James B. Appleberry

President of Northern Michigan University from 1983-1991


James Appleberry grew up in a small farming town in Missouri. Following his high school graduation, he pursued a degree in education at Central Missouri State University. He worked first as a music teacher and then as an assistant principal before going back to graduate school at Missouri State. Though he served as a faculty member at Oklahoma State for three years, he quickly moved up in the ranks to administration, becoming chair of his department and then assistant to the chancellor. His experience granted him the position of president at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he worked for seven years before taking the presidency at Northern Michigan. He entered his role as president during a time of significant financial stress for Michigan and the U.P., with high unemployment and reduced funding from the state. Given the challenging circumstances, President Appleberry set his sights on creating a cohesive plan for the future of the university and focusing on increased enrollment and funding. As Michigan’s economy improved, he made sure that Northern had clear objectives to reach for its improvement—his efforts brought about increased enrollment to a more well-known and well-regarded NMU. He also oversaw the development of NMU’s Superior Dome and Olympic Training Facility. Upon stepping down from NMU, he served as president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities before retiring in 1999.

Portrait of James B. Appleberry