Skip to main content Skip to main navigation Skip to footer content

Farewell to President John D. Welty


About the President

Since becoming president on July 29, 1991, Dr. John D. Welty has extended Fresno State’s regional and global reach, cultivated unprecedented private financial support and promoted diversity, innovation, service, enterprise and engagement as foundations for the future.

A native of Amboy, Illinois, Welty was the first in his family to go to college. He earned his bachelor’s degree in social science from Western Illinois University in 1965; a master’s in college student personnel services from Michigan State in 1967; and a doctorate in administration of higher education from Indiana University in 1974.

He was an admissions counselor at Michigan State and a student affairs administrator at Southwest State University in Minnesota, State University of New York, Albany, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he became president in 1984. Seven years later, Welty succeeded President Harold H. Haak at Fresno State.

Welty’s energy was contagious from the start as was his belief that the university should leverage its academic and research resources in service to the greater community. He made it clear to community leaders that Fresno State welcomed partnerships and financial support and was willing to make curriculum changes to serve regional needs of the region. Centers and institutes were established to focus on regional challenges: health care issues, socio-economic inequities, local real estate and land-use planning, innovation and entrepreneurship, water resources, regional economic development and effective political service.

The building pace picked up and since his arrival in 1991, buildings valued at hundreds of millions of dollars have been added to the campus. The privately financed Save Mart Center is a state-of-the-art regional sports and cultural venue. A new, $105 million Library is a stunning architectural statement and will serve campus and community needs deep into the 21st century. The Smittcamp Alumni House opened to campus visitors. A Student Recreation Center was built as were facilities for student-athletes to provide study space and new competition venues. Campus Pointe – a unique private housing-retail-hotel-theater development – was being constructed. New parking structures were topped with solar panels generating 20 percent of the campus’ electricity demand.

During Welty’s tenure, Fresno State completed a major campus planning effort, launched initiatives to extend, modify and sustain academic offerings and undertook a major commitment to information technology. He encouraged service learning and volunteerism campuswide, improved and broadened services for students, streamlined administrative processes.

Minority enrollment expanded, the Smittcamp Family Honors College was created, University High School became the first charter high school on a California State University campus and new graduate-degree programs were established, including an independent doctorate in educational leadership and a doctor of nursing practice degree. The campus initiated a joint doctorate of physical therapy with University of California, San Francisco, with plans for an independent doctorate.

Under his leadership, the university extended opportunities for women student-athletes and added intercollegiate sports, but also dropped others. Sanctions for violations of NCAA rules and a series of high-profile lawsuits were cleared up and the program was set on solid footing. Welty led the campus intercollegiate athletics programs first into the Western Athletic Conference (1992) and then the Mountain West Conference (2012).

Welty has been actively involved in CSU system strategic planning, accountability, gender equity, emergency credentialing and alcohol programs. He has chaired three national conferences on substance abuse and prevention. He has served on advisory groups to the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture and chaired the Renaissance Group, a national organization of universities dedicated to improved teacher education programs. He served as commissioner and chair of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges senior accrediting commission and chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities board. He served on the board, committees and task forces of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Closer to home, Welty led establishment of the Fresno Business Council, the Central Valley Business Incubator, the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, the Collaborative Regional Initiative, the Regional Jobs Initiative and several other partnerships. He earned state and national educational leadership awards and the Fresno Business Council’s Excellence in Public Service Award in 2003.

Welty’s fundraising legacy includes the Craig School of Business, Kremen School of Education and Human Development, Lyles College of Engineering and Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, the Smittcamp Family Honors College and the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. He also encouraged the Campaign for Fresno State – the university’s first comprehensive fundraising effort – seeking to help assure the university’s excellence in its second century.