By Thomas Regan and Lauren Lavelle
After three years as the assistant vice president for University Communications and Marketing, John Lenox has parted ways with Rider in what Vice President of University Advancement Jonathan Meer describes as “a mutual agreement.”
The change will come as a result of a shift in philosophy under new President Gregory Dell’Omo. In addition to focusing on internal communication, Rider will put more emphasis on marketing externally to help sharpen an identity for the university, according to Meer.
“President Dell’Omo has a different model in mind, and he and I started talking about this before the end of the year,” Meer said. “His model is much more marketing-oriented, much more externally focused. Even though the department is called ‘University Communications and Marketing,’ marketing was never a primary focus for us, but it is now.”
Lenox said that his tenure was a success and that he is certain the team will be able to accomplish several future goals.
“I’m proud of the strides we have made over the last three years from a PR perspective,” Lenox said. “We have been recognized several times by our peers in this industry for the quality of our work. I am confident the team is able to continue this important work.”
Lenox, a 1993 graduate of La Salle, accepted the job at Rider in March 2013 after nearly six years as the director of global business communications at Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Lenox was originally to remain with the university through the end of March, while both he and the university searched for new directions. However, he has accepted a position at ADP Corporation, the provider of business outsource solutions, as its global communications director. Kristine Brown, who has been director of media relations, has replaced him as the assistant vice president on an interim basis.
“ADP is a major public company and it sounds like a great job for him,” said Meer. “We’re pleased that he found something that is in line with his experience and his interests. It didn’t please us that he was going to leave the university because he’s been a very positive force on campus.”
Meer revealed that Dell’Omo’s plan is to bring in a candidate with experience in marketing, so the university can aggressively enter the institutional marketing race.
However, Rider’s search for that permanent replacement could lead them back to Brown, according to Meer, as she will have the opportunity to submit an application for the position if she chooses.
“Her focus has also been on press relations, so I certainly will encourage her to apply,” said Meer. “But she also understands that the university needs to bring in someone with substantial experience in marketing.”
Regardless, Meer expects the search process to conclude by the start of the fall semester.
“My sense is from show to go, it’ll be about two to three months,” Meer said. “We hope to have someone on board before the end of the fiscal year, certainly up and running by this upcoming fall.”
Meer does not expect there to be any additional changes to the department, but did not entirely rule out the possibility that Lenox’s replacement could make modifications.
“We really think that the staff we have in communications are strong professionals. We don’t envision any additional changes,” Meer said. “The staff right now that we have in place is solid. Is it possible that when the new AVP comes in, he or she might want to tweak here and there? It’s possible, but we don’t foresee that happening.”
Three men have held the position prior to Lenox within the last 10 years: Earle Rommel, a ’67 Rider graduate served as director of public information, 1979-07; Dan Higgins was the executive director of university communications, 2007-12; and Bill Ahearn worked briefly as AVP for communications and marketing from July 2012 until his death in October that year.
The new hire will be titled assistant vice president of University Communications and Marketing.
“When John was interviewing a little bit more than three years ago, I let him know that we’d be going through a presidential search soon because I knew [President Rozanski was going to retire soon]. New presidents have very strong ideas about what’s worked for them at other institutions. John sort of knew that the handwriting was on the wall, that, when President Dell’Omo came in, he might want to go in a different direction. I don’t think he was totally surprised, but I’m sure he’s a little disappointed because he’s been a great fit for Rider.”
Although Meer is sorry about Lenox’s departure, he maintains an optimistic outlook for tthe university.
“It’s a great lesson for people,” said Meer. “I think we’re all a little bit afraid of change but, if you embrace the change, some good things can happen.”