Moving the World with Vision, Passion and Leadership
More of the conversation between President Joseph E. Nyre, Ph.D., and Brother Liguori.
What is the common link between the past and the present?
The common link is people. It’s mission. It’s the heritage of the Christian Brothers. It’s the heritage of faculty and staff and administrators who have been here. In some cases 50, 60 years. I don’t know if anyone is past 60 yet. Maybe Victor Stanionis [professor of Biology who graduated from Iona in 1960 and has been on faculty since 1961] That’s the common thread. And alumni -- they give back because of what they had when they were here.
It’s the people and the mission.
What advice would you give to your younger self about being a college president?
Probably “keep the big picture,” because you can really get twisted up about little things. Whether it’s a faculty member or staff member or whatever it might be, or enrollment or finances. Keep the big picture. It’s the only way I survived, I’m sure of it. There were so many times, and I’m sure you’ve faced the same, so many times where it was “enough already.” Keep going forward and doing it as best you can, and have a thick skin.
One, spend more time listening. I think Brother Liguori’s point about taking the long view is a good one – you have to sort the details. Attend to the details because that’s where a lot of the problems may grow to become larger. But being able to maintain a long view, I think that’s good advice and great to sit with Brother, who led the institution for over 17 years.
So both of you are very tough and very focused. You have the ability to have thick skin but you’re both very sensitive and caring people. How do you find that balance?
In a very real sense, the president is the College. It sounds somewhat, what’s the word…triumphalist, but it’s true. When you do anything as president, that not only reflects on you but it reflects on the College, it reflects on the mission. It’s much more beneficial for a person to be caring. Knowing people’s names is part of that whole caring. And listening! I didn’t say listening but listening is a huge piece of this.
What is your hope for Iona College over the next 75 years?
Well, I think, as far as I’m concerned, my answer stays within the framework of what we have already talked about. More of the same and a constantly creative, evolving vision of what should be in the future.
I think that is well said. It’s my hope that at least when I look back on my time as president of this College that I can look back on it with the successes that Brother Liguori has been able to look back on his presidency. I think that would be a gift to me and I think that would be a gift to this College if that occurs.
President Nyre, what has been the proudest moment of your presidency?
When I was introduced to the community, I sat on-stage with Brother Liguori and I still remember what you said. You said that the beauty of this campus is emblematic of the quality of the people. And I wrote it down and I kept it. There are so many proud moments in any year, but for me, graduating the first class that I saw through all four years, was pretty remarkable. I became a little emotional on-stage when they came across because you see what the faculty and what the staff, what the administration and what the community does for these students. And how they change over four years is stunning. So for me that’s one of my proudest moments – standing there, seeing the transformation after four years is pretty remarkable.
What are some initiatives that excite you about Iona?
Raising needed funds for student scholarships and endowed professors is my number one fundraising priority. Ensuring Iona’s affordability and the continued ability to recruit and retain top faculty is central to our mission and vision. I’m also very excited about enhancing and launching new academic programs, like cyber security, speech language pathology and our new core curriculum designed by leading faculty. And, of course I am pleased we are enhancing the campus learning and living environments. A new school of business, enhancements to the science, arts and athletic facilities, and a new residence hall at the main entrance are very exciting developments at the College.