GRATITUDE — It’s the ONE word St. Joseph’s College President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., used to describe his experience when asked to reflect on his first year as head of the College.
After all, a great leader — according to Dr. Boomgaarden — cannot be “self-made,” finding success completely on his or her own. A leader can only be successful if they have a strong support system, the president noted.
Leaning back on a chair in his office inside Tuohy Hall, Dr. Boomgaarden rattled off a few areas of the College that he attributes to making his first year as president the best it could be: the administration, faculty, staff, the student government and alumni. He also gave a nod to Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher R. Carroll ’88 and Dr. Boomgaarden’s predecessors — former SJC presidents Jack P. Calareso, Ph.D., and S. Elizabeth A. Hill ’64, C.S.J., J.D. — who he said helped show him the ropes.
Reflecting on early obstacles
Dr. Boomgaarden’s initial months on the job posed a significant challenge: he needed to fill three leadership roles immediately. Fortunately, he said, he found the perfect fits for the empty positions, internally. He appointed Interim Provost Thomas G. Travis, Ph.D., on Long Island; Interim Executive Dean Wendy C. Turgeon, Ph.D., on Long Island; and Interim Executive Dean Michael J. Hanophy, Ph.D., in Brooklyn. The three are professors and still teach at their respective campuses.
After a national search, the College also welcomed Vice President for Institutional Advancement Rory Shaffer-Walsh to the administration in April.
“They’ve all done a fantastic job,” Dr. Boomgaarden said. “That’s made my first year a lot easier.”
Dr. Boomgaarden, who took office July 1, 2017, prides himself on his ability to get to know the students at SJC Long Island and SJC Brooklyn during special events, including the popular “Pancakes with the President,” where students dine on free pancakes and chat with Dr. Boomgaarden, as well as various concerts, where he plays the piano and other instruments alongside student musicians. He also meets regularly with the student government.
Dr. Boomgaarden and his wife Paula live in apartments in Brooklyn and Sayville, making him easily accessible to both campuses.
“I’ve tried very hard to be visible — as much as a president can,” he said. “Being present on both campuses is critical.”
Dr. Boomgaarden also devotes a significant amount of his time on the job to representing St. Joseph’s at conferences and meetings with donors, whose gifts help keep the cost of tuition down.
Increase in Program Offerings
Dr. Boomgaarden noted the recent growth in online offerings and campus programming that educates students’ heads and hearts. Over the last year, the College also saw a bump in enrollment and an increase in grants.
“We offer a magnificent blend of new and more traditional programs, which provide our students with the kind of rich and sophisticated education they need to thrive in today’s ever-changing world,” Dr. Boomgaarden said.
“The students and their families have put their trust in us, and for that we are all grateful.”