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Digital History at Ursinus

John Strassburger: 1995-2010


John Strassburger was the 12th president of Ursinus College from 1995-2010. He was born in Wisconsin in 1942, and during his childhood worked as a steel worker and machinist. He enrolled in Bates college for his undergraduate education and originally majored in math. However, he struggled in this discipline and soon switched to hisory, which suited him better. Strassburger attended Cambridge University, where he recieved his masters degree, and Princeton, where he recieved a PhD. He first taught at Hiram College in Ohio, where he had the chance to work with the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC. He then moved to Knox College in Illinois, where he was initially a professor of history and a dean, but later became the Colleges president. In the early 1990s, Strassburger caught the attention of a search comittee from Ursinus that was searching for a new president. After a series of correspondences, Strassburger was named as the new president of Ursinus and began his tenure in January 1995. THis section discusses two of Strassburgers most significant acheivments: CIE and the Laptop program

When John Strassburger gave his inauguration speech in 1995, he announced his bold vision for Ursinus' future. In his address he discussed how the college needed to embrace the founding principles of the college while moving into the 21st century by creating new programs and building on current ones. Strassburger envisioned Ursinus as a 'city upon a hill' for liberal education. The following are excerpts from Strassburgers speech.

John Strassburger Inauguration speech

Laptop Initiative

One of the most significant changes during John Strassburgers administration was the introduction of the laptop program in the fall of 2000, which provided each student with a Thinkpad laptop. After two years, the laptop had to be traded in for a new one, and when a student graduated they had the choice of buying thierr laptop or returning it. Initially, Ursinus . The following documents include letters written by John Strassburger regarding the laptop program as well as Grizzly articles discussing the initiative.

Common Intellectual Experience

The Common Intellectual Experience was another major development during Strassburgers administration. The program began in the fall of 1999, one year before the introduction of the laptop program. CIE is a seminar taken by freshman which is designed to ask key philosophical questions such as: what does it mean to be human? and discusses the work of authors from Plato to Karl Marx. The following documents include articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Ursinus Grizzly discussing the nature of the program as well as its benefits and criticisms. 


Upon his retirement in 2010, John Strassburger left a significant mark on the Ursinus Community. His policies transformed liberal education at Ursinus by implementing new courses such as CIE and building on the science programs on campus. In addition, he bolstered the performing arts by constructing the Kaleidoscope Performing arts center. The following documents contain excerpts from two speeches given in honor of Strassburgers retirement at an event in the Blackbox theatre in the Kaleidescope and dicuss the numerous accomplishments of his administration. The first speech was given by Spencer Foreman, the chairman of the board of trustees, and the second by Robert Dawley, a professor of Biology.