PARAMUS, N.J. – The Bergen Community College Board of Trustees has named Eric M. Friedman, Ph.D., the eighth president of New Jersey’s largest community college. The board announced his hiring to a three-year contract at the Dec. 1. meeting of the College’s governing body. Friedman will begin his tenure on Jan. 1, 2021.
“Dr. Eric Friedman brings with him an impressive resume of supporting student and institutional success - right here in northern New Jersey,” Board of Trustees Chair Dorothy Blakeslee said. “Dr. Friedman has the experience, temperament and academic acumen to lead Bergen, and its students, faculty and staff, into a new era of prosperity and progress. We congratulate him and look forward to watching his collaboration with faculty, staff and students to realize his vision for Bergen.”
Though the trustees, a search committee of faculty, staff and students, College counsel (DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, LLP), and higher education search consultants from the Pauly Group conducted a nationwide search for Bergen’s next president, ultimately, the group did not need to look far to find the ideal candidate. Friedman comes to Bergen after working for 13 years at Hudson County Community College - an institution less than 20 miles away from the College’s main campus in Paramus. This familiarity with the region, experience with New Jersey’s community colleges, and knowledge of Bergen’s resources helped influence the trustees’ decision to select him as president.
“I am incredibly grateful to the board of trustees for their trust and support,” Friedman said. “Bergen Community College is one of the finest in the nation and serves its communities exceedingly well. I am excited to start working with the board, faculty and staff within the College, and the wider community beyond the College’s campuses, to build on Bergen’s tradition of excellence in serving Bergen County residents.”
Friedman worked most recently as the executive vice president and provost/chief operating officer at Hudson County Community College. There, his expansive portfolio of responsibilities included leading the college’s recent reaffirmation of its accreditation, launching an array of new programs in high-demand fields, and overseeing the expansion of a center for online learning as a key area for fiscal sustainability. Friedman also created additional enrollment opportunities by leading the development of off-site locations, expanding early college dual-enrollment programs, and managing the development of Hudson’s first fully-accredited school of nursing. For his support of student success, Friedman earned the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges 2013 Spirit Award and the 2015 Distinguished College Administrator Award from Phi Theta Kappa.
Previously, he taught at a number of public and private colleges, including Drew University, Passaic County Community College, New School University and The Art Institute of New York City. Friedman earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the New School for Social Research, an M.A. in humanities and social thought from New York University, and a B.A. in English from the University of Denver.
A presidential search unlike any other in the College’s history due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the process featured virtual interviews, visits and interaction for all candidates. The process ultimately led the institution to a field of four finalists, including Friedman, who all either served as a president, an executive vice president or a provost at institutions across the U.S.
The unique search conditions serve as a fitting prelude to Friedman’s official Jan. 1, 2021 arrival to a mostly virtual campus. Bergen will offer the majority of its spring 2021 classes remotely, as it has done since March of this year because of the pandemic. Friedman said he plans to “hit the ground listening,” while quickly assessing other strategic priorities critical to students’ success and the College’s progress.
Friedman’s hiring concludes a yearlong search that began when Bergen’s seventh president, Michael D. Redmond, Ph.D., retired Dec. 31, 2019 after serving the institution for nearly 40 years in a variety of roles. Anthony Ross, Ed.D., has guided the College as interim president since Redmond’s retirement.
With Bergen’s establishment in Paramus by the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1963 and its subsequent opening in 1968, eight presidents have led New Jersey’s largest community college, prioritizing access, excellence, and the value of a high-quality community college education. More than 740,000 students have taken classes at Bergen, with countless others visiting for community and cultural events. The College ranks No. 1 in the state for associate degree graduates; alumni have transferred to the country’s most prestigious universities, including all eight Ivy League institutions. Bergen currently enrolls 19,000 students in A.A., A.S., A.A.S., certificate and certificate of achievement programs, noncredit, ESL and professional courses. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education last affirmed Bergen’s accreditation in 2016.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.