Chris Howard, president of Robert Morris University, joins ASU Enterprise leadership

ASU Charter sign on Tempe campus

Chris Howard, president of Robert Morris University and a national expert in higher education policy, will join Arizona State University as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the ASU Enterprise. 

Howard will start in the new role in February. He will join President Michael Crow and other ASU executive vice presidents as part of the ASU Enterprise leadership team to design, build and oversee a new model for a national university dedicated to access, excellence and impact.  

Howard will work closely with Crow and the other executive vice presidents to coordinate enterprise-wide initiatives and advancement, oversee ASU Enterprise affiliates, advance new enterprise relationships and opportunities, and integrate ASU Enterprise planning and strategy. 


Chris Howard

“To say that it has been both an honor and a privilege to serve as the eighth president of Robert Morris University these past six years would be a gross understatement,” Howard said. “(My wife) Barbara and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time working with the amazing faculty, staff, administration, board of trustees and especially the students and their families. Our lives have been enriched by the kindness the entire RMU and greater Pittsburgh community extended to us.”

In Arizona State University, Howard sees a major research university “willing and able to innovate, a much-needed trait in today’s ever-changing higher education landscape.”

He also sees a university serving 135,000 learners on track to educate more than 200,000. And in Howard, ASU President Crow sees a dynamic leader with experiences and insights that can help ASU do more, and have more impact.

“Chris Howard brings tremendous leadership experience to ASU, having served as president of two universities, having served in the United States military, having worked in the private sector and as a former student-athlete now helping to shape the future of college athletics,” Crow said. “That leadership experience will help us continue to advance the entire ASU Enterprise as we seek new partners, new sources of revenue and new opportunities to carry out the aspirations expressed by the ASU charter.”

A dynamic record of service

Howard’s resume is a distinguished snapshot of service and leadership in higher education, the military and college football.

Howard is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned a BS in political science in 1991. A Rhodes Scholar, he earned his doctorate in politics at the University of Oxford and an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School. In 2018, he received Harvard Business School’s Alumni Achievement Award. Recently, Howard was appointed to the Harvard Board of Overseers, the governing body of Harvard University. He also is on the board of the American Council on Education.

Howard earned a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan, and served with the elite Joint Special Operations Command and as the Reserve Air Attaché to Liberia. He was a helicopter pilot and intelligence officer.

On the football field, he was a starting running back for the Air Force Academy. He won the Campbell Trophy, the nation’s highest academic award for a senior college football player. He also is a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the former chair of the NCAA Honors Committee, a member of the NCAA Constitution Committee and is a former member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

“Chris will be a transformational addition to our team,” Crow said. “Adding someone of Chris’ caliber immediately strengthens our already strong core of university leaders and positions us well for continued growth and strategic vision.”

A new chapter 

Since 2015, Howard has served as president of Robert Morris, a private university in suburban Pittsburgh.    

During his tenure, Robert Morris University was designated a nationally ranked doctoral granting university for the first time. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school in its top 50 “Best Value Schools” in America for academic quality and affordability. His leadership team successfully launched the “RMU 100” strategic plan and the “Ready to Rise” comprehensive campaign, both culminating in December as the school celebrated its centennial.

Howard’s tenure included record increases in graduation rates for all students, but particularly among African Americans; an average first-year job placement rate of over 93%; and impressive growth in market-facing academic offerings in areas like health sciences, supply chain management, financial planning, data analytics and user interface/user experience.

Veterans also thrived. College Factual ranked the university in the top 10% for “Best Schools for Veterans.” And his tenure included construction of the UPMC Events Center, the largest capital project in school history.

Prior to his appointment as president of Robert Morris University, Howard was the president of Hampden-Sydney College, near Richmond, Virginia, for six and a half years. During his tenure there as president, he increased enrollment, retention and alumni giving.

Previously, he served as vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives at the University of Oklahoma, where he also served as the director of the Honors College Leadership Center and as a President’s Associate Presidential Professor.

“Chris understands what it means to build an educational environment in which students from all socioeconomic backgrounds can succeed,” Crow said. “He will work with the rest of the ASU team to ensure that we continue our progress in building a university where the student body truly reflects the communities we serve. I am excited to welcome Chris to our team.”

Howard joins other recent additions to the core leadership team of the university. Last February, ASU added Sally C. Morton as executive vice president of the Knowledge Enterprise, guiding university research. In July 2021, Nancy Gonzales became executive vice president and university provost to lead the Academic Enterprise. And in December 2020, the university elevated Maria Anguiano to lead the Learning Enterprise, which works to make ASU’s assets and learning offerings relevant, available and accessible to everyone in the community.

Howard will join Gonzales, Morton, Anguiano and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Morgan Olsen as core members of the ASU executive leadership team, working with President Crow and with one another to advance ASU as the New American University.

Crow said that in adding Howard, a university president, Morton, a noted statistician, and Anguiano, a member of the University of California Board of Regents, ASU “is landing some of the nation’s best and brightest minds in higher education, leaders in their fields who also are called to serve.” 

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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