Peter J. McDonough, the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.


Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.

Benoit Cortet

Two early tests of trust and competence were placed before Robert Barchi in his first days as president of Rutgers. He took office in 2012 and was presented with a clear and urgent statutory mandate: make the integration of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers work, and make it meet some pretty lofty goals.

The mandate was set into law after a contentious legislative process, internal struggles at the university, and a healthy dose of public skepticism, all played out against a backdrop described by former Rutgers president Richard L. McCormick as “a culture in which sharp words and hostile criticism are commonplace.”

Simultaneously, the new president was called to lead a statewide campaign to get voter approval of a $750 million bond referendum in the November 2012 election. This was the first higher education bond act in 25 years. Its enactment was among Rutgers’ top priorities. The referendum was approved with an impressive 62.8 percent of the ballots cast.

Those two early tasks were acid tests from our state partners: trials by fire from Trenton. Both of those missions were accomplished and accomplished well. The results speak for themselves.

Rutgers today is a more complete and comprehensive university precisely because the merger worked well. Our student profile has improved; our federal and other external research funding has flourished; and our health care profile grows daily.

Rutgers’ physical environment is today defined by more than $2.5 billion in new construction universitywide. Our new labs and new academic buildings are among the finest in the world. Our physical plant is the stuff of dreams. These are just some of the ambitious goals achieved during president Robert Barchi's tenure leading Rutgers. 

Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.