Former Ursinus College President John Strassburger passes away

Former Ursinus College President John Strassburger passes away

John Robert Strassburger, the President Emeritus of Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., who served as president for more than 15 years, died early Wednesday Sept. 22, 2010.

An American historian who dedicated his career to liberal education, he was born April 6, 1942, in Sheboygan, WI. He spent his childhood in Milwaukee, where he worked summers as a steel worker and machinist, and picked cauliflower.

Dr. Strassburger earned his undergraduate degree from Bates College in 1964; his master’s degree from Cambridge University in 1966 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1976. He entered Bates with an eye on being a math major, but a professor -- who happened to be an alumnus of Ursinus College – inspired him to study history. Dr. Strassburger also holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tohoku Gakuin University in Japan.

He was inaugurated as the 12th president of Ursinus College in January 1995, and retired this past June 30 citing health reasons. Before coming to Ursinus, he was Dean of the College, Professor of History and Executive Vice President at Knox College (1984 to 1994). He was Acting Assistant Director and Program Officer, Education Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities, from 1982 to 1984, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award in Recognition of Superior Achievement.

Dr. Strassburger also served as the Director of the Center for Regional Studies at Hiram College and was a member of the Hiram College History Department from 1970 to 1982, and was co-director of the Hiram in Dublin program.

During the more than 15 years John Strassburger was president of Ursinus College, summer research fellowships, study abroad and a nationally hailed “Common Intellectual Experience” first-year course have become the college’s hallmarks. During Dr. Strassburger’s presidency, the campus was transformed by his commitment to the liberal arts as evidenced by ecological open spaces, new and expanded science facilities, residence halls, The Floy Lewis Bakes Field House, renovations of the main academic building Bomberger Hall, The Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center, the Eleanor F. Snell turf field, a new wing on the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art.

Dr. Strassburger has written and lectured about architecture, history, and especially the benefits of a liberal arts education. He is the author of six “Occasional Papers” published at Ursinus College, and also the author of numerous editorials and commentaries published in USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dr. Strassburger served as Chair of the Board of the Council of Independent Colleges and on the boards of the American Academic Leadership Institute, the American Council on Education, the President’s Council of Project Pericles and the Lenfest Foundation.

He was a devoted husband and father, and cherished being a grandfather above all. He was married to Gertrude Mackie Strassburger, and they are the parents of Sarah (Andy) and Trudy (Ben), and the grandparents of Julian and Stella. He was also a loving brother to Martha Barr and Gus Strassburger.

A Memorial Service is planned for Sunday, Sept. 26 at 4:30 p.m., in Bomberger Hall, with reception to follow in The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art. Seating will be on a first come basis, with a simulcast service in other locations on campus. 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts be made either to the John and Trudy Strassburger Faculty Development Fund or to the Annual Fund Challenge, established by the Board of Trustees,  to recognize John in support of student achievement and  financial aid. All contributions should be sent to the attention of the Advancement Office, Ursinus College, 601 E. Main St., Collegeville, PA 19426.   You may also go to our website at or call our office at 877-GIVE-2UC.