President, Heritage University
In July 2010 John Bassett became the second President of Heritage University, following the 28-year term of Founding President Kathleen Ross snjm. He came to Heritage from Clark University, where he served as President 2000-2010. A native of Washington, DC, Bassett received his education at Ohio Wesleyan University (BA in History) and University of Rochester (PhD in English). For many years he has taught and done research in American Literature. His eleven books and thirty-some articles include contributions to the understanding of William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Mark Twain, Southern Writers, and the Harlem Renaissance. His professional involvement has included chairing the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Bassett spent fourteen years on the faculty at Wayne State University before becoming Head of the Department of English at North Carolina State University from 1984 to 1993. He believes his three most important contributions as an administrator have come at Case Western Reserve University, Clark University, and Heritage University. At CWRU (1993-2000) he served as founding Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, bringing together the sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts into a single college. Prior to that time, the center of the university clearly consisted of its professional schools with the basic arts and sciences being often relegated to a secondary role. In addition to bringing a $50 million campaign home at $93 million, he did succeed in making the new college recognized as a very important core part of CWRU.
At Clark (2000-2010) Bassett built on earlier leadership of his predecessor, Richard Traina, and helped the university be recognized as, in Senator Ted Kennedy’s words, “the national model for how a university should relate to and interact with its community.” Through the University Park Partnership and the Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, Clark demonstrated that a high quality liberal arts research university can extend its resources outward in ways to improve both city and college and to develop a brand attractive to hundreds of high school seniors.
After retiring from Clark, Bassett took on the challenge of advancing Heritage to a new level. Sister Kathleen Ross, a widely acknowledged leader and MacArthur Award winner, had built Heritage to provide access to higher education to underserved populations, mostly Latino and Native American, in the Yakima Valley. Bassett’s challenge has been to maintain the core values and mission of Heritage while raising quality, creating higher expectations for all, and re-branding the school as one where all students from the Yakima Valley will find a high quality education. Its College of Education and Psychology meanwhile has become acknowledged as a state leader in preparation of teachers and in English-language-learner education; and it is building similar recognition in educational leadership and administration, and in early childhood education. New or growing programs in, for example, health care, environmental studies, and business have provided many opportunities for young people growing up in one of the most economically disadvantaged rural areas of America.