Dr. John C. Cavanaugh became chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, effective July 1, 2008. He serves as the chief executive of PASSHE, which operates 14 comprehensive universities with a combined enrollment of more than 110,000 students. The chancellor works with the Board of Governors to recommend and develop overall policies for the State System.
Dr. Cavanaugh previously was president of the 10,500-student University of West Florida in Pensacola, a position he held since 2002. The university has three campuses and also operates nine other locations across Florida's Emerald Coast, as well as 15 institutes and centers and a public radio station and educational television station. Dr. Cavanaugh provided strategic direction for the university, especially in the areas of academic excellence, community engagement, fundraising, economic development, governmental relations and information technology. He redesigned the university's budget and financial control systems and restructured the University Planning Council to ensure more open processes and effective planning. He was also a major proponent of the Community Maritime Park on Pensacola's waterfront, the largest public-private partnership effort in Pensacola's history.
He also served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for three years, during which time he led all academic aspects of the comprehensive university, including budgeting, program development and staffing. He also held various positions at the University of Delaware, including vice provost for academic programs and planning and associate provost for graduate studies. While at Delaware, Dr. Cavanaugh led a broad-based effort on teaching reform, securing a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to enhance and expand problem-based learning approaches to teaching in the social sciences and humanities. The project resulted in the enhanced use of appropriate technology in the classroom and the restructuring of support systems for teaching. The university received a Theodore Hesburgh Award Certificate for Excellence in Faculty Development to Enhance Undergraduate Teaching for the effort.
He began his academic career as an adjunct instructor of psychology at Indiana University at South Bend while completing work on his doctoral degree at Notre Dame. His first permanent appointment was as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University in 1980. He held various appointments at Bowling Green, including head of the developmental psychology program and director of the Institute for Psychological Research and Application. He also was director for behavioral research at the Northwest Ohio Dementia and Memory Center at the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo for five years.
Dr. Cavanaugh attended St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia before earning a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Delaware in 1975. He also holds both a master's degree and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Research in Human Learning and the Institute of Child Development.
He is married to Dr. Christine Kamenjar Cavanaugh. He is an avid traveler and backpacker who enjoys cooking and photography, and is an avowed chocoholic.