Welcome to George Mason University

Mason’s Presidents


Ángel Cabrera (2012– ) Dr. Ángel Cabrera was named the sixth president of George Mason University effective July 2012. Mason is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in more than 200 academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Mason provides its 33,000 students from 136 countries access to diverse cultural experiences and some of the most sought-after faculty, internships, and employers in the country. Named a top “Up-and-Coming University” by U.S. News & World Report and a “Best Value in Public Colleges” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, George Mason University is a leading example of a modern, public research university.

Prior to joining George Mason University, Cabrera served as the 11th president of Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona from 2004 to 2012, being designated President Emeritus in April 2012. He was professor and dean of IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, between 1998 to 2004. Thunderbird is regarded as the world’s leading graduate school of international management, and IE Business School has been ranked by the Financial Times among the top 10 business schools in the world. During the last decade, Cabrera pioneered efforts to educate women entrepreneurs in emerging markets and co-founded The Oath Project, an international initiative to establish a code of conduct for business leaders. In 2011 the Financial Times recognized him as one of the top 20 business school leaders in the world.

Cabrera’s expertise in international business and higher education has been recognized by top international organizations. The World Economic Forum named him a “Global Leader for Tomorrow” in 2002 and a “Young Global Leader” in 2005. Two years later, the United Nations asked him to chair the international task force that developed the U.N.’s “Principles for Responsible Management Education.” In 2008, the World Economic Forum appointed him chairman of the Global Agenda Council for promoting entrepreneurship, and The Aspen Institute named him a Henry Crown Fellow. In 2010, he was named topic leader for the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Cabrera is a frequent speaker at prestigious international forums, and he has written numerous papers in leading academic journals. His latest book, Being Global: How to Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World, was published by Harvard Business Review. His views on global leadership, higher education, and corporate citizenship have been quoted by leading global media, including The Economist, Time, CNN, CNBC, El País, Forbes, the International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times. BusinessWeek honored him in 2004 as one of 25 “Stars of Europe.”

Cabrera serves on the board of specialty retailer PetSmart. He also serves on the boards of the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (Fulbright Scholar Program), ESSEC Business School, and the Iberoamerican Academy of Management and the Bankinter Foundation for Innovation in Madrid. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Future Trends Forum in Madrid, and he is the past chairman of the Georgia Tech Advisory Board.

A native of Spain, Cabrera holds BS and MS degrees in engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain’s premier engineering university. He earned MS and PhD degrees in psychology and cognitive science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which he attended as a Fulbright Scholar.


Alan G. Merten (1996–2012) The reputation of George Mason University as a progressive, innovative institution of higher learning continued to gain in strength and scope under the presidency of Alan G. Merten. Becoming the university’s fifth president in July 1996, Merten was instrumental in Mason gaining national and international acclaim for a number of significant initiatives and achievements such as dramatically increasing its basic and applied research activities.

During Merten’s tenure, Mason became the fastest-growing university in Virginia, with student enrollment climbing from 24,000 in 1996 to more than 32,000 in 2012. The quality of Mason’s students at all levels increased dramatically during his tenure. Coinciding with this growth was the emergence of Mason as a vital center of cultural, academic, and athletic activity for the entire Northern Virginia–Washington, D.C., region.

Prior to coming to Mason, Merten was dean of the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University from 1989 to 1996. He was dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Florida from 1986 to 1989, where he also served as a professor of information systems. From 1970 to 1986, he was at the University of Michigan, first as an assistant professor of industrial and operations engineering. Merten rose to the rank of associate dean in the Michigan Business School where he was responsible for executive education and computing services.

Merten has held academic appointments in both engineering and business, and academic and business positions in Hungary and France.

He served on business and government councils and committees, holding several leadership roles. Merten was chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Workforce Needs in Information Technology and a member of the Virginia Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education. He served on the board of directors of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Inova Health System Board of Trustees, a real estate investment trust, a mutual fund trust, and a banking institution.

Merten was recognized for his contributions to the Northern Virginia technology community and as a leader of the greater Washington, D.C., business community. He also received honors for promoting volunteerism and service to the community and for his contributions to the use of information technology in the federal government. Named one of the most powerful people in the National Capital Region in 2007, he was commended for outstanding community service and dedication to improving the quality of life in the region.

Merten has an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University, and a PhD in computer science from the University of Wisconsin.


George W. Johnson (1979–96) guided George Mason University from a small liberal arts college of 10,000 students to a nationally recognized institution with 24,000 students and a reputation for innovation and excellence.

During Johnson’s tenure, the university acquired doctoral status; established a law school; instituted 34 new programs, including 11 doctoral programs; created new organizational structures, including six academic institutes; and became a distributed university with campuses in Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William counties. The Johnson era also saw the introduction of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in independent studies and the establishment of New Century College, the Early Identification Program, and the Mason Scholars Program.

Johnson attracted prestigious faculty, such as the eminent Robinson Professors to teach interdisciplinary courses to undergraduates and James Buchanan, who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Major facilities built during Johnson’s administration include the Patriot Center, the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, Student Union Building II (now called the Hub), extensions to the library, student residence halls, six new classroom buildings, and a new university center that integrated academic studies with student affairs activities and programming. At the end of Johnson’s tenure, the center was dedicated in his name.

In addition, Johnson helped start the Northern Virginia Roundtable, a group of corporate and civic leaders dedicated to the region’s economic growth. He was chair of Virginia’s Council of Public Colleges and Universities and served twice as president of the Association of Virginia Colleges and Universities. For four years, he served as the Virginia representative to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

At Mason’s 2004 commencement ceremony, Johnson received the George Mason Medal. That same year, he received a honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College of William and Mary at its annual Charter Day ceremony celebrating public service in Virginia.


Robert C. Krug (1977–78) came to Mason in 1965 and held several key positions, including dean of what was then George Mason College, dean of the faculty and graduate school, provost, and vice president for academic affairs prior to his tenure as president.

The Richmond native became Mason’s third president following the resignation of Vergil Dykstra. While president, Krug proved to be an effective lobbyist for funds from the Virginia General Assembly and was responsible for acquiring the university’s first computers.

Krug’s academic expertise was in chemistry. During World War II, he pursued research that led to improvements in aviation fuel efficiency. As a research chemist for Atlantic Richfield in Philadelphia, he was granted a patent for Desulfurization of Hydrocarbons with Boron Phosphate-Alumina Catalyst. He also co-wrote a number of articles that were published in professional journals.

Krug’s first position in higher education was in 1949 as a professor of chemistry at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The following year, he joined the faculty of Virginia Tech where he later became chair of the chemistry department and was the first recipient of the W. E. Wine Award for excellence in teaching. He remained at Virginia Tech for 15 years.

In 1980, Mason’s Board of Visitors honored Krug by naming one of the institution’s original buildings after him.
Krug earned a BS from the University of Richmond, a graduate degree from Pennsylvania State University, and a doctorate from Ohio State University.


Vergil H. Dykstra (1973–77) came to Mason after serving as a faculty member and vice president of administration at the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University) from 1962 to 1973.

Dykstra arrived at Mason one year after the university was granted independent status. While at Mason, he helped bring archived materials of the Federal Theatre Project to campus and saw the groundbreaking of the university’s first student housing complex, the dedication of Robinson Hall, the opening of Student Union Building I, the creation of the Office of Extended Studies, and the initiation of more than 20 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in academic areas ranging from geography and international studies to nursing and public administration.

The eighth of nine children, Dykstra was born in Harrison, South Dakota, and reared in Iowa. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946. He earned an undergraduate degree at Hope College in Michigan and master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Wisconsin.

Dykstra’s college teaching career included positions at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Oregon, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Minnesota. He taught courses in philosophy, ethics, logical epistemology, and education.


Lorin A. Thompson (1966–73) became the first chancellor of George Mason College in 1966 and the first president of the newly independent George Mason University in 1972. Thompson came to Mason in 1966 as chancellor of what was then a two-year satellite campus of the University of Virginia (UVA). Thompson had been director of UVA’s Bureau of Population and Economic Research since 1958 when he was asked to take over as Mason’s chancellor.

An expert in growth, Thompson originally came to Virginia in 1940 to direct a comprehensive population study for the Virginia State Planning Board. It was felt that Thompson’s administrative skills and his expertise in demography would enable him to guide Mason in its expansion.

One of Thompson’s first challenges was to work closely with the commonwealth’s Board of Control to acquire 421 additional acres, the amount of land recommended by the Northern Virginia Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission. This accomplishment marked the beginning of Mason’s growth spurt in terms of land acquisition, buildings, student enrollment, and degree programs that continued for the rest of the century and ultimately captured the attention of the nation’s educational community.

During his tenure as Mason’s chief executive, Thompson was instrumental in the growth of student enrollment from 840 to more than 4,000 and the campus more than tripling its size.