News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 5, 2013

Rose-Hulman taps James C. Conwell as 15th president

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — James C. Conwell, a global engineering executive and engineering educator, has been named the next president of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the college announced Monday.

He will begin his role as Rose-Hulman’s 15th president on May 1.

Conwell is vice president of Jacobs Engineering Group, a Fortune 500 company, which provides engineering and technical services to such industries as automotive, defense, mining, oil/gas, aerospace and pharmaceuticals.

His background also includes teaching undergraduate engineering at Vanderbilt University, Louisiana State University and Grove City College.

Describing Rose-Hulman as a “diamond in higher education,” Conwell said he is “incredibly honored and excited” to have the opportunity to serve as the college’s next president.

About six months ago, he received a call from someone who wanted to nominate him for the post, and they’ve had several talks about the challenges, and changes, facing engineering and higher education.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a good career and the opportunity to travel around the world and do projects in a number of countries,” Conwell said.

He views his new role as an opportunity “to give back to higher education” and to help the next generation of engineers succeed.

“I’d like to believe I have a fair amount of experience working in the global environment and hopefully we can prepare our students for the changes and challenges” that exist, he said.

The world’s problems “are becoming a lot more difficult to solve,” Conwell said.

For example, while there is much debate about the causes of global warming, the Department of Defense and U.S. government aren’t too worried about the causes, but instead, “trying to address the impacts of global warming,” he said.

He believes that Rose-Hulman, being the No. 1-ranked undergraduate engineering college in the nation, is well suited to help address that problem and many others.

He said he’s hired many engineers over the last several years, and he has a good understanding for what skill sets make a successful engineer in a global environment.

Among other priorities, he will work to carry out Rose-Hulman’s newly created strategic plan.

William Fenoglio, Rose-Hulman board of trustees chairman, said Conwell’s academic background, industrial experience and international experience made him the right person to lead the college into the future.

That future includes more of a global orientation and an international reputation.

With Conwell’s experience working in industry, “He knows what industry needs in engineering and that’s very important to us,” Fenoglio said. “We thought Jim would be the best choice for Rose-Hulman for the future.”

In the search process, about 200 people contacted Rose-Hulman, and that was pared down to about 65 applications. There were 11 semi-finalists and four finalists, although one of the finalists withdrew. The presidential search was a national, nine-month process.

Conwell, 54, lives in Brighton, Mich., about 20 miles north of Ann Arbor.

He received his bachelor and master of science degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee, and he earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University.

Both Conwell and Fenoglio gave special recognition to Rob Coons, who has served as interim president since the untimely death of President Matt Branam last April.

Coons will take on a new role, Conwell said.

“I am very pleased to announce the promotion of Rob Coons to the position of senior vice president and chief administrative officer, a new senior role that will include responsibility for implementation of the strategic plan. I look forward to working together with Rob and the rest of the campus leadership team.”

Conwell is married to Angela Conwell, who is a mechanical engineer. They have two grown children.