Chris Howard, Robert Morris President, Will Leave the University in February

Howard, who has been RMU president since 2016, took a job at Arizona State University to oversee enterprise-wide initiatives.


Robert Morris University’s leadership team will look a little different as classes resume for the spring semester.

The university in Moon announced Tuesday that its president, Chris Howard, will join Arizona State University as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the ASU Enterprise. The changes will take place in early February, marking the end of Howard’s tenure at RMU, where he has been president since Feb. 1, 2016.

At Arizona State, Howard will work closely with ASU President Michael Crow and the other executive vice presidents to coordinate enterprise-wide initiatives and advancement; oversee ASU Enterprise affiliates; advance new enterprise relationships and opportunities and integrate ASU Enterprise planning and strategy, according to a press release from RMU.

Additionally, his wife, Barbara Howard — a leader in Pittsburgh civic life, philanthropy and the arts — will join Arizona State University next month as a University Fellow for nonprofit leadership.

Barbara Howard will assume her new role in February, too, working with leaders and faculty members from across the institution in areas such as cultural affairs, nonprofit leadership, philanthropic advancement and museum programming.

Under his leadership, RMU completed the largest fundraising campaign in its 100-year history, Ready to Rise, which reached its $100 million goal one year ahead of schedule and which closed Dec. 31 with a total of $113.25 million raised, the press release said.

That campaign funded the UPMC Events Center; the expansion of the John Jay Center for the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science; numerous scholarships and endowed professorships and new research and teaching centers on campus.

“To say that it has been both an honor and a privilege to serve as the eighth president of Robert Morris University these past six years would be a gross understatement. Barbara and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time working with the amazing faculty, staff, administration, board of trustees, and especially the students and their families,” Howard said in the release. “Our lives as well those of our sons, Cohen and Joshua, have been enriched by the kindness the entire RMU and greater Pittsburgh community have extended to us during our over half a decade tenure.”

The fundraising campaign dovetailed with the university’s RMU 100 strategic plan. The university was able to complete many of the goals it set under the strategic plan, including the creation of the Office of Corporate Relations and Strategic Initiatives, which partners with employers throughout the Pittsburgh region and beyond to provide leadership education and professional development to their workforce.

During Howard’s presidency, RMU was also ranked among the U.S. News and World Report list of “Best National Universities” for the first time, and in September was ranked by U.S. News as a Top 50 “Best Value School” in America for academic quality and affordability.

Howard also led the university through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during which the university grew first-time freshman enrollment by 23%, while some other universities saw enrollment decline.

“Chris Howard’s vision and leadership has guided RMU through a turbulent time in higher education and during a global pandemic that has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives,” said Morgan K. O’Brien, chair of the RMU Board of Trustees, in the release. “In spite of those challenges, RMU achieved many of its strategic goals and is positioned for success in an increasingly competitive market.”

Mary Ann Rafoth, currently provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, has been named interim president while the university conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.

Categories: The 412