person with arms crossed in front of a red brick wall, wearing a suit and smiling at the camera.
Dr. Matthew Shaftel will become Russell Sage College’s 11th president effective July 1, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Shaftel)

After a national search, Dr. Matthew Shaftel has been named the 11th president of Russell Sage College.

Shaftel, who will begin his presidency on July 1 after serving for the last seven years as dean and full professor in Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts, assumes leadership of Russell Sage following the retirement of President Christopher Ames.

“Dr. Shaftel has had a dynamic career in higher education, focused on student success, fundraising, and enrollment growth,” said Russell Sage Board of Trustees Chair Caroline DeCota. “Russell Sage has experienced a profound transformation under Dr. Ames, and as our institution prepares to create its new strategic plan, we believe Dr. Shaftel’s energy, passion, and experience are the perfect mix to take the college into the next chapter.”

Shaftel has served as a higher education leader for nearly two decades, previously as associate vice president at Florida State University and dean and executive of the Princeton campus at Rider University. In his most recent role at Ohio University, he cultivated philanthropic support and spearheaded a transformational $94 million college facilities project. At the same time, he worked collaboratively with faculty to reimagine the college with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, growing enrollment significantly, improving student outcomes, and raising the profile of both the college and the institution.

While at Florida State, he led the development of a signature general education program and helped move the university to the highest U.S. News & World Report ranking in university history (currently No. 23 among public universities).

Shaftel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Master of Philosophy in Music Theory, and Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University and has been highly active as a scholar, publishing numerous articles and books, including two national award-winning volumes published by Oxford University Press and University of Illinois Press. Recognized for his excellence in teaching, he has received three university-wide teaching awards, including a distinguished professor award, and was a finalist for two national accolades. He has served on many not-for-profit boards and developed two award-winning centers for community engagement.

“Russell Sage has laid such a dynamic course for the future, serving as a beacon for social mobility, empowerment, and holistic student development,” Shaftel said. “Russell Sage exemplifies the very ideals of higher education through its Be, Know, Do philosophy, century-long success in blending liberal and professional studies, and tight-knit community of world-class faculty and staff. As president, I am committed to honoring the college’s proud legacy and fortifying its unique comprehensive approach to learning that spans from the classroom to the lab, from the field to the gallery, and extends into the community, to 40,000 alumni and well beyond. It is both an honor and a privilege to follow in the distinguished footsteps of President Christopher Ames as the 11th president of Russell Sage.”

Shaftel is joined by his wife, Dr. Jen Murphy, who serves as the executive director of the undergraduate division at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Murphy brings over 23 years of higher education experience and is looking forward to supporting Russell Sage’s vibrant community. Between them, they have five (almost) adult children: Veronique, Alexandre, Genevieve, Kieran, and Quinn. 

“Jen and I are so energized by the opportunity to engage both within and beyond the Russell Sage College community and to connect the work of the college to the Capital Region. The president is the high tide that raises all ships, and I look forward to bringing my history of authenticity, transparency, and vision to a community that already knows how to work together towards a brighter future.”

Shaftel assumes leadership of Russell Sage at an exciting time, following the addition of more than a half dozen new academic programs, five consecutive years of budget surpluses, an upgrade to a positive financial outlook by the global integrated risk assessment firm Moody’s, and the announcement of a $4 million gift from Donna Robinson Esteves, a 1970 graduate, last fall. In September, U.S. News & World Report once again named Russell Sage a top college in the nation for Social Mobility (No. 15 among national universities) and Best Value (No. 35), surpassing all other local competitors in the national category.

Russell Sage College serves more than 2,100 students in bachelor’s, master’s, post-master’s, and doctoral programs on co-ed campuses in Albany and Troy, New York, as well as online. The Russell Sage experience includes The Gator Gateway, a curated, supported pathway to success for all undergraduate students, and noted programs in the health sciences, education, and the visual and performing arts. A Russell Sage graduate will forever “Be. Know. Do.” – enhancing their lives and the lives of those around them.

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