Dr. Edward Montgomery is the ninth president of Western Michigan University. A nationally recognized labor economist, educator and administrator who played major roles in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, President Montgomery today spearheads initiatives at Western that help students ignite their purpose, explore their well-being and prosper in an ever-changing world. In a nationally historic boost to these efforts overseen by Dr. Montgomery, the University received the largest gift ever made for a public university.
Dr. Montgomery joined Western on Aug. 1, 2017, from Georgetown University, where he served as founding dean and professor of economics at the McCourt School of Public Policy. Under Dr. Montgomery’s leadership, Western has launched initiatives focused on student success, revitalizing the South Campus neighborhood, the development of a new budget model impacting all areas of campus, and the implementation of the revised core curriculum, WMU Essential Studies. As part of his commitment to helping students complete their studies, he implemented a targeted grant program to assist financially at-risk students.
In June 2021, he made the groundbreaking announcement that Western had received a $550 million donation called the Empowering Futures Gift—a contribution that lays the groundwork for a new era of college education. Empowering Futures allows Western to open the doors to higher education for all students who have the talent and determination to succeed through scholarships and comprehensive support. The focus of Empowering Futures is to create pipelines for success, pathways to graduation, increase retention and improve student resilience.
In his own pursuit of higher education, Dr. Montgomery earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, with honors, from Pennsylvania State University and both master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard University. In 2011, he was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and was selected for induction to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the academy and the field of public affairs. In 2022, he was named one of the top 10 most influential black economists from the last 30 years by Academic Influence.
Over an academic career that now spans some 40 years, Dr. Montgomery has held faculty positions at Carnegie Mellon and Michigan State universities as well as the University of Maryland, winning teaching awards some five times over the years. During his tenure at Maryland, he served for six years—2003-2009—as dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
During President William Clinton’s administration, Dr. Montgomery held a number of positions including chief economist and deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. In the latter role, the department’s second highest position, he oversaw operations of a $33 billion federal department. During President Barack Obama’s administration, Dr. Montgomery was a member of the president’s auto task force and led the inter-agency White House Council for Auto Communities and Workers.
As a researcher, Dr. Montgomery has focused on state and local economic growth, wage and pension determination, savings behavior, productivity and economic dynamics, social insurance programs, and unions. In 2022, he contributed a chapter in the Oxford Press publication “Work and the Social Safety Net: Labor Activation in Europe and the United States” on lessons for labor policy in the aftermath of the Great Recession. For more than two decades, he has been a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and since 2006, he has been a fellow of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.
Dr. Montgomery has served as an advisor to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the National Science Foundation and on the Comptroller General’s Educators Advisory Committee for the General Accountability Office. He serves on the board of directors of the Center for Law and Social Policy, First National Bank of Michigan and Southwest Michigan First. He also serves on the Committee on Economic Statistics for the American Economic Association.
Dr. Montgomery and his wife, Kari, a Michigan native, have three grown children—Lindsay, Elizabeth and Edward.