Jon Whitmore has been selected by the ACT Board of Directors to serve as our new Chief Executive Officer, beginning September 1, the start of ACT's new fiscal year.
Dr. Whitmore currently is the President of San Jose State University, a comprehensive research university located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Previously, he served as President of Texas Tech University and as Provost of The University of Iowa.
ACT's Directors chose Whitmore to replace Dr. Richard L. (Dick) Ferguson, ACT's current CEO and Chairman of the Board, after an extensive search process. Ferguson, who joined ACT in 1972, has led the organization for the past 22 years. Under his leadership, ACT has grown into a highly respected international organization offering a broad array of assessment, information, and program management solutions for education and workforce development. Ferguson plans to retire from ACT in late August.
Mark Musick, Lead Director and Chair of the CEO Search Committee, said the Board is enthusiastic about its selection of Whitmore.
"We are delighted to have Jon Whitmore join the ACT family as our next CEO. We wanted an accomplished leader with notable executive experience and an exemplary track record of success," Musick said. "We believe we found just the right person in Jon. We're confident that he will provide outstanding leadership to expand ACT's role in helping shape state and national education and workforce policy and in helping more people achieve education and workplace success."
Whitmore has an exceptional reputation as a collaborative, inclusive leader. He brings to ACT a wealth of experience and established relationships with major universities and national organizations, along with key state and federal government leaders and policymakers. He has played transformational roles and led teams in major strategic planning initiatives that have increased graduation rates, improved sustainability, increased the use of innovative technologies, and increased diversity. He has built relationships with hundreds of university presidents and participated in economic development initiatives in San Jose and in Lubbock, Texas, where Texas Tech is located. He also has worked closely with high-technology companies in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.
Nearly half of ACT's Board of Directors served on the search committee for the new CEO. Committee members included Dixie Axley, James E. Bostic, Jr., Mark Musick, Charles Reed, Ted Sanders, and Belle Wheelan. The full Board also was very engaged in identifying and recruiting potential CEO candidates and interviewing finalists on multiple occasions.
During the selection process, the Board solicited input from current and former ACT governance and advisory board members, college and university presidents, heads of state departments of education and workforce development, ACT clients, executives with allied organizations, and others. Candidates from the public, nonprofit, academic, and private sectors were all considered, and finalists went through a thorough interview process. The Board was assisted by the Spencer Stuart executive search firm.
ACT's Directors are enthusiastic about the selection of Jon Whitmore as ACT's next CEO, noting that his qualifications come as close as possible to matching their concept of the "ideal candidate."
When he announced his departure to the San Jose State University community, Whitmore said, "It is with deeply mixed feelings that I announce I am stepping down as President of San Jose State University late this summer. A unique and wholly unexpected opportunity has been presented to me beginning in the fall, an offer I have just accepted. Specifically, I will become the Chief Executive Officer of ACT, Inc. ... This opportunity is intriguing and challenging in ways that I have never experienced in my 35 years in higher education, and it is one to which I look forward with excitement. At the same time, however, it is with great sadness that I am leaving the San Jose State community. ... It has been a personal privilege to serve as your president."
Addressing the role he expects to play at ACT, Whitmore noted that ACT can have a significant influence on the complex issues that affect our nation's education and workforce communities.
ACT CEO and Chairman of the Board Dick Ferguson (right) has collaborated with Mark Musick, the Board's Lead Director and Chair of the CEO Search Committee, on numerous initiatives that have contributed to ACT's success in recent years.
"I plan to carry on ACT's upward trajectory, which has been skillfully advanced by Dick Ferguson and ACT's excellent staff. ACT's reputation for excellence, and its mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success, are needed today more than ever. With President Obama's goal of dramatically increasing the number of individuals who graduate from high school, community colleges, and four-year colleges, and with the need to retrain many Americans who have lost jobs or are looking to change professions, ACT has a vital role to play at this critical time in history."
Musick said that the time was right to transition to a new Chief Executive Officer. As Dick Ferguson approached his 70th birthday and his 22nd year at ACT's helm, he and the Board decided to plan for an orderly succession to a new leader.
"Universities have a mission similar to ACT's—helping people achieve education and workplace success. However, at ACT Jon will have the opportunity to have a much larger impact than he could on any single university campus."
— Mark Musick, ACT Board Lead Director and Chair, CEO Search Committee
"The Board is extremely grateful to Dick Ferguson for his extraordinary dedication, leadership, and contributions to ACT. Millions of students and adults and tens of thousands of institutions have been served during his 38-year career at ACT. I have never met anyone who works harder or believes more deeply in ACT's mission," Musick said. "He is leaving the organization in excellent shape, making it an opportune time to recruit a new CEO."
Ferguson joined ACT in 1972 as a research psychologist. He held increasingly important roles in the company before his appointment as President in 1988. In fall 2002, ACT's governance was restructured and his title was changed to Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. Under his guidance, ACT more than doubled the number of employees and expanded into an internationally known and respected assessment and research organization serving more than 100 countries. During this time, numerous programs were introduced and three divisions were established—Education, Workforce Development, and International—to meet the needs of ACT's growing client base in both education and the workforce. Each year, the organization serves millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses, and government agencies worldwide.
Whitmore comes to ACT after serving as President of San Jose State University since 2008. He was President of Texas Tech University from 2003 to 2008 and Provost at The University of Iowa from 1996 to 2003. He also held both faculty and administrative positions at The University of Texas at Austin, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and West Virginia University.
He received his PhD in Theatre History from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1974; his MA in Speech from Washington State University in 1968; and his BA in Speech from Washington State University in 1967.
Whitmore says he and his wife, Jennifer, are happy to be returning to Iowa City, where their two children are undergraduate students at The University of Iowa. They are looking forward to bringing their family together and reconnecting with friends and professional colleagues in the area.
After Ferguson retires from ACT in August, he plans to continue living in the Iowa City area.
RICHARD L. FERGUSON
CEO AND CHAIRMAN 2002-2010
Ferguson helped ACT grow into a well-respected international organization offering a broad array of assessment, research, information, and program management solutions in the areas of education and workforce development. The organization doubled in size and now has more than 1,500 employees and numerous offices worldwide.
OLUF M. DAVIDSEN
Davidsen helped build the expertise and systems necessary to run a world-class educational measurement and research organization. During his tenure, the company grew from six to 600 employees and acquired the 250-acre campus upon which ACT sits today.
FRED F. HARCLEROAD
Harcleroad helped open ACT's Washington DC office and mapped a significant shift in course in terms of general focus, specific programs, revenue sources, and the growing influence of professional staff.
Trump introduced program development planning, which resulted in a major expansion of ACT's research services. He also generated discussion among staff about future ACT programs and services through the "Projections, Innovations, Performance" initiative.
JEAN PAUL MATHER
Mather spent most of his tenure on the road, asking college administrators to join the ACT program. As a result, he left ACT with a significantly enlarged roster of participating institutions and states.