John Bassett, Ph.D., is a scholar, author, professor of American literature, and the second president of Heritage University. He took office in July 2010 after a long and distinguished career in academia. Here, he strives to maintain the university’s core values and mission while raising quality, creating higher expectations for all, and re-branding the school as one where all students from the Yakima Valley will find a high quality education.
Bassett has lead the university through the expansion of its campus, to include the construction of four new permanent facilities, with two additional buildings opening in the fall 2016. He opened three university research centers: The Center for a New Washington, the Center for Native Health and Culture and the Heritage University Language Center. He has led the university through the expansion of its academic offerings to include two robust master’s degree programs in the health sciences (Master of Arts in Medical Sciences and Master of Science in Physician Assistant), and undergraduate programs in environmental sciences and studies, early childhood studies, pre-engineering, medical sciences, as well as the establishment of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program. Additionally, he raised the number of Ph.D. level full-time faculty to the highest it has been since the university’s founding.
Bassett has been active nationally, serving on multiple higher education boards and committees. He served as the 2010-11 Chair of the NAICU Board of Directors, and worked tirelessly as a member of its Accountability Committee. He also served as the 2014 board chair of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and served three years on the Commission on Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity for American Council on Education.
As a member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ President’s Trust, Bassett was at the forefront of a movement among higher education leaders who advocated for a strong liberal education. The President’s Trust endeavored to offer students “significantly expanded economic opportunities, while also fostering intellectual resilience, civic capacity and knowledge of the wider world.”
In 2016, Bassett was recognized for his lifetime of achievements by the National Association of Independent College and Universities. He was awarded the 30th Annual Henry Paley Memorial Award, which recognizes an individual who embodies his spirit of unfailing service toward the students and faculty of independent higher education. The recipients of this award have set an example for all who would seek to advance educational opportunity in the United States.
Prior to taking the presidency at Heritage, Bassett served as the president of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. There, he oversaw significant improvements to academic quality, campus infrastructure, fundraising and strategic planning, including upgrades in information technology and alumni programs, recruiting 83 new faculty members, surpassing a $100 million capital campaign goal by $6 million, building a new science facility, and renovating several other key buildings on campus. He also oversaw the university’s partnership with the innovative University Park Campus School, a small urban public school (grades 7 through 12) that was recognized as one of the 100 best public high schools in the country. Through the University Park Partnership and the Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, Clark demonstrated that a high quality liberal arts research university can extend its resources outward in ways to improve both a city and a college, and to develop a brand attractive to hundreds of perspective students each year.
Prior to his service at Clark, Bassett was the founding Dean of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), bringing together the sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts into a single college. Previously, the center of the university consisted of its professional schools with the basic arts and sciences relegated to a secondary role. In addition to bringing a planned $50 million campaign home at $93 million, he succeeded in making the new college recognized as a very important core part of CWRU.
Bassett earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Rochester and completed master’s and bachelor’s degrees at Ohio Wesleyan University. He spent 14 years teaching and researching American Literature on the faculty at Wayne State University before becoming Head of the Department of English at North Carolina State University from 1984 to 1993. His eleven books and more than 30 articles include contributions to the understanding of William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Mark Twain, Southern Writers and the Harlem Renaissance.