MAHWAH — There is nothing careless about Ramapo College of New Jersey President Cindy Jebb.
As Jebb prepared for Friday’s inauguration as the first woman president of the 5,732-student college, she only smiled when asked for details of her survival in the third class of women at West Point, a 43-year military career, and her retirement from the academy in 2021 as a brigadier general and its first woman dean.
“I was not from a military family,” said Jebb, who grew up in New City, New York. “I was attracted by the values of West Point, the values of the whole person. I worked with highly talented officers who were great colleagues.”
Fifteen months after taking office at Ramapo, Jebb called for the development of “ethical leaders” in her speech before an estimated 700 local, state and national officials and colleagues at the Bill Bradley Sports and Recreation Center on campus.
“Ramapo serves New Jersey by developing ethical leaders who are the agents of change across all sectors of our communities,” Jebb said. “Our democratic society requires its members to trust one another, which can only happen through relationship-building, meaningful discourse and opportunities to learn.”
She welcomed colleagues from both Ramapo and West Point, contending the two schools have a “lot more in common” than many realize.
“Both are about the same size, both are liberal arts based, both have small classes, both are developing leaders,” Jebb said before the ceremony. “I truly believe in the power of higher education, access and affordability. We must encourage a lifelong learning mindset.”
Encouraged by “great teammates” and a “phenomenal student government,” Jebb said she has felt “embraced” by the college community.
“Ramapo does the right thing, even if it is unpopular,” Jebb said. “My interview process was mostly virtual, but I am happy to say my experience here has exceeded all expectations.”
The three-pronged strategic plan the school has developed under Jebb’s leadership includes The Future Series talks on the direction of education, the Priority Needs Proposal process to develop programs addressing 21st-century concerns, and master planning to assure the campus’ facility needs are met. Representatives meet on a regular basis to keep these discussions up to date.
“Student well-being is a top priority for us,” Jebb said. “This includes Title IX, public safety, LGBTQ services, and inclusion of minority student populations.”
Jebb pledged particular attention to involving Black and Native American student populations on campus. To that end, Chief Dwaine Perry will deliver the ceremony’s invocation on behalf of the Ramapo Munsee Lenape Nation. The tribe controls the 14-acre Split Rock Sweet Water prayer ground off Halifax Road adjacent to the college campus. They held a transfer ceremony on campus in June celebrating the return of a 285-year-old use deed granted to the Sloat family.
Jebb’s office is lined with memorabilia from her military career, including pictures of her grown children Ben, Alex, and Olivia. Her huband, Joel Jebb, a classmate she married three days after graduation, continues to teach at West Point. Balls from various sports Jebb played at West Point share space with a collection of metal coin medallions preserved under the glass top of her office conference table.
“Officers had these struck to mark their visit, and the tradition was the coin was transferred during a handshake,” Jebb said. “When this was done, you were ‘coined’ and by tradition had to have the coin with you when you next met, or you owed that person a drink. I had one designed by students to welcome visitors to the campus.”
Among her most treasured memorabilia is her West Point class ring, recently updated with a maroon (Ramapo’s color) stone when the original green gem was lost.
“Now the two schools are really together,” Jebb said.