“The outstanding college education I received has carried me every day since.
More importantly, it put my children on paths to pursue their dreams.
That is the impact of a college education."
– President Theobald’s inaugural address
Dr. Neil Theobald was named Temple University’s 10th president in August 2012. In partnership with an excellent faculty and talented staff, he leads a university that educates more than 38,000 students, employs 15,000 faculty and staff, and operates one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers.
Temple has achieved several milestones in Dr. Theobald’s first three years:
It has also enrolled record numbers of students, with the past two freshman classes being the most academically qualified and diverse entering classes in Temple history.
Temple has been nationally recognized by Kiplinger’s as one of the best values among public universities.
These achievements have been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, in The Chronicle of Higher Education and in other major media outlets. Additionally, Philadelphia Business Journal named Dr. Theobald its Most Admired Education CEO in 2015.
Dr. Theobald has laid out six commitments that guide university resource allocation.
1. Maintain affordability and commit Temple to be at the forefront of quality undergraduate instruction. Address head-on the issue of time to degree, which is the primary determinant of student debt at public universities. In his innovative Fly in 4 initiative, students are guaranteed the ability to graduate in four years, keeping their debt to a minimum.
2. Tell the Temple story. Temple’s reputation has not kept pace with its outstanding performance and red-hot rankings. Telling the Temple story will help people understand how truly excellent Temple is.
3. Share Temple’s greatest strengths—the expertise, creativity and energy of its faculty, researchers and students—to address Philadelphia’s two perennial problems: indigent healthcare and P–12 education.
4. Drive the regional economy through Temple’s research enterprise.
5. Maintain and increase the diversity that the university is known for. One avenue to do so is the Temple Option, under which 1,000 freshmen are admitted each year without standardized test scores.
6. Educate innovators across the university, so Temple’s future alumni remain flexible and productive in a fast-paced, rapidly changing world.
He also has decentralized the university budget to reduce costs and improve efficiency. In addition, Dr. Theobald launched Visualize Temple, a planning process that seeks to transform the university’s central campus.
Impact of a college education
Dr. Theobald started out like many Temple Owls: Born to working-class parents in Peoria, Illinois, he planned to enter an electrician’s apprenticeship after high school. However, he won an academic scholarship to Trinity College in Connecticut and became the first person in his family to attend college, earning his BA in economics in 1978. After teaching mathematics and coaching high school baseball, he earned a PhD in education finance from the University of Washington in 1988, winning the Jean Flanigan Award from the American Education Finance Association for the outstanding doctoral dissertation.
Dr. Theobald joined the faculty of the University of Washington’s College of Education after receiving his PhD. He helped create the Danforth administrator training program at UW, now in its 27th year of operation. His research focused on decentralizing educational funding and modeling educational labor markets. He received the University Council for Educational Administration’s Jack Culbertson Award for the most significant contributions by a junior professor and earned tenure in 1993.
Dr. Theobald moved to Indiana University in 1993 to direct the Indiana Education Policy Center, co-funded by the Lilly Endowment and the Indiana General Assembly. His work focused on Indiana’s K–12 school-funding formula. During his research career, Dr. Theobald published nearly 100 articles, books and reports on education funding and related fields, which led to more than $7 million in grants and contracts. He was also a three-time winner of IU’s Teaching Excellence Recognition Award.
From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Theobald was senior vice provost for Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, where he was responsible for the campus’ budget and directed a $1.1 billion capital campaign. Major accomplishments there include adding 120 tenure-track faculty members, increasing the Bloomington Campus financial aid endowment from less than $150 million to more than $550 million and increasing the mean SAT score of IU Bloomington’s incoming class from 1099 to 1203.
From 2007 to 2012, Dr. Theobald was senior vice president and chief financial officer for Indiana University, where he oversaw a $3.1 billion budget, supervision of human resource services for IU’s 3,100 faculty and more than 14,000 staff members, and management of the largest student union in the world and one of the five largest student housing systems in the country. During his time as CFO, IU’s credit ranking was upgraded to Moody’s highest level (Aaa)—making IU one of only eight Aaa-rated public universities in the U.S.
Family and interests
Dr. Theobald enjoys sports—playing intramural softball at Temple each spring—and bicycles to and from work whenever possible. Each fall semester, he and his wife, Sheona Mackenzie, co-teach a freshmen seminar on organizational change. They have three adult children: Roddy, a PhD statistician; Kinnear, a physician; and Mattie, a graduate student. They also have two grandchildren, Jimmy and Lochlynn.