Dr. Zach P. Messitte is the 13th president of Ripon College and a professor in the Politics and Government Department.
Messitte came to Ripon in 2012 and helped lead the Imagine Tomorrow campaign that raised $67 million, the most successful fundraising campaign in College history. He also spearheaded the financing, fundraising and planning behind the 2017 renovation of the Willmore Center, Ripon’s health, wellness and athletic building into a state of the art facility.
In 2014, President Messitte asked the Ripon College faculty to begin the process of reimagining the curriculum for the first time in more than a decade. The new Catalyst program debuted in the fall of 2016 with an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Under his leadership, the campus has made significant strides in the areas of sustainability and diversity and inclusion and promoting economic development in downtown Ripon. In 2017, he led a campaign in Fond du Lac County to bring together the educational and business community to support a more diverse community. Other initiatives have focused on building morale and community through programs such as the Presidential Staff Awards, and a variety of efforts to help the College and the local business community to work together.
With support from members of the Alumni Board of Directors, Messitte launched the Career Discovery Tour in 2013, a program committed to further expanding student-alumni career networking opportunities. Through this unique program, current students travel to vibrant cities during fall and spring breaks to network and gain first-hand knowledge of a variety of careers directly from Ripon alumni. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recognized this program with a Pride of Case Award for outstanding achievement in concept and execution.
While at Ripon, Messitte’s opinion editorials have been published in the nation’s top 20 newspapers and have covered topics pertaining to the cost of higher education, NCAA Division III student-athletes, Spiro Agnew, the CIA and promoting civil discourse. He currently serves as an officer on the Board of the Wisconsin Association of Colleges and Independent Universities (WAICU) and is currently the Chair of the Midwest Athletic Conference.
When he is not busy doing presidential things or in the classroom, Messitte can usually be found talking with students on campus, hosting student dinners at his home, or walking on the Ceresco prairie.
Prior to joining Ripon, he served as the dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma where he also held the William J. Crowe Chair in Geopolitics. While at Oklahoma he hosted “World Views,” an award-winning program on National Public Radio from 2009-2012.
Messitte continues to be a regular in the classroom as a member of the politics and government faculty at Ripon, and each spring leads students to Rome for a three-week intensive overview of Italian history, politics, culture and language as part of the Liberal Arts In Focus program. In 2018, he taught a special Italian language class for beginners.
He is the author of numerous articles that reflect his interests in politics, international relations, higher education, sports and Italy. His work has appeared in both peer reviewed journals and the national press, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. The author and editor of several books he co-authored the book, Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America, published by the University of Virginia Press in 2019. The Wall Street Journal praised the book for “Skillfully drawing on Agnew’s archival papers, the authors show that his serrated rhetorical style dated to his earliest political forays.” Click here to view Messitte’s faculty profile, including a list of teaching, research and other publications.
From 2002 to 2007, he served as the Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy and a member of the political science faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the state’s honors liberal arts college.
Messitte was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil while his parents were working in the Peace Corps, and grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A graduate of Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in American history and Italian language from Bowdoin College, a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate in politics from New York University.
Prior to entering academia, he worked for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the United Nations and the Cable News Network (CNN). He and his wife, Julia, have two sons: Sam and Jules.