Eastern Michigan University President James Smith to step aside at the conclusion of his contract on June 30, 2026

President Smith receives a standing ovation at the Board of Regents meeting

YPSILANTI --  In remarks to the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents today (June 20), University President James Smith stated his intention to depart the University at the conclusion of his current contract on June 30, 2026. Smith, the longest serving Michigan public university president among current presidents, will step aside after 10 years since he began his duties on July 1, 2016. Board of Regents Chair Chad Newton expressed his deep appreciation for President Smith’s ongoing work on behalf of the University, and for the timing of the announcement in order to begin to prepare for the search process for President Smith’s successor. 

Upon his appointment, President Smith made clear that he hoped he would have the opportunity to lead the University for 10 years. In his remarks, Smith said, “It has been an absolute joy and fundamental honor to serve in this role, as President at EMU, for the eight years that have evolved and it will be (maybe even more so) for the remaining two years that stand before me and all of us. 

“I am acutely aware of the challenges and complex timelines required to find and install the next Eastern Michigan University president. That timeline, to be sure, is no less than 18 months in duration — I want those 18 months to be as productive as humanly possible and, thus, I make this declaration today.

“I remain as committed as ever to furthering the work of this great institution as I enter my final two years as president. My plans are to work as hard for this institution on my last day of employment as I did on my first day in the year 2016.”

Board of Regents Chair Newton, said, “Your leadership continues to guide the University in countless positive ways. Your commitment to excellence is unwavering – and I have no doubt that it will continue over the next two years. On behalf of the Board, your statement today is greatly appreciated. It sets the stage for what’s next – providing the Board and the University community with sufficient time to plan for a smooth transition that maintains institutional stability and the momentum experienced under your leadership.

“In the months ahead, the Board will consult with important constituent groups, including faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and begin a search process to identify candidates who will advance the University’s distinctive mission and heritage. 

“While further details and a timetable have not been established, it is my commitment to the University community to share further updates as those plans are formed. 

“President Smith, your presidency has been transformational for Eastern Michigan University. We look forward to your continued leadership during the next two years as we embark on the search for your successor.”

In concluding his remarks, Smith added, “The phrase ‘institution of opportunity,’ embedded in the University’s mission statement, remains as relevant today as ever. This University has changed lives for the better for 175 years. We see it each and every day. That core principle will remain at the heart of the University for decades into the future. I extend my deep appreciation to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and friends for your commitment and support. We are moving forward with great purpose and optimism in our service of students of all kinds, from all backgrounds, and with all levels of resources."

Smith shared some of the accomplishments of the University’s leadership team during his eight years as president. They include:

  • The most comprehensive reimagining, renovation and construction of new student housing in decades, with apartment-style spaces that meet the desires of today’s students. 
  • The construction and expansion of Sill Hall – once the most non-technical appearing academic building on campus transformed into the state-of-the-art GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. 
  • The expansive renovation of Strong Hall to provide a stronger foundation to our STEM curriculum, including geography, geology, physics and astronomy. 
  • The extensive facelift to the interior and exterior of the George Gervin GameAbove Center. 
  • The increased focus and resources committed to student physical and emotional well-bring as evidenced by investments in the Rec/IM, the Community Behavioral Health Clinic, Counseling and Psychological Services, and a new campus health center.
  • The expansion of Swoop’s Food Pantry to help address food insecurity. 
  • The completion of the largest fundraising campaign in University history – Give Rise. Surpassing the goal of $100 million and raising more than $119 million for student scholarships, faculty support and academic program investments. 
  • The engagement of several key donors, such as GameAbove, the Windgate Foundation, the Halle Foundation and Jack Roush, chairman of Roush Enterprises. 
  • Investments in sustainability that are reducing the University’s carbon footprint and earning recognition in The Princeton Review’s list of Green Colleges and the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. 
  • Through innovative projects and partnerships, the University’s financial platform has been restored to meet the requirements of accreditation bodies such as the Higher Learning Commission. 


President Smith’s full remarks to the Board of Regents can be found on the President’s communication page.

Comments from Board of Regents Chair Newton can be found on the Board of Regents website 


About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

June 20, 2024

Written by:
Walter Kraft

Media Contact:
Walter Kraft