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Biography of Emory President James W. Wagner

James W. Wagner, PhD, an award-winning teacher and scientist, was elected the nineteenth president of Emory University in July 2003. Before assuming office at Emory, Wagner served as dean, provost, and interim president of Case Western Reserve University, following a distinguished tenure on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University.

Born and reared in Silver Spring, Maryland, Wagner earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1975 from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in clinical engineer-ing in 1978 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1984 he completed his PhD in materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins.

Throughout his administrative career, Wagner has worked closely with faculty, students, alumni, and staff to enhance the undergraduate educational experience, grow research, and foster more effective partnership between the academy and local institutions, including government and industry.

Joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 1984, Wagner won several teaching awards, including the 1994 George E. Owen Award for excellence in teaching and dedication to undergraduates. He served as chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins from 1993 through 1997 and held a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Moving to Case Western Reserve in January 1998 as dean of the Case School of Engineering, Wagner guided the school’s strategic planning and led it through the silent phase of its capital campaign, which included raising funds for endowed professorships and graduate fellowships. Out of a firm devotion to the ancient university mission of liberal education—which he defines as mastering a discipline and developing a thirst for new knowledge—he worked closely with the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Management, and the School of Applied Social Sciences to develop courses for expanding engineers’ understanding of social issues.

In September 2000 Case Western Reserve appointed Wagner to the position of provost and university vice president. In that capacity he created bridge funding to enhance recruitment and retention of women and minority faculty members, implemented objectives-based management of academic units, and conducted a university-wide review of the institution’s academic vision and planning.

From May 2001 through July 2002 Wagner served as interim president of Case Western Reserve. During that time he guided the deliberations of the President’s Commission on Undergraduate Education and Life, which he had worked to establish during his initial term as provost. He also launched Case Western Reserve’s Center for Women. After returning to the provost’s position in 2002, he led the establishment of a new emphasis on interschool efforts to seek major funding for large interdisciplinary research centers.

Wagner has authored more than 115 publications and has served as editor or editorial board member for several serial publications. His research interests and activities have stemmed in part from his early employment with the United States Food and Drug Administration, where he developed quality-assurance methods and performed failure analyses on medical devices. At Johns Hopkins his research focused on optical and microwave methods for sensing strains and displacements in materials and structures.

Wagner has been active as an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Cleveland. His wife, Debbie, is a specialist in Christian education. They have two daughters: Kimberly, a student at Miami University (Ohio), and Christine, a high school senior. Wagner’s avocational interests include restoring antique cars, sailing, and metal shop work.


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