Janet Dudley-Eshbach was appointed the eighth president of Salisbury University in 2000, the first woman to hold the office. Today, she is the University System of Maryland’s longest-serving female president and is the second longest-tenured president in SU history. Her leadership has been transformational, with a strategic vision that has resulted in the institution’s growth in size, reputation and private support.
When Dudley-Eshbach arrived, the campus had a student population of 6,400. Now, the student body is over 8,700. She has been successful in getting more equitable state funding for SU, as well as private contributions, including several multi-million dollar gifts to foster dynamic changes, from new buildings to academic programs.
A Latin American literature and Spanish-language scholar who is fluent in Spanish, she was profoundly moved by study abroad experiences and exposure to different cultures and ethnicities. Under her leadership, the number of minority students has more than tripled and one in four now are from diverse backgrounds. She cut the ribbon on a Center for International Education and an English Language Institute. Today, SU’s campus attracts students from over 60 countries. She has joined students on spring break service trips to areas such as Aguascalientes, Mexico, and has served on educational delegations to Cuba. Her passion for international study and “Transformative Love of Hispanidad” have been showcased by The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education.
Strategic partnerships and town-gown relationships also are part of Dudley-Eshbach’s vision. In 2015, the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore awarded her its prestigious Jim Barrett Community Leadership Award for exemplifying philanthropic leadership. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot also personally nominated and presented her with the 2015 William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award for Wicomico County for her transformative impact on the University and city. The net assets of the SU Foundation have increased 175 percent to some $74.7 million. She is well-known for her support of shared governance.
During her tenure, nearly a third of SU’s current majors and the campus’ first doctorates, in nursing practice and education, have been developed. The University skyline has been transformed by state-of-the art facilities including Conway Hall, Perdue Hall, the Richard A. Henson Medical Simulation Center, the Sea Gull Square residence-retail high-rise, a new Sea Gull Stadium and major improvements to the athletics complex, and the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons. Altogether, the University has expanded with some $350 million in new facilities. A front-page Baltimore Sun feature highlighted SU’s growth in “size, reputation, ambition.” With almost 1,800 employees, it has become one of the region’s largest employers with an economic impact of nearly half a billion dollars annually.
Committed to sustainability, Dudley-Eshbach has fostered such campus initiatives as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of 10 new and renovated buildings, a solar parking lot and a student Green Fund. SU’s beautiful grounds, a designated national arboretum, also has earned state and national honors.
Every year during her tenure, SU has been one of The Princeton Review’s Best Colleges and U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Regional Universities in the North.” The campus also is consistently named a “Best Value” by Forbes, Money and Washington Monthly. Her expertise and opinions have been featured in such national publications as Public Purpose, University Business and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has served on boards of directors for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the American Council on Education, and is active in the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
The Daily Record three times named Dudley-Eshbach one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women, inducting her into its Circle of Excellence. The newspaper twice named her an “Influential Marylander,” and she was the first university president honored as one of its “Most Admired CEOs” in 2012. Prior to her arrival at SU, she served as president of Fairmont State University in West Virginia, and she held faculty and administrative positions at three other private and public colleges and universities. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, she earned her Ph.D. from El Colegio de Mexico.