Last Thursday, President Alger was the guest speaker at MADtalk, which is a monthly meeting organized by JMU’s Honors Program. The event consisted of three students conducting an informal interview with President Alger. I compiled a list of the top 10 things I took away from this experience.

  1. Everyone wants a selfie – From the minute he walked in, half the audience had no shame in pulling out their phones for a quick selfie. The other half waited until when he wasn’t looking.
  2. Don’t try to plan the details of your career – President Alger did not plan to become President of JMU at the beginning of his career. He graduated from Harvard Law School with hopes of running a private law firm later on. Eventually, his career led him to JMU!
  3. The man can sing – Not many know, but President Alger is quite the singer. Music and theater have always been passions of his. He proposed to his wife while singing on one knee. President Alger even has his own mixtape!president-alger-quad
  4. Be yourself – Be who you want to be… not who society wants you to be. President Alger said the best piece of advice he has ever received was to be authentic. Being a reserved introvert, he was told that he did not have what it took to be the president of a university. Today, he’s successfully leading JMU in a great direction.
  5. He truly loves spending time with students – When President Alger is having a bad day, he goes to spend time with students. Being with students genuinely makes him happy, as they are the reason he loves his job so much. One of his favorite days of the year is graduation, when he gets to see all of the different waves of emotions as students walk across the stage. He also visits students on study abroad trips, and has students over for dinner at his house. If you see President Alger around campus, do not hesitate to say “hello” because it will likely mean more to him than you know!
  6. He’s a nerd – He will admit this too. His craziest college story was the time an FBI officer came onto campus, questioned his friends and professors so he could obtain a security clearance for an internship. His friends only let him live it down because he got cleared and landed the internship.
  7. He values education above anything else – After launching a successful career in law, a young and ambitious Jon Alger quit his job as a private practicing lawyer in Washington D.C. -which was a substantial pay cut-to begin his career in higher education.
  8. Being president is a 24/7 job – I do not think anyone really understands how much this man does. When he’s not behind his desk, he is most likely doing something for JMU. This includes school board meetings, trying to secure grants from the state of Virginia, teaching his Honors Leadership class, giving speeches and leading seminars… the list goes on. Being a local celebrity, President Alger has to also be on his best behavior at all times. It is truly admirable how he always seems to handle the hectic nature of his job with such ease and dignity.
  9. He knows the importance of building relationships. This is what defines his career. One of his bosses saw potential in Mr. Alger and convinced him to pursue a career as president of a university. With the help and guidance of his mentors, this is what he did. And the rest is history.
  10. We should treat him like a human being.  After listening to him speak, I would think that he wants us to treat him like any other faculty or staff member. After all, he is just as much a human as the person sitting next to you. He enjoys watching American Idol with his wife and daughter, loves his grandmother deeply, and enjoys some peace and quiet every now and then. President Alger wants to build meaningful relationships with his students, and we are hindering that by treating him like a superstar. So next time you see President Alger, instead of taking your phone out for a selfie, shake his hand and introduce yourself.

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