John Anderson Fry, appointed Drexel University’s 14th president in 2010, has served higher education for his entire professional life. Through his roles as a consultant, board member, chief operating officer and chief executive, he has acquired a deep and broad understanding of the challenges of leading a major educational institution.
Fry has set forth a vision that will ultimately transform Drexel into what he has termed the “modern urban university of the future”—an institution that will harness both its long-established and still-emerging strengths to serve its students, its neighborhood, its city and the nation. Under Fry’s leadership, Drexel aims to set a new standard for co-operative education, transform its online and hybrid offerings, and become a powerful force for economic development in the Greater Philadelphia region.
In support of this vision, Fry has announced major neighborhood initiatives including the PECO-Drexel Education Collaborative supporting local public schools and an enhanced Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program encouraging increased owner occupancy in the neighborhood. He negotiated a groundbreaking affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, America’s oldest major natural history museum and a world leader in natural sciences research. He signed agreements for academic and research partnerships in China with Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. And he has launched various initiatives to foster greater collaboration between Drexel’s schools, centers and institutes, with the ultimate goal of creating a truly world-class teaching and learning environment.
In addition to serving as president of Drexel University, Fry serves as president of the Drexel University College of Medicine and chairman and CEO of Drexel Online, the University’s for-profit subsidiary marketing online Drexel degree programs.
Fry came to Drexel from Franklin & Marshall College, where he served as president from 2002 and was instrumental in the college’s academic growth, campus and neighborhood development and improved finances. He raised the college’s national profile and brought a renewed confidence to the institution. During his tenure, the quality of the student body improved dramatically as measured by a 63-point gain in average SATs over seven years. He also improved residential life through the creation of the faculty-led, student-governed College House system. The student-to-faculty ratio was lowered to 10:1, with a commitment made to hire 40 new tenure-track faculty members. Franklin & Marshall’s curriculum was updated and expanded in life sciences, computer science, creative writing and modern languages. Under his leadership, Franklin & Marshall made a long-term commitment to increase its financial aid to attract and enroll the most highly qualified students. Fry forged new partnerships with the city and neighbors, improving the surrounding business district and neighborhoods.
From 1995 to 2002, Fry served as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania. He was a major force in developing and implementing Penn’s “Agenda for Excellence,” a comprehensive plan that guided strategic initiatives from 1996 to 2001. As the university’s chief operating officer, he was responsible for finance, investments, human resources, facilities and real estate, public safety, computing, technology transfer, research administration, corporate relations, auxiliary enterprises and internal audit and compliance. He also served as the university’s liaison to the University of Pennsylvania Health System. At Penn, Fry built a coalition of non-profit, business, neighborhood and governmental organizations in support of a multi-pronged strategy to address the key challenges facing the University City neighborhood in West Philadelphia. In a relatively short period of time, residential property values rose significantly, the crime rate declined dramatically and hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in commercial infrastructure and economic development.
Before joining Penn, Fry was a management consultant for the higher education and nonprofit sectors. He worked closely with some of the nation’s premier colleges and universities, first with KPMG Peat Marwick and then with Coopers & Lybrand’s National Higher Education Consulting Practice, where he was elected a partner in the firm and eventually became partner-in-charge of the national practice.
Fry serves on the boards of Lafayette College, The Shipley School, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Milton Hershey School, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Select Greater Philadelphia, the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the Philadelphia Schools Partnership, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and US Squash. He was the founding chairman of the University City District and served in that capacity for five years. He is also a director of Community Health Systems, Delaware Investments and NASDAQ-OMX.
In 2009, Fry completed his second term as chair of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council and stepped down after six years of service on the council. He also served for three years on the Executive Committee of the NCAA. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission that planned the celebration of Franklin’s 300th birthday. Fry also served as a co-chair of the transition team of Governor-Elect Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Fry studied American civilization at Lafayette College and received the George Wharton Pepper Prize, the highest honor awarded to a graduating senior. In 1986, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from the New York University Stern School of Business.
Fry and his wife, Cara, an art historian, have three children: Mia, a senior at Williams College; Nathaniel, a senior at The Shipley School; and Phoebe, a sixth grader at The Shipley School.