An announcement from President Richard Guarasci: As we begin this spring semester, I am reflecting on the remarkable 21 years I have spent with you at Wagner, particularly these last 16 as president. Working with and for you has meant so much to me, both personally and professionally. Like you, I have so loved seeing our beloved Wagner College flourish. I fell head over heels in love with this campus and community when I first visited in December 1996. After meeting a remarkable group of dedicated faculty members, I knew this was where I was meant to be, and I wanted to be part of the team helping this college grow into its mission and destiny.
I have had the privilege of helping author the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts as well as helping the college advance along several key fronts: dramatically improving our educational programs and support for our students; increasing our student diversity from 9% to over 25% today; building our deep civic commitments, especially the Port Richmond Partnership; overseeing the construction of new facilities (Foundation Hall) and renewed facilities (the renovated Main Hall); and growing our college endowment from $4 million to $98.7 million today.
Having just celebrated my 72nd birthday, I strongly believe it is time to turn over the reins to the next leader of Wagner College. After carefully conferring with our trustees on an orderly succession plan, and with the support of my best friend and cherished partner Dr. Carin Guarasci, I am announcing today that I will step down as president effective June 30, 2019.
We have much to accomplish together in these next 18 months. In addition to my regular duties as president, I will intensify my efforts to increase the resources supporting our students, their families, and our faculty and staff. I am working with our trustees to finish our long-term master plan for the physical enhancement of our campus. We are beginning the multi-year self-study process for the college’s required reaccreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. These are just some of the tasks that we must accomplish in the next year and a half.
We have many months to acknowledge the good work of this administration over what will be a 22-year era in Wagner’s history. For now, I am deeply indebted to my outstanding senior staff, remarkable administration leaders, dedicated and innovative faculty colleagues, loyal and hard-working campus staff and, of course, our Wagner students, who continually inspire me to work every day to help them fulfill their educational and career dreams.
For now, I just wish to thank you all. I look forward to this spring term and all of the next academic year.
From Dr. Warren Procci, Chairman, Wagner College Board of Trustees — It is with a profound mixture of pride, hope and sadness that I announce the coming retirement of the college’s longest-serving president, Dr. Richard Guarasci, on June 30, 2019. Let me catalogue some of what Richard has done for us, though I’m sure my description will prove too meager.
Richard joined the Wagner College community in 1997 as Provost. We immediately knew that he was going to be a special kind of leader. It took a major educational innovator like Richard Guarasci to step in, engineer a brand-new approach to multidisciplinary instruction and civic engagement that revitalized our curriculum and launched Wagner as a national leader in the field of higher education. Twenty years after its adoption by our faculty, the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts remains a distinctive educational hallmark offered by the only small, residential college in New York City.
In 2002, when it came time to choose a successor to President Smith, our Board of Trustees enthusiastically elected Dr. Richard Guarasci, who began serving on June 1, 2002. Richard already had admirably demonstrated his creativity with the Wagner Plan, but he was now ready to grow our institution. His nearly two dozen years in the academy, first as a Professor and Dean at St. Lawrence University, then as Dean of Hobart College, had more than prepared him to become our 18th President.
Almost immediately, President Guarasci went to work building Wagner College’s endowment, so essential since it stood at a mere $4 million at that time. In 2004 he launched “Putting Wagner First,” a capital campaign with a goal of $50 million. By 2011, that campaign had raised more than $57 million. And today, our endowment is valued at $98.7 million — an amazing feat, indeed a bit of a Midas touch.
Richard has led a vigorous program to modernize and expand the college’s facilities, beginning with the dedication of Pape Admissions House. Eight years later, students moved into Foundation Hall, the first new residence facility built on campus since Harbor View Hall in 1969. In 2012, we rededicated Main Hall, the college’s beloved architectural signature, after a complete exterior renovation. And our next project, the Center for Global Learning, will be developed on the former Augustinian Academy site, funded in part by the largest single donation ever given to the college, a gift of $10 million from alumni Mike and Margaret Nicolais, also a result of Richard’s hard work.
Richard’s innovative commitment to the education of what he calls “the civic professional” has led to Wagner College’s partnership beginning in 2009 with numerous businesses, nonprofits and, most especially, schools in the Staten Island community. The Port Richmond Partnership, supported at Wagner by our Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, has spawned two highly acclaimed college readiness programs. One is 30,000 Degrees, a collaborative partnership begun in 2015 with St. John’s University, the College of Staten Island and multiple public elementary, middle and high schools on Staten Island. The second is the Port Richmond Partnership Leadership Academy, which provides year-round academic enrichment and summer residencies at Wagner for rising juniors, seniors and prospective college students from Port Richmond High School. These are prominent examples of civic engagement and of Wagner enriching our local community.
In a similar vein, Wagner College has been one of the only small colleges in the nation to partner with the U.S. State Department in hosting the Mandela Washington Fellowship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative. Each summer since 2014, we have hosted 25 young leaders (between 25 and 35 years old) of nonprofit organizations in sub-Saharan African nations for classroom and experiential coursework in civic leadership. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is person-to-person diplomacy at its finest, and Wagner has been grateful to be a part of the program, with our part birthed and stimulated by Richard’s leadership. He has lifted us from a very good local college to a school with national recognition and leadership.
Richard Guarasci has provided leadership not only at Wagner College, but also nationwide in the field of higher education. Richard served on the National Task Force for Civic Engagement, advising the U.S. Department of Education. That task force produced a groundbreaking report entitled “The Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future,” released in January 2012 at a White House event. He also serves as the Board Chair for Campus Compact, President Emeritus of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, and the newly appointed Board Chair of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. He has previously served as chairman of the New American Colleges & Universities and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation. He is a prime example of the very civic engagement he has so strongly championed. He has been tireless not only in his leadership at home but also nationally.
And we cannot forget the additional leadership provided by President Guarasci’s close partner, Dr. Carin Tomasuolo Guarasci. Dr. Carin Guarasci has also been a committed educator for her whole adult life. She knows how new teachers, full of energy, can be crushed by the real-world demands of the job. That’s why she pioneered a graduate mentorship and training program called New Educators at Wagner, each year working with a small cohort of about 10 students to craft new, more effective ways of teaching. Begun in 2008, the N.E.W. program had seen zero departures from the teaching profession by 2014. Dr. Guarasci’s work earned her the designation as a New York State Senate Woman of Distinction in 2014. Two years later, the Greater New York Region of the National Organization of Italian American Women named her as one of three outstanding “Wise Women” who have excelled in their respective professional fields.
We are grateful that President Guarasci has given us 17 months to search for his replacement. The Board of Trustees is currently beginning its work, looking for a national search firm to help us find qualified candidates. When the time comes, we will form a search committee composed of major stakeholder representatives from the Wagner College community, of course to include members of that most essential asset, our faculty.
Thank you, Richard, for your creative vision, your leadership and above all your collaborative friendship with us. Yes, we will find a new leader for the college, someone who will bring their own unique strengths, skills and perspectives to bear on the new challenges that we will face — but no one can replace you, Richard. You have secured an unforgettable spot in Wagner’s history. You have been “beautiful upon a hill.”
Below, you will find many more details describing the value Dr. Richard Guarasci has brought to Wagner College since joining us in 1997 as provost and assuming the presidency in 2002. — Dr. Warren Procci
U.S. News & World Report
Before Richard Guarasci joined Wagner College as provost in 1997, we ranked #79 among northern regional universities in the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings. Since 1999, we have been listed among the top 37 universities in our region — that is, for 19 years in a row, Wagner has been ranked among the top 25 percent of schools in its category. Additionally:
- For 6 years in a row (2008 through 2013), Wagner College was among the top five on a nationwide list of 70 “up and coming schools,” defined as “colleges and universities that have recently made striking improvements or innovations — schools that everyone should be watching.”
- For a number of years, Wagner College was ranked among the very top universities in the nation for what U.S. News editors called “programs to look for,” defined as “enriched offerings … linked to student success.”
Wagner College has been listed in the Princeton Review’s Best Colleges guide ever since its inception in 2004.
Wagner College Theatre has been ranked among the top five Best College Theaters since the list’s creation.
Wagner was one of only 50 colleges nationwide selected for the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Princeton Review guide, “Colleges That Create Futures.”
Other reputational listings
In 2009, Wagner’s Civic Innovations program — which gave rise to the college’s Port Richmond Partnership — was featured on the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
In October 2015, the New York Times ranked Wagner College #6 on a list of the highest “value added” colleges in the nation. “Common Sense” columnist James B. Stewart worked with Brookings Institution fellow Jonathan Rockwell on a scale measuring the value added by a college to what its students bring with them to campus.
Washington Monthly named Wagner College as a “Best Bang for the Buck” in the northeastern U.S., and ranked us the top half of universities granting master’s degrees in the United States in its 2017 college rankings.
For the fifth year in a row, Wagner College appeared on the Forbes 2017 America’s Top Colleges list. The Forbes list emphasizes “the direct benefits a college or university provides its students,” looking at things like graduation rates and alumni salaries rather than incoming freshmen SAT scores. Among the three colleges on Staten Island, Wagner College was ranked the best value.
Wagner College appeared in Money magazine’s 2017-18 Best Colleges for Your Money list, a ranking of the top 710 colleges and universities in America — big and small, public and private, Ivy and otherwise — that provide an above-average value for students’ and parents’ money.
Wagner alumni salaries were ranked in the top 14 percent nationwide (#127 of 963 ranked colleges and universities), according to the PayScale 2016-17 College Salary Report.
The National League for Nursing named Wagner College’s Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing a 2012-2016 Center of Excellence in Nursing Education — one of only 17 collegiate nursing programs in the U.S. so designated.
From 2007 through 2014, Wagner College was listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll — five times with distinction. (The list was discontinued by the White House after 2014.)
WAGNER PLAN RECOGNITION
In 2001, Time magazine named Wagner as a “College of the Year” Finalist — one of the four finalists in the liberal arts colleges category. That year’s distinction was especially valuable to Wagner because the focus was on “colleges that know how to help newcomers survive and thrive.” Wagner was selected as a finalist because of its first-year program of small, interdisciplinary learning communities that give incoming freshmen a “home” within the college from day one.
In 2004, a first-year interdisciplinary learning community was cited as a model of its type by an Association of American Colleges and Universities science program. Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities — also known as SENCER, for short — announced its featured models for 2004, including Wagner’s “Sustainability and Human Health: A Learning Community.” The learning community was taught by Donald Stearns in the biology department and Kim Worthy in English.
In 2005, Wagner's First-Year Program won the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, which recognizes faculty development programs that enhance undergraduate teaching and learning.
UNDER HIS WATCH
Wagner College students and faculty have won seven prestigious, highly competitive Fulbright grants:
- Chemistry professor Mohammad Alauddin won two Fulbrights. In 2004, he won a Fulbright Scholarship that placed him in a teaching and research position for one semester at his alma mater, the University of Dhaka. In 2015, he won a Fulbright Specialist grant in Chemistry Education at Independent University’s Life Sciences Division in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- In 2016, English professor Steven Thomas was a Fulbright Scholar at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, joining the faculty in the graduate film program in the art department of Ethiopia’s oldest and most prestigious university, where he taught courses in film theory and cultural studies.
- Student Robert Bolash ’03 earned a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany studying public health.
- Student Kellie Griffith ’14 won a Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Ecuador, where she worked as an English Teaching Assistant.
- Student Alexandria Sethares ’15 won a Fulbright U.S. Student Award to South Korea as an English Teaching Assistant.
- Student Arijeta Lajka ’15 was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant for an English Teaching Assistantship in Turkey.
Wagner has expanded its study abroad exchange partnerships to include eight universities:
- American College of Greece (Deree)
- Dankook University (Jukjeon, Korea)
- Hebrew University (Jerusalem, Israel)
- HFF (Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München) (Munich, Germany)
- Kanazawa University (Kakuma & Takaramachi-Tsurma, Japan)
- Kibbutzim College (Tel Aviv, Israel)
- Universidad de Almeria (Almeria, Spain)
- Université Lumière Lyon 2 (Lyon, France)
Two affinity groups have strengthened the college’s ties with segments of the Staten Island community. Each year since 2004, the DaVinci Society of Wagner College has held a scholarship fundraising dinner that honors prominent Italian Americans whose work has improved the quality of life on Staten Island and surrounding areas. Also in 2004, Wagner College established the Chai Society, an organization dedicated to promoting Jewish culture and identity on the Wagner campus and the surrounding community. The Chai Society has actively supported the establishment of the Wagner College Holocaust Center.
In 2006, trustee Louise Repage Kaufman ’75 M’78 and her husband, Dr. Peter Kaufman, established a lecture series, the Kaufman-Repage Lecture, to celebrate Wagner College’s commitment to scholarly work and open inquiry. Speakers have included former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins; Ken Jackson, professor of history and social science at Columbia University; Rebecca Skloot, author of the award-winning book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”; Bonnie Bassler, Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University and a 2002 MacArthur Fellow; Joel Kotkin, author of “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” and Bruce Chadwick, Rutgers scholar of American history and former Daily News sports writer.
In 2006, Richard recruited former New York state senator Seymour Lachman to create the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform, driven by Senator Lachman’s iconic exposé of corruption in Empire State government, “Three Men in a Room.”
Wagner College marked its 125th anniversary in 2008. In addition to leading a Main Hall convocation, President Guarasci visited the places in Rochester, New York, where Wagner had its start, honoring the young man for whom the college was named, J. George Wagner Jr., by laying a wreath on his grave.
In 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, Wagner inaugurated the Presidential Economic Summit, a series of symposia on current economic issues. Speakers have included former New York Stock exchange chief Richard Grasso, Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone, former General Electric chairman and CEO Jack Welch, CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, and Kurt Landgraf ’68, former CEO of the DuPont Pharmaceutical Company and the Educational Testing Service.
Also in 2012, the Seahawk football team fought its way into the second round of the NCAA FCS national tournament — the team’s best season since winning the 1987 Division III national championship. Later in 2012, head football coach and Wagner Athletic Director Walt Hameline was named FCS National Coach of the Year by College Football News and College Sports Journal.
In December 2012, Dorothy J. Davison, the dean of Wagner College’s Horrmann Library, was one of the winners of the national I Love My Librarian Award, jointly sponsored each year by the American Library Association, the New York Times and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Several new academic programs have been added to the college’s offerings. Key among them are the Film & Media Studies major for budding filmmakers, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program that provides the very highest level of training for leaders in the nursing profession.
For more about President Guarasci's retirement announcement, read Claire Regan's story for the Staten Island Advance.