Jefferson and Lincoln played the violin. Clinton is a master on the saxophone. And Truman considered a life as a piano player long before taking up politics.
A background in music has served many U.S. presidents well – and the next president of St. Joseph’s College knows why.
“Musicians are good problem solvers,” said Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph. D., appointed last week to succeed Dr. Jack P. Calareso on July 1. “And they need to be social – to reach out to others and build consensus and agreement.”
Dr. Boomgaarden, 62, a concert pianist and country fiddler with extensive experience in higher education, said his background in music broadens his thinking and fuels his leadership skills.
“If you’re going to play a concerto by Beethoven or a ballade by Chopin, you’re going to have to spend many hours analyzing the music and focusing on solutions to difficult problems,” said Dr. Boomgaarden, a noted historian of 18th-Century opera, music aesthetics and harmonic theory. “Dealing with complicated issues comes with the landscape of being a musician.”
More Than 30 Years Working in Higher Ed
Dr. Boomgaarden most recently served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He has also worked as Dean of the College of Music and Fine Arts at Loyola University New Orleans and Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs at Loyola University Maryland during a career in education that spans over three decades.
As SJC’s eighth president, Dr. Boomgaarden takes over a College on the rise. Enrollment eclipsed 5,000 last fall, plans are in the works for the College’s first dormitory and the College’s academic profile continues to expand – including the recent additions of programs in applied behavior analysis, forensic computing, human resources, studio art and industrial-organizational psychology.
I’ve had this dream of leading a great school for a long time.
One challenge Dr. Boomgaarden looks forward to at the College is splitting time between SJC Brooklyn in Clinton Hill and SJC Long Island in Patchogue.
“Having two campuses is an incredible opportunity that I think most schools would envy,” he said. “They are two rather different campuses that allow the College to attract a wide variety of students. We intend to be highly visible on both campuses.”
By “we,” the future SJC president means both he and his wife, Paula. The couple recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. Dr. Boomgaarden has two adult step-children and four grandchildren.
Student Energy Important to Next SJC President
One of the reasons Dr. Boomgaarden is drawn to a career in higher education is that it affords him the opportunity to teach – and learn from – young people.
“It’s important for me to be with students at campus activities, such as concerts and sporting events. Young people need to be around adults. Professors, staffers – and presidents – can serve as great role models to the young people,” Dr. Boomgaarden said. “But don’t get me wrong. It’s a two-way street. Professors and administrators definitely benefit by feeding off the energy of the students.”
Along with the students, faculty members are important stakeholders on campus, Dr. Boomgaarden said.
“Professors are so important to the life of the college,” he said. “Good presidents must have good relationships with their faculty. We need to make a real effort to help them in their work. Presidents who are really successful understand that your institution is only as good as your faculty.”
The Importance of Liberal Arts
Dr. Boomgaarden is particularly impressed with SJC’s heavy emphasis on liberal arts education.
“Being deeply rooted in the liberal arts tradition is a very important aspect of what St. Joseph’s offers,” said Boomgaarden, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the prestigious Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
“People sometimes forget that the work world is constantly changing. Statistics tell us that people change their jobs many times over their lifetime,” he continued. “Students need more than just training in a specific professional area. They need to learn how to think creatively and how to write.”
Dr. Boomgaarden is anxious to get started at the century-old institution.
“I’ve had this dream of leading a great school for a long time, so I’m very excited about it,” he said.