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President Maxwell honored for leadership in higher education

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Drake President David Maxwell, appearing via Skype, was introduced at the ceremony by CASE Awards Committee Chair Judy Wright.

For 11 years, Drake University President David Maxwell has been committed to the vision that Drake should be considered and recognized as one of the very best institutions of higher learning in the United States. An outstanding institution demands outstanding leadership, and those who know Maxwell know that he fits the bill — the Drake community got additional reassurance today when a regional higher education association recognized Maxwell as one of the top leaders in American higher education.

Officials from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) honored Maxwell with the Chief Executive Leader Award for District VI, which encompasses eight Midwestern states and nearly 200 institutions of higher learning.

CASE is a professional association that includes more than 3,400 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools and nonprofit organizations in 59 countries. Maxwell could not attend today’s award ceremony at the CASE District VI conference in Kansas City due to a snowstorm, but he was able to participate via Skype.

“If I have come close to meeting any of the criteria for this wonderful honor, it is because of my considerable skill at surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am, who have outstanding levels of professional expertise and experience, a passion for the cause, and an unwavering commitment to ensuring that all of my many missteps are hidden from public view when they cannot prevent them from happening in the first place,” Maxwell said.

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President Maxwell performs a guitar solo at the May 2010 commencement ceremony.

Forging connections with students

The students of Drake University have a remarkable relationship with President Maxwell, who is a familiar face at campus events. He and his wife, Madeleine, routinely open their home to entertain, engage and listen to students.

Prior to becoming Drake’s president, Maxwell taught Russian language and literature and served as Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Tufts University. Maxwell has taught courses on Russian literature at Drake for undergraduate students and as part of the RaySociety program.

He also has been known to play blues guitar with students. Most recently, he performed at the 2010 undergraduate commencement — a video of this performance has been watched more than 3,700 times on YouTube.

“He works to create the perfect, timely message for the graduates and he hits a home run every time, holding the rapt attention of everyone in attendance,” said Peggy A. Fisher, a Drake alumna and member of the Drake Board of Trustees. “As I watch him greet students as they walk across the stage to receive their diploma, and see him hug many, his immense pride in the new graduates is blatantly obvious.”

A passion for excellence

When Maxwell accepted the responsibility of Drake’s president in 1999, he knew he was joining a proud community with immediate challenges — the primary test was a $6.5 million operating deficit. Thanks to Maxwell’s leadership, Drake has turned its financial fortune around with six consecutive years of balanced budgets and five consecutive years of modest budget surpluses.

“Under the leadership of President Maxwell, Drake University is in an admirable position of vitality, stability, focus and energy — perhaps unequaled in Drake’s history,” said Frances Bartlett Kinne, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees for 31 years.

The University has won recent honors for academic excellence and an increasingly stellar reputation. Last summer, Drake was named one of the best colleges in the Midwest by the Princeton Review.

Also in recent years, the University has met its enrollment goals; notched higher-than-average student participation in internships, community and volunteer service and extra-curricular research projects; undertaken major capitol improvement projects and produced more student and faculty Fulbright Scholars than 525 of 526 other master’s universities in the United States.

“I am profoundly aware that the presidency of Drake University is an honor and a privilege, for which I am immensely grateful,” Maxwell said while accepting his leadership award from CASE. “I am even more fortunate that I have the opportunity to work on a daily basis with people for whom I have great respect and affection.”