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Jon Parrish Peede named Ashland University’s 31st president

Published on March 27, 2024
Ashland Theological Seminary
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ASHLAND, Ohio – Jon Parrish Peede (pronounced PEE-dee), former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been selected as the next president of Ashland University and Ashland Theological Seminary. The AU Board of Trustees unanimously approved Peede’s appointment following a thorough search process conducted by a presidential search committee that included trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and a student representative. Peede will begin his role as president on June 1, 2024.

With more than 25 years in leadership positions in higher education and federal agencies, Peede brings a diverse set of experiences to Ashland. He has been a faculty member, fundraiser, public speaker, fiscally sound manager and strategic communicator. He is a proven consensus builder and thoughtful leader who develops relationships with a variety of stakeholders to achieve common goals.

Peede also maintains a value system that is in alignment with Ashland’s vision. In addition to being a champion for the liberal arts, he clearly grasps the value of the university’s graduate and professional programs. He believes that improved access to education, civil discourse and intellectual diversity of thought on campus, experiential learning opportunities for students and shared governance are all markers of institutional excellence.

“Jon Peede stood out in our presidential search. His past experiences as a leader and unifier will benefit Ashland University as we sharpen our focus on branding and navigate the changes in higher education,” said Jim Hess, chairman of the AU Board of Trustees. “Jon is an innovative and strategic thinker who will build on all the good that is currently in place and move us forward to a brighter tomorrow. Jon aligns well with our AU values and Brethren identity. He shares our passion for shaping graduates who work, serve and lead with integrity. Jon will lead our university community in passionately pursuing excellence in everything we do. Our Board welcomes Jon and Nancy to our Ashland University and Ashland Theological Seminary community.”

Peede’s career has spanned six institutions, and his impressive credentials are headlined by a term as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. He led the agency from July 2017 to January 2021. The NEH chairman position is presidentially nominated and Senate confirmed—Peede was unanimously confirmed within seven weeks of nomination, an example of the bipartisan support he received.

As NEH chairman, Peede had sole authority of awarding approximately 1,000 annual grants and managed a $237 million annual budget and 170-person full-time staff. He awarded $500 million in support of liberal arts education, undergraduate and graduate curriculum innovation, museum and library programming, documentary films and multimedia works, cultural infrastructure projects and humanities scholarship.

“I am honored to serve the Ashland students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and supporters. I admire the university’s steadfast commitment to its Christian heritage, liberal arts core, graduate programs and high teaching standards,” said Peede. “I look forward to building upon the momentum of Dr. Campo’s administration. And, I cannot wait to work with the faculty and staff who give so much of themselves to mentor students and transform lives. Nancy and I are overjoyed about joining the Ashland community.”

As a high-ranking government official focused on public policy on the liberal arts, Peede spoke at dozens of campuses about the current direction of higher education. He partnered with leading academic bodies and private foundations to create innovative solutions, such as the “Cornerstone: Learning for Living” project with the Teagle Foundation. Inspired by a Purdue University program, Cornerstone reimagines the general education curriculum to develop students’ communication and creative thinking skills and broaden their perspective on the world.

Peede’s appointment is the culmination of a search that began last fall, following Carlos Campo’s decision to become the CEO of the Museum of the Bible after nine years leading AU. Peede emerged from a pool of more than 60 highly qualified applicants for “his years of service in higher education, his creative leadership and academic acumen and his fundraising experience over his 25-year career,” according to Steven Cole, an AU board member and co-chair of the search committee.

Paul McKnight, the other co-chair of the search committee, added that “Peede had researched AU the most and presented a full slate of ideas for the future.”

While having spent his life in the South and on the East Coast, Peede is not a stranger to Ashland University. He served as a visiting faculty member of AU’s acclaimed MFA in Creative Writing program, and he has spoken in Ohio at numerous public events.

“Whether speaking with a conservative Ashbrook scholar at a congressional event or a progressive novelist on your campus, I found the same foundational beliefs, namely a firm commitment to intellectual rigor, freedom of expression and mutual respect,” Peede recalled.

Peede is currently an educational consultant and a faculty member in the department of English and foreign languages at Mississippi Valley State University, a historically Black college and university. Since 2022, he has been co-director of the American Civics Project, which provides K-12 educators with resources and professional development opportunities.

Peede’s professional career has also included time at the University of Virginia where he was the publisher of the award-winning “Virginia Quarterly Review,” a national journal of literature and discussion. At the National Endowment for the Arts, he served as director of “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience,” director of literature grants and counselor to then-NEA chairman Dana Gioia. At Millsaps College, Peede was the director of communications, and at Mercer University Press he edited academic books. A scholar of southern literature, he is co-editor of the essay collection “Inside the Church of Flannery O’Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction.”

Originally from Brandon, Miss., Peede’s passion for education and literature led him to Vanderbilt University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He also holds a master’s degree in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi and will complete a doctorate in English pedagogy at Murray State University in May 2025. Of note, Peede is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and American Mensa.

Peede, 55, is married to Rev. Nancy Hollomon-Peede, who has been a spiritual director and minister for various denominations and churches during her 35-year career in ministry. She also served as a chaplain at Harvard University. They have a daughter, Somerset, who is pursuing a postgraduate viola performance degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia.

>Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.