A new biography titled John X. Jamrich: The Man and the University was presented to the 94-year-old president emeritus at last night’s official dedication of Jamrich Hall. The well-timed gift was written by university historian Russ Magnaghi, with electronic publishing assistance from student James Shefnik. All three are pictured reviewing a copy at the history department offices in Cohodas Hall.
Jamrich was the eighth president of NMU, serving from 1968 until he retired in 1983. His tenure was marked by tremendous growth in enrollment, academic programs and community outreach. The physical campus grew as well, with construction of the Learning Resources Center, Jacobetti Skills Center, PEIF and Cohodas Hall. It was also a time of new university-business partnerships, the start of women’s athletics, student protests, union organization and—near the end of his term—financial hardship due to state budget cuts.
“John was personally on top of everything during his presidency,” Magnaghi said. “In fact, it’s hard to find things that were happening on campus during his administration that he wasn’t involved in. He wasn’t concerned about looking for another job and was completely devoted to NMU. He fulfilled the philosophy of Edgar Harden of turning Northern into a quality undergraduate/graduate institution. The university was and remains an integral part of his life. John and his wife, June, live in Florida now, but they have maintained a strong connection to Northern over the years and support the DeVos Art Museum. He’s an active musician and even wrote a 10-minute composition for the NMU centennial.”
Magnaghi said the idea for the book originated several years ago, when he and former president David Haynes discussed putting together a series of biographies on various NMU presidents.
“I said I would do the book on Jamrich because I’ve been in regular communication with him for about 20 years,” Magnaghi said. “I had also done audio interviews with NMU presidents from Edgar Harden forward, so I have their words down and can go through the records at the Archives for additional information. That’s how it developed and we wanted to get the Jamrich biography done before the dedication. My goal was to write an objective account of the challenges and achievements of his administration. This will be the first in a series of biographies on NMU presidents.”
The book explores Jamrich’s personal background as well. He was born in Muskegon Heights, but spent several years on a farm in his parents’ native Slovakia. Magnaghi said Jamrich is fluent in multiple languages, from Slovak and Bohemian to German. He also learned Russian while working with the U.S. Army Air Corps in Alaska. Jamrich was a liaison weather officer, translating forecasts to the Soviet squadron during World War II.
John X. Jamrich: The Man and the University is available on Lulu.com.