When Dr. Cindy R. Jebb joined Ramapo College in 2021 as its 5th (and first woman) president, she brought with her a rich background of 43 years of military service, including as a cadet and later a Dean at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, retiring as a Brigadier General. “Having the opportunity to teach at West Point helped me fall in love with its mission, which is to educate, train, and inspire, and that’s essentially what we’re continuing here at Ramapo,” she says.
Growing up in Rockland County, Dr. Jebb wasn’t born into a military family but became interested in West Point as a teenager in the 1970s, when she read about their first women’s basketball team in a women’s sports magazine. “The article really spoke to me in terms of the values at West Point, from developing the whole person and being part of something bigger than yourself through service,” she says. Enrolling in 1978 in just the third class of women admitted, Dr. Jebb acknowledges it was a challenge but ultimately was proud of the school and her experience there. “The Academy has advanced not just in the integration of women but academically, militarily, and socially,” she says.
Earning an M.A. from Duke University and the Naval War College and a Ph.D. in Political Science back at Duke, Dr. Jebb has served in command and staff positions at home and abroad along with her husband, Joel, who was in her class at the Academy. They lived in Germany during the Cold War, in Fort Hood as Company Commanders and served at Fort. Meade. Her time serving as senior faculty at West Point enabled her to also periodically serve as a practitioner on operations around the world.
Her career as an academic landed Dr. Jebb back at West Point in 1998 and included serving as the Professor and Head of the Department of Social Sciences and an appointment as the Academy's first woman Dean of the Academic Board. “Being able to focus on the academic mission there was just a joy,” she says. “The army values education, which is so important to critical thinking. To be able to be an academic but also a practitioner from my different assignments around the world and bring that to the Academy was an absolute honor and a privilege."
In her time at Ramapo, Dr. Jebb has launched a comprehensive Strategic Planning process through a set of campus-wide community-building conversations driven by The Future Series. "It was designed and orchestrated to bring the community together to talk about meaningful topics to help us understand the future of Ramapo,” she says. “It gave us a great opportunity to make sure that all voices were heard.”
She has also taken a tradition often used in the military by utilizing ‘challenge coins’. “We call it the presidential coin, and it’s a way to distinguish excellence. When I see or hear of somebody doing something above and beyond in service to others, I present it to them,” Dr. Jebb says. “We had a design competition and combined two students’ designs, with the college represented on one side and our motto ‘Be Bold, Be Kind, Be Teammates’ on the other.”
Dr. Jebb recognizes her family, husband Dr. Joel Jebb, head of the English Department at West Point’s Preparatory School (“my phenomenal teammate”) and their three children, for their support and love. Ben, a Special Forces officer, and his wife, Heather, a Military Intelligence officer, have a son, Carter, and another child on the way. Alex, who is a manager at Accenture, in Baltimore, is a track and field assistant coach at Johns Hopkins University, and Olivia is in residency for primary care medicine at New York University. “I’m very grateful for them. They are all serving in their own way, and I learn from them every day,” she says.
Looking back has helped her move forward at Ramapo. “I fell in love with the mission of West Point as a teenager,” she says. "And Ramapo embodies those same values: the focus on students, on character, empathy, service, and kindness in a liberal arts education where students learn how to think not what to think.”
And it is the students themselves who provide her with inspiration every day. “I take the opportunity to walk around our beautiful campus and have conversations with students about their passions and how they care so deeply about making a difference,” she says. “This generation has a lot to say, and I’ve just been truly inspired by them.”