Richard J. Helldobler, 56, currently interim president of Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, will be the new president of William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. He is the eighth head of administration in the schools 163-year history. He takes the helm on July 1.
“The courage of the board of trustees, and acceptance of the community of an openly gay president, speaks to how William Paterson is living their values,” Helldobler said by phone on Thursday.
Frederick Gruel, chairman of the board, said Helldobler is the first openly gay president at the university. He will be paid $330,000 per year. It will be a three-year contract. He is eligible to receive a raise if certain goals are met. He was picked from a field of roughly 100 candidates to succeed Kathleen Waldron, 69. She is retiring and was paid $342,000 per year.
Helldobler holds a doctorate and a master’s degree, both in theater, from Bowling Green State University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Toledo. He was vice president of academic affairs at Shepherd University, in West Virginia, and associate provost at California University of Pennsylvania previously.
Helldobler’s career in academia began in 1990 at California University in Pennsylvania. He joined the department of theater and dance. He became the department chairman, and later, the dean of the university’s college of liberal arts. He established a ballet company at California and served on the board of directors for the Persad Center and Renaissance City Choir, an LGBT ensemble. Both are in Pittsburgh.
Helldobler when asked about the diverse student body at WPU said, “I was certainly drawn to the institution, based on the students they serve. I think the work they’re doing there is critically important.”
William Paterson’s student body of over 10,000 students is slightly larger than Northeastern Illinois, which has over 9,500 students. He had controversy in Illinois in teh past year when he attended the inauguration of President Trump. The trip plus possible financial problems at Northeastern Illinois led to the university implementing unpaid furloughs and slashing some jobs.
Helldobler said that his predecessors at Northeastern Illinois went to presidential inaugurations and that it was a tradition for university leaders to do so.