State University, and Boston University. 

"John Ebersole was a visionary, in every sense of the word. Over the past decade, he led the College and the adult learning sector through a period of tremendous growth and dynamism. His leadership in higher education included serving as president of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA,) the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education and as a board member of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) in New York. John was also active in the Capital Region as a member of the Board of Directors of the Hudson Mohawk Humane Society."

He was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in November of 2015 and an international leader in prior learning assessment, degree completion, and the use of instructional technology, as well as a passionate advocate of adult and online learners.

Ebersole chaired the American Association of Community Colleges Corporate Council and served as a member of the board of directors of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (New York). He was named to the ACE Presidential Innovation Lab and previously served as chair of the American Council on Education’s Commission on Lifelong Learning. He co-authored (with William Patrick) “Courageous Learning: Finding a New Path Through Higher Education” (Hudson Whitman Press/Excelsior College Press, 2011). The book was recently turned into “Courageous Learning: The Documentary” (Ellucian). 

Ebersole was the Keynote Speaker for the 2014 ACHE Great Plains Regional Conference held on March 6-7 in Norman, Oklahoma. His topic was Competency-Based Education and the Future of Continuing Education. To more than 125 attendees, Dr. Ebersole shared state-of-the-art information combining his remarkable in-depth research about adult learners and important issues and trends in higher education. He received outstanding reviews. We greatly appreciated his willingness to devote his time to the regional conference and provide such an amazing learning opportunity everyone there.

In 2014, Ebersole was inducted into the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame. It has been said by many colleagues that Dr. Ebersole was truly a gentleman and a scholar. He will surely be missed, but his remarkable contributions to higher education will endure.

Sympathies are extended to wife, Dr. Constance Cramer, his daughters, Debra Kauffman, Dee Boukouzis, and Dara Merritt, his grandchildren, and all those who knew him as a dear friend and colleague. 

Memorial arrangements are pending at the discretion of the family. The family has suggested that donations in memory of John F. Ebersole may be made to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, 3 Oakland Avenue, Menands, New York 12204.

This article was written by Nina Barbee, executive assistant to the vice president, manager of special projects, and grant development specialist at the University of Oklahoma Outreach.


  • December 12, 2016 9:15 AM | Anonymous
    John made so many contributions to our field and work, most notably he coined a new term for us that describes our students perfectly "post-traditional". Thank you John, a veteran and true scholar who understood the balance between practice and theory.
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