Michael Schwartz, Kent State’s Ninth President, Dies at 86

Schwartz is being remembered as a calming force who oversaw creation of the May 4 Memorial

The Kent State University community is remembering the legacy of its ninth president, Michael Schwartz, Ph.D., who died on Jan. 2, 2024, following a long illness. He was 86. 

Schwartz served as president from 1982 to 1991. He arrived at Kent State in March 1976, to serve as vice president for graduate studies and research. Schwartz also was a professor of sociology and psychology.

In 1977, then-President Brage Golding appointed Schwartz acting vice president for academic and student affairs. The following spring, he was appointed permanently to the position. In the summer of 1977, before Golding’s arrival, Schwartz had served as acting president following the departure of Kent State’s seventh President Glenn A. Olds.  

Schwartz was given the additional title of provost in 1980, making him the second most senior officer of the university. He became Kent State's ninth president in 1982, following Golding’s departure. In all, Schwartz spent 25 years at Kent State in various roles. Following his retirement as president of the university in 1991, he continued to teach at Kent State for 10 years.

During his time as president, Schwartz presided over the opening of the Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute, the Kent State University Museum of Fashion and the Athletic Field House. The Shannon Rodgers/Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising also was established during his tenure. In addition, he is remembered as a steadying force in the years following the May 4, 1970, shootings and numerous ensuing legal actions, and he oversaw the creation of the May 4 Memorial. 

"Our community is saddened to learn of President Schwartz’s passing," said Kent State University President Todd Diacon. "So much of what today makes us a beacon of student access, degree completion and research excellence originated with advances implemented during his administration. I will miss his wise counsel, great wit, and endless humanity."

Schwartz arrived at Kent State amid the legal battle over the university’s plan to extend the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center annex into an area where the shootings had occurred. In November 2008, Schwartz was interviewed for the May 4 Oral History Project, (read or listen to Schwartz’s full oral history) where he recalled the difficulty of the times and detailed his role in the creation of the memorial. 

Illinois Native 

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Schwartz earned three degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1958, a master's in labor and industrial relations in 1959 and a doctorate in sociology in 1962.  

From 1962 to 1976, Schwartz taught psychology and sociology at Wayne State University, Indiana University and Florida Atlantic University. He served as Dean of the College of Social Sciences at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, before joining Kent State. 

He stepped down from the presidency of Kent State on March 15, 1991, turning over the reins to Carol Cartwright, Ph.D., who assumed the President’s Office the following day. Schwartz used his retirement to return to the classroom, teaching graduate courses in higher education administration and statistical methods at Kent State. Following his retirement, the Michael Schwartz Center administrative building on Summit Street at Kent State was named in his honor. 

Three former Kent State Presidents
Left to right: Former Kent State University Presidents Carol Cartwright, Lester Lefton and Michael Schwartz

Cleveland State Innovator 

In 2002, Schwartz was tapped to serve as president of Cleveland State University, after serving the prior year as Cleveland State’s interim president. He remained Cleveland State president until June 2009.  

Schwartz had a robust seven years at Cleveland State, where he phased out open admissions for college undergraduates, oversaw a major rise in the bar passing rate of Cleveland-Marshall School of Law graduates and implemented other reforms. During his tenure, new student housing, a new student center and new administration buildings were constructed, while existing classroom buildings received major renovations.  

At Cleveland State, the library bears his name. 

Distinguished Service 

Outside of Kent State and Cleveland State, Schwartz had served as a trustee of the Ohio Aerospace Institute, Central State University and the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (now known as the Northeast Ohio Medical University or NEOMED).  

Schwartz published on the social psychology of adolescent deviant behavior and, with Sheldon Stryker, was the author of the first monograph published by the American Sociological Association in the Arnold and Carolyn Rose Monograph Series. In 2005, he co-authored "The Chief Purpose of Universities." 

He was a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools consultant-evaluator corps and its Accreditation Review Council. Schwartz also served on the Association of Governing Boards' Commission on Strengthening the Academic Presidency and was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  

Youngstown State University awarded him the Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities presented him with its Distinguished Service Award. 


POSTED: Tuesday, January 2, 2024 12:44 PM
Updated: Tuesday, January 9, 2024 10:40 AM
Lisa Abraham