President Nyre Reflects on his Eight Years at Iona College with The Ionian
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Iona College's eighth President, Joseph E. Nyre, Ph.D., completes his eight-year tenure in New Rochelle at the end of this month. In May, Dr. Nyre sat down with Dana Ruby '19, the 2018-19 editor-in-chief of The Ionian, the College's student newspaper, to reflect on his time at Iona.
The following is an excerpt from the interview. You can read the entire chat on www.theionian.org, the new home of The Ionian.
Courtesy of The Ionian
Dr. Joseph E. Nyre, a first generation college student, served in the Navy for six years to help him afford college through the G.I. Bill. In total, Nyre went to school for higher education while working full time for 12 years. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, earned his master's degree from the University of Missouri, got two doctorates from the University of Kansas and participated in post-doctoral fellowships for clinical psychology at the University of Kansas and Harvard Medical School. He went on to work as a faculty member at the University of Kansas, Baylor University and the Harvard Medical School.
He then went back to his home state of Illinois to run a university-affiliated institute that provided services to children with complex disabilities, trained medical personnel and teachers, helped contribute to the creation of hospitals and clinics across the state, and founded state and federal legislation at the same time that President Obama was serving as senator for the state. Nyre then knew after eight years of serving as president of this institute that he wanted to be president of a college. After searching for the right fit, he was inaugurated as the eighth president of Iona College in 2011.
The Ionian's Dana Ruby sat down with Dr. Nyre to talk about his time at Iona, how his family is reacting to the move and his new job at Seton Hall University.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
DR: Why did you want to become the president of Iona?
JN: I've always been connected and working as either a faculty member or as an administrator at some capacity with higher ed, and I knew after eight years of being the president of the institute that I was going to become a college president, the question was what type of college and where? And who would think I should be their president too, as it goes both ways. My interest was primarily a faith-based institution, and I am Catholic…I was then recruited from a search firm into the Iona search. I got to know Iona better by coming anonymously and walking around campus; I came in without a suit on, just kind of like someone walking off the street. I could have been an adjunct faculty member, I could have been anyone–and I met a security guard, who has now passed away, but he was so proud and welcoming that I said to myself, “Wow, that's strange.” It was almost like it was scripted, but it wasn't…I walked through campus just meeting employees and students, and just kind of talking to people, and I found that the same spirit was repeated. I was trying to find a college that was faith based that was trying to live its mission in an authentic way. I called my wife, and I said 'I think this is one of the places we should rank high on our list, and see what happens.' Jim Hynes was chairing that search, and I met him and Bob LaPenta through the search process, and it turned out, we think, to be a pretty good fit.
DR: You were the first lay [non-brother] president of Iona. How did this affect how you approached the position as well as your actual time as president?
JN: It still weighs on me day to day, because I think a natural question when you have your first lay president or non-clergy [president] is whether or not the Catholic identity of the institution is going to suffer. Across the country, you see more and more lay leaders in Catholic education, both K-12 and higher ed, but it weighs on me. But the brothers, one, embraced me, which was wonderful, and number two, the brothers helped me understand–and I think they're right–that the Catholic identity of the institution rests in no singular person's hands. It's a collective responsibility. Initially, I had a team of brother advisers my first few years that I could ask questions to, bounce ideas off of, gain historical context. Then, over time, I went down to a singular Christian brother adviser, but I think a pretty important part of understanding Iona is having the brothers to be there to provide advice and feedback… I pray that there's a brother president [at Iona] again someday, because that means the brothers by way of their vocations are doing well. I think that's a great result, but I think it's going to be some time until that happens.
Founded in 1940, Iona College is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre campus is just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of over 45,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, a prestigious recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2020.” Iona College also recently launched a new, fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility.