Jack M. Wilson served as the 25th president of the University of Massachusetts from September 2, 2003 to June 30, 2011.
During his career, President Wilson held positions as Professor of Physics, Department Chair, Research Center Director, Dean, Vice President, Provost, and a private sector entrepreneur. At the University of Massachusetts, he was previously the Vice President for Academic Affairs and founding CEO of UMassOnline.
Prior to arriving at UMass, President Wilson was the J. Erik Jonsson '22 Distinguished Professor of Physics, Engineering Science, Information Technology, and Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he held positions as Dean, Research Center Director, and Provost. Before being appointed at Rensselaer, he served at the University of Maryland, College Park, and as an officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Institute of Physics, and the American Physical Society.
At the University of Massachusetts, President Wilson called for a rededication to the land grant mission of accessibility, research and discovery in the public interest, as it might be viewed in the context of a modern innovative society. He emphasized the critical role that the University played as the state's innovation engine, asserting that: "The path to economic and social development in Massachusetts goes through the University of Massachusetts."
President Wilson believed that providing ample amounts of financial aid was the key to maintaining access and affordability for lower- and middle-income students. To that end, UMass increased its own spending on financial aid from $36 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to $131.5 million in Fiscal Year 2011, an increase of 267 percent.
Research activity at UMass grew by $217 million during Jack Wilson's presidency with expenditures rising from $324 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to $541 million in Fiscal Year 2010. By 2011, UMass ranked among the top universities nationally in generating licensing and royalty income from faculty inventions and discoveries. Annual intellectual property income rose from $20 million as President Wilson was taking office to $41 million during Fiscal Year 2010.
During President Wilson's tenure, the University's endowment grew from $146 million to $522 million as of March 31, 2011, an increase of 257 percent. The University's endowment was well managed, and investment performance during the global economic crisis was in the top quartile nationally.
During the Wilson presidency, UMass dramatically increased its own spending on capital projects, spending $2 billion on construction and repair, adding new classrooms, labs, student recreation facilities and student housing, and in the process significantly upgrading all five campuses. One of President Wilson's first actions as President was to bring new leadership to the UMass Building Authority, the agency that borrows money for the University and oversees many capital projects. UMass now provides most of the funding for the capital projects that take place on its campuses.
Starting in 2004, President Wilson created three presidential grant programs to encourage UMass faculty research and discoveries that contribute to the Commonwealth's innovative and creative economies. He established international programs as a major priority and recruited the first Vice President to carry the title "International Relations." He identified Africa, Japan, China, Germany, India, and the Portuguese language countries as primary targets of opportunity, building on existing relationships of the University and his own work. In 2008, President Wilson expanded the University's global engagement by signing a groundbreaking agreement to establish UMass as the first foreign university approved to provide online education in China.
In addition, President Wilson supported the establishment of the UMass Law School, which was unanimously approved by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in February 2010. He was also a leader of the public-private effort to build a Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke near UMass Amherst.
As founding CEO of UMassOnline, President Wilson built the system-wide initiative into one of the largest externally directed online education programs in the United States, which offered more than 92 fully accredited degree and certificate programs serving over 45,000 enrollees. Since its inception in early 2001, the online consortium achieved double-digit growth in both enrollments and revenues. In Fiscal Year 2010, UMassOnline saw course enrollments rise from 33,900 to 45,815 and revenues increase to $56.2 million.
President Wilson was the founder, CEO, and Chairman of the LearnLinc Corporation, founded in 1993 as a spin-off of his university research. After several mergers, he formed the publicly traded (NASDAQ) Mentergy Corporation, leaving the company in the next year. President Wilson's expertise in building links between higher education, government and business led to his becoming the co-founder of the Paul Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship as well as other programs. He has consulted for many computing and communications firms, including IBM, AT&T, Lucent, Hewlett Packard, and Boeing Flight Safety International.
President Wilson is nationally and internationally known for his leadership in the reform of higher education initiatives. He won the Theodore Hesburgh Award, the Boeing Award, and the Pew Charitable Trust Prize for his innovative programs. President Wilson was awarded an Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by the U.S. Army for service to the Army Education program. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
President Wilson earned his bachelor's degree at Thiel College in 1967, his master's degree in 1970 and his doctorate in 1972 in Physics, both from Kent State University. He lives with his wife Judi and their two children, John and Jessica, in Westborough, Massachusetts. He also has two grown daughters, Erika and Gretchen, and four wonderful grandchildren.
On June 30, 2011, President Wilson stepped down and became President Emeritus. He serves as Distinguished University Professor of Higher Education, Emerging Technologies and Innovation at UMass Lowell.