Neil D. Theobald started out like many Temple Owls. Born to working-class parents, he was the first person in his family to attend college, and could only afford his education because of a scholarship paid for by philanthropic donors. Today, he is a recognized expert on educational finance and the president of one of the nation’s up and coming urban research universities.
Since Theobald became Temple’s president on January 1, 2013, the university has reached several milestones. The first class of new freshmen and transfer students in Theobald’s tenure was the most academically qualified incoming class in Temple history. The first fundraising year Theobald oversaw broke records for philanthropy. And when overall national research funding declined, Temple experienced a double-digit increase in research awards. At the same time, the diversity of the student body grew, and Temple increased its ranking among institutions of higher education.
In his role as president, Theobald implemented several changes that helped make those achievements possible. He introduced a decentralized budgeting model to reduce costs and improve efficiency. He hired more than 60 new tenure and tenure-track faculty members; a new provost; six new deans; and four new vice presidents. And he launched Visualize Temple, a campus master planning process.
One of Theobald’s signature initiatives is Fly in 4, a partnership between Temple and incoming freshmen to help students fast-track their futures and limit their debt. In his inaugural address, Theobald also outlined Six Commitments that will define Temple’s future.
Under Theobald’s leadership, Temple has emerged as an innovative leader in public higher education with bold, cutting-edge strategies to reduce student debt and improve student learning. Theobald is recognized as a national expert on higher education finance. His research interests in the role of decentralization in educational financing and in modeling educational labor markets have resulted in more than $1.5 million in funded research, as well as many published articles, books and reports.
Theobald came to Temple after a successful career at Indiana University, where he was named senior vice president in 2007. Previously, he served as senior vice provost at the university’s flagship campus in Bloomington and as special assistant to IU’s president.
A native of Peoria, Illinois, Theobald planned to enter an electrician’s apprenticeship after high school. However, donors to Trinity College in Connecticut made it possible for him to pursue higher education, and Theobald earned a bachelor’s degree there in 1978. He later earned a doctoral degree in educational finance from the University of Washington in 1988.
Dr. Theobald and his wife, Sheona Mackenzie, have three adult children: Roddy, Kinnear and Mattie. In his inaugural address in October 2013, Theobald said that the college education he received “has carried me every day since.”
“More importantly, it put my children on paths to pursue their dreams as university professors, physicians and wherever else their talents and desires lead them. That is the impact of a college education.”