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Ernest C. McNealey | Ph.D,President | Allen University

Dr Ernest McNealey: A Leader Committed to the Pursuit of Knowledge and the Common Good

With an extensive career in higher education leadership, starting as an academic department chair and working to become president, Dr. McNealey made his mark. His journey began with leading a small team, then taking on progressively more significant roles in academia, such as dean, associate provost, and vice president for academic affairs.

Let us learn more about his professional journey.

The Early Years

After several years of consulting, Dr. McNealey came to Allen University as an interim president and was eventually named the permanent president in May 2017. Throughout his career, Dr. McNealey navigated diverse interests and motives within organizations to achieve the stated mission. Learning to attend to these divergent interests and reasons was crucial to his success as a leader at all levels of leadership.

Significant Effect

Dr. McNealey is known for his ability to influence decisions beyond what he calls “bromides,” “usual suspects,” and “widely accepted though unexamined premises.” Whether dealing with accreditation or athletics, he has been successful in facilitating recognition that persistent challenges are often caused by what was known and tried in the past. In his regional and national leadership roles, Dr. McNealey has demonstrated a willingness to confront these challenges head-on, always looking for new solutions and approaches to problems. Through his leadership, he has encouraged others to question assumptions and think outside the box, creating an environment of innovation and progress.

Equal Education

The values and culture of Allen University are greatly influenced by the beliefs of various religions, including Christianity, on what adherents should do to serve the greater good. Dr. McNealey has worked to instill a culture of planning, implementation, and evaluation that has led to continuous progress. Dr. McNealey has fostered an environment prioritizing service and community engagement by focusing on the university’s mission and values. The university’s commitment to these principles is reflected in the diverse range of programs and initiatives that promote social responsibility, civic engagement, and ethical leadership. Under Dr. McNealey’s leadership, the university has become a model for other institutions that seek to promote positive change in their communities.

Dr. McNealey has overseen significant investments in the university’s digital tools and learning materials. The library is ranked in the top tier of its national peer group for providing electronic learning resources, and the University has replaced textbooks with subscriptions to e-book providers. Additionally, the University has made universal MacBooks available to students, providing a platform for innovative and efficient learning. These investments have enabled the University to stay at the forefront of technology and provide students with the resources they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Under Dr. McNealey’s leadership, the University has embraced the digital age and created an environment that promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Driving Change

The pandemic has significantly impacted higher education, and its residue continues to loom. Dr. McNealey recognizes that filling faculty and staff positions, recouping students, and providing heightened levels of support for all constituents are crucial challenges that universities face. However, the impact of the pandemic extends beyond these immediate concerns. The rise of anti-intellectualism, always present in society, erodes the diversity of institutional types and missions in higher education. Political discourse, legislation, and misinformation all contribute to a climate that questions the value of education. Under Dr. McNealey’s leadership, the University has remained committed to promoting intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, even in these challenges. He has fostered a culture of respect for diverse perspectives and engaged students in pursuing knowledge and truth.

Towards the Future

Dr. McNealey recognizes that as he looks to the future, he may find himself dozing off during grand exhibits at the museum, performances of the philharmonic, and even football games. However, during his waking moments, he remains committed to being an advocate of reason and the pursuit of the common good. As he reflects on the future of the University, Dr. McNealey is committed to ensuring that it remains the author of its reputation, is stronger financially, and is consistently competitive in athletics. He has set these goals as aspirations for the University’s future and is determined to work tirelessly to make them a reality. Even as he prepares to step back from his leadership role, Dr. McNealey remains dedicated to the University and the principles guiding his leadership over the years.

Dr. McNealey guides aspiring persona to “Master oneself, embrace the value of imagination, plan persistently, and do the hard things that you don’t care to.