Bernstein loses interim tag, named president at TCNJ

Michael Bernstein, who has served as the interim president of The College of New Jersey for nearly a year, was officially named the school’s 17th president Thursday after a vote by the school’s board of trustees.

The appointment is effective immediately. Bernstein has served as TCNJ’s interim president since July 1, 2023.

TCNJ board Chair Rebecca Ostrov was happy to make the announcement.

“Dr. Bernstein is an extremely accomplished educator and a transformational leader,” she said. “Over the past year, he has mobilized our community to think creatively about how we innovate and extend an unparalleled TCNJ education to new audiences. I am thrilled that he will continue to dedicate his considerable talent to our institution.”

Bernstein, who received academic degrees of all levels at Yale University, began his academic career as a professor at Princeton University.

A veteran of numerous roles in education administration, Bernstein said he was grateful for the opportunity at TCNJ.

In a note to the TCNJ community, Bernstein said the school’s spirit has been incredible.

“When I joined our college last July, I had been drawn by TCNJ’s stellar reputation and the opportunity to bridge the gap between presidential administrations, helping to ensure a strong future for a remarkable institution,” he wrote. “What I had not anticipated was the strength of the bond I now feel for TCNJ, its mission and the incredible people — the students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends — who are its unquestionable and indomitable heart.

“Over the past year, we have begun to write the next chapter in TCNJ’s extraordinary history. This effort is grounded in the need to ensure our financial sustainability in the face of very strong headwinds confronting virtually all colleges and universities.

“But the possibilities before us are so much greater. We are developing exciting new ways to extend the excellence that is the hallmark of a TCNJ education to new audiences. I remain energized by the thoughtfulness, creativity and commitment that have gone into this effort thus far, and I eagerly look forward to a continuing collaboration with you to build our future.”

Bernstein has handled a number of difficult situations during his career.

He served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Tulane University, where he navigated the institution’s recovery from the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina.

And, in 2020, as interim president of Stony Brook University, he led the school through the unprecedented challenges posed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a move to fully remote instruction.

TCNJ President Emerita Kate Foster, Bernstein’s predecessor, praised his efforts.

“Throughout his career — and particularly among us over the past year of challenge and change — President Michael Bernstein has demonstrated the skill and character to navigate toward opportunity while sustaining our mission, strategy and values,” he said.

“Under his inspired and thoughtful leadership, TCNJ embarks on an exciting next chapter of continued excellence, inclusion and innovation. Our college, this eminent and beloved place, is in good hands.”

TCNJ President Emerita Barbara Gitenstein, who oversaw an academic transformation in the early 2000s that positioned the institution as an exemplar of U.S. public higher education, also praised the selection.

“During Dr. Michael Bernstein’s months as interim president, I have been struck by his appreciation for TCNJ’s mission,” she said. “He is someone who listens and cares deeply about the college’s commitment to student success, which has at its center high-quality programs and faculty who engage their students as both teachers and scholars.

“Congratulations to the board of trustees, Dr. Bernstein, and The College of New Jersey on Michael’s appointment as president of TCNJ.”

Princeton President Chris Eisgruber also saluted Bernstein.

“Michael Bernstein is a star,” he said. “I’ve known him since 2007, when we both served as provosts. He is an accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher who cares deeply about student-faculty interaction, faculty scholarship and academic rigor. These values have shaped his extraordinary service as provost for both Tulane University and Stony Brook University. I have no doubt that Michael will continue to be an inspiring leader for The College of New Jersey, which is one of America’s greatest public liberal arts colleges.”

Bernstein received his Ph.D. (1982), M.Phil. (1980), M.A. (1978) and B.A. (1976) in economics from Yale.