2023 Education Power 50: A – H

NJBIZ STAFF//September 18, 2023//

Education Power 50
Education Power 50

2023 Education Power 50: A – H

NJBIZ STAFF//September 18, 2023//

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Andres Acebo

Acebo was named interim president at New Jersey City University in January. At just 37 years old, the Hudson County native is the youngest president to lead a public university in the state and just the second Hispanic to lead a four-year public institution. “This was certainly not something that was ever in my career trajectory or even something that I ever fancied pursuing,” said Acebo. Before his appointment, he was elevated to executive vice president and university counsel amid the school’s announcement of its fiscal emergency in the summer of 2022. Yet, faced with a more than $20 million deficit and a blistering report from the state comptroller, Acebo has steadfastly guided the school. In February, NJCU entered a first-of-its-kind agreement with the Hudson County Building Trades to provide internship opportunities for students that also authorizes all university construction projects over $5 million be built with union labor. Over the summer, and just six months after stepping into his interim role, Acebo declared to the university community that it had turned a corner—moving from crisis to recovery and reducing its deficit to less than $8 million. To continue that work, and in a move welcomed by Acebo, a state monitor was appointed for the school at the end of August. “[I]t was hard to say no, to be very blunt, to this opportunity,” Acebo told NJBIZ, referencing his personal connection to the university, which has seemed to work in everyone’s favor. “I ran to NJCU’s mission. I didn’t run from something. I ran toward something. And every single day on this campus, there are students, faculty, and staff that live the mission of this institution, that personify its mission.” This fall, NJCU welcomed more than 1,200 new students. Acebo’s interim appointment is for 24 months – and with all he’s accomplished so far, that leaves plenty of time for more potential progress.

Steve Adubato Jr.

Adubato is an Emmy-winning broadcaster, author, syndicated columnist, university professor, lecturer and motivational speaker. He also served in the mid-1980s as New Jersey’s youngest state legislator at the age of 26. As the anchor of several television series produced by the Caucus Educational Corp., which he founded in the mid-90s, he is a near constant presence in New Jersey’s media landscape. State of Affairs with Steve Adubato is a public policy series exploring critical statewide issues. One-on-One with Steve Adubato serves up nightly in-depth interviews with the region’s most compelling personalities. Think Tank with Steve Adubato features national leaders affecting the state and region. Adubato is also co-anchor of the Lessons in Leadership video podcast with his colleague Mary Gamba. Gov. Phil Murphy has called State of Affairs “one of the most popular and well-regarded public affairs programs in New Jersey.” Adubato, adds U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, produces “relevant and timely programming…that benefits the people of our state and nation.” CEC’s series air on PBS stations Thirteen/WNET (the flagship station in New York), NJ PBS, WHYY and WHYY’s Y2; on cable on News 12+; on radio on NPR stations WBGO and WQXR; and on digital platforms including Steve Adubato.org, NJ.com, YouTube, Thirteen.org, MyNJPBS.org the Thirteen Explore app, the NJ PBS app and across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Monica Amadio

Amadio is a consultant and instructor at Stockton University, a national Board-Certified teacher as well as an author. As an entrepreneur and business researcher, she has mastered the complexities of starting and running a business. Amadio is also concerned about high school and college students, spearheading the creation of a degree in entrepreneurship at Stockton while promoting effective teaching strategies in multiple courses. Among the tracts she has developed and taught are Technology and Innovation Management; Introduction to Management; Management Skills; Engineering Ethics & Communications; Business Communications; Business Basics; Personal Financial Literacy and others. In addition, Amadio was scheduled to speak on four topics at the 2023 Eastern Academy of Management Conference in Philadelphia: Equity through Esports and Entrepreneurship; AI in College Admissions and Upper-Level Writing Courses; Vertical Leadership Skills; and Esports and Entrepreneurship as Innovative Programs.

Michael Avaltroni

Following his appointment as interim president of Fairleigh Dickinson University earlier this year after Chris Capuano stepped down at the end of 2022, Avaltroni was officially named to the post in April, becoming the institution’s ninth president. A long-time faculty member and administrator, Avaltroni is also the first FDU graduate to serve as president. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1999, he went on to receive a master’s in chemistry in 2001 and a doctorate in chemistry in 2003, both at Princeton University. He returned that year to FDU, serving as a faculty member and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences and was instrumental in creating the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. In 2012, he took over as interim dean and was appointed permanently to that role in 2013. Last January, Avaltroni transitioned to provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the 80-year-old multicampus, multinational private university. Since becoming president, he has led several initiatives, including engaging the community in a strategic planning process that led to the development of a four-year-plan, “FDU Will Soar,” which focuses on areas such as recruitment, retention, philanthropy and collaborations. In a message accompanying the plan, Avaltroni wrote, “The University is moving aggressively on these goals, starting with initial efforts to improve enrollment, retention and fund-raising, to reduce inefficiencies and continue to better define and differentiate programs while also moving toward longer-term goals such as new partnerships that will benefit our students.”

Joe Bertolino

In March, Bertolino was named as Stockton University’s sixth president – replacing the retiring Harvey Kesselman, assuming the role July 1. Bertolino, who has more than 30 years of experi-ence in higher education, previously served as the president of Southern Connecticut State University since 2016. He was selected for this top job at Stockton following an extensive national search. Born and raised in Glendora, he said he felt like he was returning home by joining Stockton where his mother, Eileen, graduated in 1977. “Being here now to serve [my mother’s] alma mater as its president is both meaningful and an act of love,” Bertolino. “I am keenly aware of the challenges facing higher education – especially public regional institutions. I can say with confidence that Stockton is facing those challenges head on and will continue to thrive.” Raymond Ciccone, chair of the Stockton University board of trustees, said, “Dr. Bertolino is drawn to Stockton University’s commitment to create a caring community dedicated to exceptional teaching, learning, and academic excellence.”

Jeffrey Boscamp

As dean of the Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine, Boscamp is in charge of developing, promoting and organizing programs to amplify learning across the continuum of under-graduate medical education, graduate medical education and continuing medical education. In February, the school capped off a seven-year journey when it became fully accredited. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education – the accrediting body for all institutions conferring medical doctorate degrees in the U.S. and Canada – bestowed the certification after a review that included the entire curriculum, finances, infrastructure and faculty. “We are meeting every standard required of us while pioneering, among a small cadre of other institutions, an accelerated medical education program, fully embracing an active learning pedagogy, and pioneering an award-winning investment in our local communities through the Human Dimension course,” Boscamp said at the time. A longtime leader at Hackensack University Medical Center, he also serves as a member of the Hackensack University Medical Center medical executive committee and on the Hackensack Meridian Health Board of Trustees Academics Committee. Boscamp has been integrally involved with the founding of the school of medicine since the concept of starting one was discussed and co-chaired the search committee that brought founding Dean Bonita Stanton to the school.

Brian Bridges

Since 2020, Bridges has served as Gov. Phil Murphy’s point person on higher education in his role as secretary of higher education. In this role, Bridges is responsible for policy development and coordination of higher education activities for the state and was instrumental in helping New Jersey’s higher ed institutions navigate COVID as well as this current and continued re-emergence from the pandemic. Bridges coordinates initiatives to improve college affordability in the state and enhance postsecondary opportunities, such as New Jersey recently joining the Complete College America Alliance. He has spearheaded efforts such as New Jersey’s Some College, No Degree initiative, aimed at addressing the aspirations of over 750,000 New Jersey residents by providing them with resources and opportunities necessary to return to higher education and complete their degree or credential. “Our goal is to help them overcome barriers to reenrollment, learn about newly available state resources and financial aid, and emphasize how a credential can open new doors of opportunity,” said Bridges over the summer during the first statewide convening of the initiative. “By bringing together national policy leaders and campus partners, who work directly with these students, all under one roof, we hope to inspire new and amplify ongoing strategic approaches to reaching, reengaging, and reenrolling this population statewide.”

Jackie Burke

Since 2021, Burke has served as executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, a nonprofit association that represents vocational-technical schools across the state’s 21 counties. Widely recognized as a leading voice for career and technical education before policymakers, the business community, labor unions and other education leaders, the organization supports collaboration among its member vo-tech districts, which offer programming in high-demand fields for 35,000-plus high school students as well as adults. During her tenure, Burke has continued executing NJCCVTS’s mission to not only promote career-focused education, but also expand opportunities for those who wish to pursue career and technical education studies. As part of that effort, several construction projects are underway that support new and enhanced programming to meet critical workforce demands in areas like advanced manufacturing, allied health, cybersecurity, global logistics & supply chain management, sustainable construction and green technology. Made possible by $250 million in state Career and Technical Education grants funded through 2018’s Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, the upgrades at 17 vo-tech schools include new construction and renovation work. Prior to taking the helm in the wake of long-time executive director Judy Savage’s retirement, Burke served since 2016 as assistant executive director for the organization.

Nancy Cantor

Cantor joined Rutgers University-Newark as chancellor in 2014 and was later named to a second five-year appointment. And while her tenure in that role will end along with her current term in June 2024, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway announced to the school community at the end of the summer, it’s perhaps the reaction to that news that best illuminates the kind of power that Cantor wields. “As a child, I remember growing up and hearing the slogan ‘Newark is a College Town,’” Mayor Ras Baraka wrote Holloway in response to the unexpected news. “I honestly can say that I never really felt the real meaning of that until Nancy Cantor showed up and became an integral part of the fabric and growth of this city.” The correspondence was signed by state lawmakers; leaders from fellow anchor institutions in the state’s largest city, including New Jersey Performing Arts Center CEO John Schreiber and The Newark Museum of Art Director and CEO Linda Harrison; and others. In the wake of the announcement, similar sentiments emerged from the university community, as well, with a group of two dozen faculty members – among them a Pulitzer Prize winner and a MacArthur fellow – also sending a letter to Holloway, questioning the decision. Following the conclusion of her second term, Cantor will have a one-year sabbatical at her current salary and then the option to return to the faculty as a university professor. Some highlights under her leadership include the Fiserv-Rutgers Program for Inclusive Innovation; the Honors Living-Learning Community, which was supported by a $10 million gift from Newark-based Prudential Financial Inc.; and the launch of Express Newark, an arts collaborative with direct connections to the community. “I had hoped to remain here to continue advancing the expansive work we’ve done together over the past decade to build and strengthen civil and social infrastructure, but I am confident that the durable partnerships we’ve built are well positioned to grow and that our university and our community can continue to thrive,” she wrote to the school community in August following Holloway’s announcement, reiterating her commitment to “our collective work” throughout the remainder of her term, adding that “My love and admiration for everyone who has been a part of this will endure as Rutgers evolves.”

Thomas Cavalieri

Cavalieri is vice president for the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences of Rowan University – a role he assumed in February. The partnership between the South Jersey institutions, supported with an $85 million contribution from Virtua Health and $125 million from Rowan, includes an expanded nursing and allied health professions school, a school of translational biomedical engineering and sciences; research institutes focused on Health Equity, Cardiovascular Disease, and Regenerative Medicine and Transplantation; and aligned clinical practices. The college also includes New Jersey’s only osteopathic medical school. That’s where Cavalieri was before his current appointment, having served as dean – and continuing as a professor of medicine and the Osteopathic Heritage Endowed Chair for Primary Care Research – at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (now Rowan-Virtua SOM) since 2006. During his tenure, enrollment doubled. And last summer, the SOM marked the biggest expansion in its 45 years—launching a Sewell campus location. Cavalieri is also the founding director of the Center of Aging, now the Rowan-Virtua New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging. At an event commemorating the opening of the SOM’s Sewell spot, Cavalieri said the celebration was not just for the “the beginning of the medical careers of our students, but also the beginning of expanded access to health care for thousands of South Jersey residents.” That sentiment carries through to the aspirations of the new medical school he will now lead, a foundational component of its partners’ path to foster an innovative – and inclusive – health care hub in the southern part of the state.

Francine Conway

After serving as chancellor-provost since 2021, Conway became chancellor of Rutgers-New Brunswick this past July, overseeing administrative, academic and research operations for the school, its more than $300 million research portfolio and 40,000 students, as well as 10,000 faculty and staff. “Chancellor Conway’s work has highlighted the complexities of managing an institution that is a top 20 public university, a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, a world-class powerhouse of research and a proud home of diversity and opportunity,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said when Conway’s streamlined title was announced. According to the university, the switch back to separate chancellor/provost positions is a reflection of Conway’s performance leading the campus, including through a history-making strike that hit the school in the spring, and developing the Academic Master Plan. Implementation of the blueprint for the school’s future – based on four Pillars of Excellence: Scholarly Leadership, Innovative Research, Student Success and Community Engagement – began last fall. And while Conway is looking to continue building, she’s keen to keep collaboration and campus culture as key components. To compile the master plan, more than 4,000 responses were collected from surveys and stakeholder meetings that included undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators. “As we have said before, cultivating academic excellence is not about building something new at Rutgers, but about building on what we already are and moving toward a vision of what can be,” Conway said announcing the plan’s initial execution. “ … We are excited to embark on this journey with you, and we invite you to help us shape Rutgers–New Brunswick’s future together.”

Eugene Cornacchia

Cornacchia, who has served as Saint Peter’s University’s 22nd president since 2007, made news last month when he announced that he would step down from the position at New Jersey’s only Jesuit college/university at the end of his contract next June. He taught at Saint Peter’s for 20 years before serving as academic dean, then provost and vice president for academic affairs, and ultimately president – a tenure the school says has been characterized by “transformative leadership, unwavering dedication and a fierce commitment to academic excellence and the Jesuit mission.” During that tenure, Cornacchia has overseen an expansion in academic programs, achieving university status, record fundraising hauls, a physical transformation of the campus, and much more. “As a new faculty member in 1981, I never could have imagined having the opportunity to lead this great institution as president,” Cornacchia said in a statement announcing his upcoming retirement. “Together, we have accomplished many of the goals I set out to achieve for the University and I could not be more proud or more grateful for this incredible community. My love for Saint Peter’s will never waver.” “Dr. Cornacchia has been a visionary leader who has made an indelible mark on the institution. His collaborative leadership has brought Saint Peter’s to new heights and his accomplishments have been immeasurable,” said Kenneth Moore, chair of the Saint Peter’s board. “The board of trustees is deeply grateful for President Cornacchia’s dedication and service, and we are fortunate to have his leadership for another academic year.”

Donna Custard

Custard has led the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation since 2015. The organization partners with national and New Jersey-based nonprofits, K-12 schools and other strategic stakeholders to prepare young adults for college and their careers. Bringing more than 30 years of nonprofit experience to this leadership role, Custard is responsible for directing program and service initiatives that help drive current and future members of the workforce to be globally competitive, successful members of society. She is deeply involved with the foundation’s flagship program – Jobs for New Jersey Graduates, assisting high-school students who were once considered at-risk for dropping out of school to graduate and go on to succeed in full-time jobs, the military, or post-secondary education. Throughout her career, her work has centered on education and workforce development initiatives including major fundraising campaigns and program design and implementation for system reform. Custard serves on a number of boards and committees pertaining to these areas including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Education, Employment and Training Committee; the NJBIA’s Post-Secondary Education Taskforce; New Jersey STEM Pathways Network; and more. She is a sought-after speaker and recognized for her work, including being a past honoree on this list.

Gregory Dell’Omo

Dell’Omo has served as Rider University’s seventh president since 2015. During that time, he has overseen a variety of innovative programs and initiatives such as Our Path Forward – the university’s comprehensive multiyear strategic plan; Lifting Barriers – a series of measures intended to strengthen the overall value of a Rider education; the Cranberry Investment program; as well as major fundraising hauls and projects on the physical campus. In May, he was named chair of the Audit Committee for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which includes an appointment to the NAICU Executive Committee. “The organization is a critical advocate for private, nonprofit higher education institutions and works to ensure that all students, regardless of income, have access to higher education,” said Dell’Omo. “It is an honor to be represented among all these incredible leaders in education,” said Dell’Omo last year in a statement announcing his inclusion on last year’s Power 50 list. “I share this honor with all of my colleagues at Rider who make it such a special place. Our students thrive because of the support they receive from Rider’s dedicated community.”

John Farmer Jr.

Since 2019, Farmer has led the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University – a leading voice and barometer on state and national political issues. The Institute politics through research, education and public service, linking study with its day-to-day practice. The academic institute branches out to an array of centers, such as the Center for American Women and Politics, which focuses on studying and promoting greater female participation in public life; the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling that gauges both state and nationwide opinion on public issues; and the Center on the American Governor, which researches and examines the role of the state executives in politics and government. Farmer also continues his leadership of the Miller Center on Policing and Community Resilience, which he has led since its inception in 2015. His career has spanned private practice and the public sector including high-profile government positions and appointments such as serving as New Jersey’s attorney general from 1999 to 2002 and as senior counsel and team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Farmer, who decided earlier in the year to step down, now passes the baton of the director role to Elizabeth Matto, effective Sept. 1.

Nariman Farvardin

The school year is already off to a good start in Hoboken, where Farvardin leads Stevens Institute of Technology as president. Currently in his third term, he was most recently – and unanimously – retained in the post by the school’s board of governors in 2020. This fall, Farvardin welcomed the Class of 2027, selected from a “record-breaking” more than 14,000 applications, a 13% increase over the year prior. In addition to a 5% increase in applicants for the graduate set, Stevens added 30 new faculty members. Meanwhile, Stevens’ construction of the infrastructure to sup-port its growing community continues, including with new classrooms and offices. In September, Stevens also followed up its August placement on The Princeton Review’s best colleges list with the 36th-spot on the Best Colleges in the U.S. list from The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse. The school scored a 96 out of 100 for salary impact compared to similar colleges, tying with Yale, Stanford and Duke universities. All a testament to the transformation Farvardin has led since assuming his role in 2011. In Fiscal Year 2023, Stevens secured $76.6 million in research awards, besting a record set the previous year; for 2024, already more than $17 million has been collected. Over the summer, the school netted nearly $1 million from the federal government that will go toward amplifying research computing infrastructure to support initiatives in AI, flood protection and fintech. Farvardin has also been recognized for the infrastructure he’s helped to build behind the scenes at Stevens. Last month, he was recognized with the Chief Executive HR Champion Award, honoring a president or chancellor of a higher education institution who has demonstrated significant sup-port for their school’s human resources department. In the announcement, the organization noted “Stevens’ institutional transformation during his tenure as president.”

Aaron Fichtner

The New Jersey Council of County Colleges supports the state’s 18 such institutions, which together enroll more than 180,000 people each year across credit, non-credit and workforce development courses across upwards of 70 campuses. Fichtner, a former New Jersey labor and workforce development commissioner, is the president of NJCCC, where he has expanded collaboration among community colleges as well as built partnerships with statewide organizations. The school’s commitment to helping the state reach its goal of hitting 65% post-secondary attainment for New Jerseyans by 2025 is underscored in its Vision 2028 framework, putting people on the path to education. In 2021, NJCCC, with the NJBIA, launched another path with a program to connect residents with work; since then, the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities Initiative has engaged more than 1,200 industry and education partners in addition to connecting and enhancing 22 education and training initiatives to four fast-growing industries. And the program is seeking to continue that growth. At the start of the summer, Fichtner welcomed nearly 200 attendees to the two-day New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities Summit in Atlantic City. “[W]e are charting the course for the future of the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities Initiative,” he said. “Building on the momentum of the first year … our conversations with these experts will help us solidify a strong, flexible, and sustainable infrastructure of collaboration that engages industry and education partners across the state to align education to build an innovative workforce.”

Perry Halkitis

Halkitis is dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, Hunterdon Professor of Public Health & Health Equity, and distinguished professor of biostatistics and epidemiology as well as the founder and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies and a primary member of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Global Health Institute. He was elected chair-elect of the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health, beginning a three-year term in March 2022 leading the strategic vision of the board of directors as chair-elect, chair and immediate past chair over the term. Appropriately, Halkitis takes a public-facing approach to his work. Readers perhaps recognize him from media appearances and efforts to spread awareness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Halkitis also took a public stand in December when the School of Public Health announced it would leave Twitter in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform. Over the summer, he offered context in a piece praising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to update its blood donation policy to allow gay and bisexual men to contribute – changing a policy “rooted in antiquated science regarding HIV, as well as, in ignorance and hate,” that he – and others – have actively lobbied against since its enactment in the 1980s. Though he noted the shift was “long overdue, yet imperfect,” Halkitis said the move was “a huge step forward in our fight to destigmatize the lives of gay and bisexual men and the LGBTQ+ populations more broadly.” This past spring, Halkitis was recognized by the New Jersey Public Health Association with its highest honor, the Dennis J. Sullivan Award.

Merodie Hancock

Thomas Edison State University serves a “diverse population, where most students are older,” TESU President Hancock, the school’s fourth leader, explained to NJBIZ earlier this year. “They’re in a different place, compared to many other students. But TESU was founded, 50 years ago, in complete alignment with a career orientation, with a mission of filling in the gaps, especially for adult students. So we’ve always balanced the academic approach with the practitioner’s approach.” And in its 51st year, TESU is still taking those steps for its students. In Fiscal Year 2022, the university awarded more than 250,000 credits through a variety of prior learning assessments and introduced new financial initiatives. The Garden State Guarantee offers full-time students no tuition costs if they have an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less during their third and fourth year of study, while GO-TESU scholarships started in September—marking the first time the school has had state-funded financial assistance for students taking fewer than 12 credits. In addition to state supported aid, the university recently disbursed the largest ever amount of private scholarship monies raised by its foundation, with more than $563,000 going out to over 400 students. On the horizon, and marking one of the largest grants its ever received, TESU will use $2.8 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand nursing in high-need areas—a concern locally with an estimated 14,000 open nursing positions in the state, and more broadly across the U.S. The program seeks to support public-private partnerships that expand and diversify that workforce, with a particular focus on developing professional pathways for frontline mental health professionals to advance in their careers.

Richard Helldobler

In 2018, Helldobler assumed the presidency of Wayne-based William Paterson University – one of the state’s largest and diverse public universities. He brings more than 30 years of higher education experience to the role and, like many William Paterson students, is a first-generation student of immigrant heritage. Since taking the helm as the school’s eighth president, Helldobler has established new programs to expand access, increase retention and completion and make the university more equitable and inclusive. Some of the efforts he has spearheaded include the Pledge 4 Success program, which fills the gap between tuition and fees and aid for qualifying students; the implementation of new first-year experience program; an expansion of the Wayne campus; the launch of WP Online; and more. Last month, William Paterson announced the establishment of a dedicated School of Nursing as its program has grown to one of the largest in the state and amid staffing shortages in the sector, with Dr. Minerva Salinas Guttman serving as founding associate dean. “Our nursing programs have experienced tremendous growth in recent years, demonstrating how vital William Paterson and our graduates are to the future of New Jersey health care,” Helldobler said in a statement. “[O]our new School of Nursing will allow us to sustain and leverage that growth to expand strategic partnerships with health care providers and better serve our students and alumni.”

June Huh

A mathematics professor at Princeton University, Huh made headlines last fall as one of the 25 recipients of a fellowship so prestigious it’s informally known as the “genius grant.” Joining a cohort that includes scientists, authors, artists and activists who have demonstrated exceptional originality and dedication to their creative pursuits, Huh was selected as a 2022 MacArthur Fellow for “reinvigorating the field of geometric combinators and inspiring a new generation of mathematicians” through his “innovative approach and fruitful collaborations with others” and will receive a no-strings-attached $800,000 grant over the next five years. Born in California, Huh and his family moved to Seoul, South Korea, where his father taught statistics and his mother taught Russian literature. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Seoul National University and a PhD from the University of Michigan. Despite having won numerous accolades, Huh didn’t always have an interest in math. As a child, Huh enjoyed puzzles and logic games, but did not like math as it was taught in school. While he did well in most subjects, Huh did not excel in math and even briefly dropped out of high school to become a poet, according to The New York Times. However, his outlook on math changed after meeting Heisuke Hironaka, the 1970 recipient of the most prestigious prize in mathematics – the Fields Medal – as an undergraduate. Prior to joining the Princeton faculty in 2021, Huh held positions at Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Study.