Michael P. Riccards

Michael P. Riccards (born October 2, 1944 in Elizabeth, New Jersey) is an American political scientist, writer, and professor. Riccards has been the president of three American colleges and has written extensively on public policy, the American political process, and the history of the American presidency. His book The Ferocious Engine of Democracy was praised by Bill Clinton. He currently serves as executive director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey.

Riccards grew up in New Jersey and received his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University; he finished his formal studies in 1970. Riccards was named a Fulbright Fellow to Japan in 1973 and a Henry Huntington Fellow in California in 1974. In 1975, he joined Princeton University as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in religion. His main interests were political socialization and political behavior; he used stage theory in his research to learn how children get their political and later religious values.

In 1976, he was named the dean of the merged college of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston. As an administrator, he increased the numbers of minority students in the arts and sciences, and helped create a minority pre-med program. Five years later, he became provost and academic vice president at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Riccards worked to re-establish sabbaticals for faculty, which had been abolished systemwide during the 1970s. He revamped the school-deaconal structure, and created the college's first doctoral programs. He also taught political science for three years.

Riccards became president of St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986. He worked to build a new library for the school, and served on the New Mexico Council for Humanities. In 1989, he left for the presidency of Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), a liberal arts college in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. Riccards established a new science and technology building built with Federal funds, and planned the Senator Robert C. Byrd Center as part of a renovation of the library. Riccards also served on the National Skill Standards Board.

In 1995, Riccards became president of Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, which had difficulties with low academic standards and low dormitory occupancy rates. He raised academic standards in the school's much-criticized teacher education program and started a leadership program for students, including classes in leadership. Riccards convinced then-Governor William Weld to support construction of a new physical education building and committed it to community use. He also backed a new science complex to help re-develop the city of Fitchburg. The college named its baseball field for Riccards in 2007.

After leaving Fitchburg State in 2002, Riccards became the College Board’s Public Policy Scholar in Residence in Washington, D. C., and was the College Board's representative to both the National Governors Association and the National State Legislatures Association. He backed the creation of an Advanced Placement course to celebrate the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education; the course was put on the Board’s website. Riccards also visited the assistant superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools to advocate Board programs aimed at high school predation; prior to Riccards' visit, the College Board had little patience and no success with the school bureaucracy. Riccards wrote a history of the College Board, and successfully lobbied Congress to increase its Advanced Placement subsidy to $25 million. Riccards' efforts with Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans enroll in CLEP courses were also successful.

After three years at the College Board, Riccards moved back to his native New Jersey and became the first executive director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy - New Jersey in Trenton. At the Hall Institute, he worked on creating a website, Hallnj.org, established a television forum, a radio show, and published four volumes of essays from the website. He was named the New Jersey representative on the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and headed up the state commission. He published a volume of his collected plays, and one of them on Lincoln became a musical produced by Genevieve Fraser on behalf of the Drama Circle in Massachusetts (2012).

He is married and has three children and three grandchildren.


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