College hears from new president, for the first time.
On Monday, February 8, current students of Marist College were part of a new chapter in Marist history. Those in attendance in the Nelly Goletti theater for the student session were introduced to the college’s newly elected president, David Yellen.
The press conference and introduction came only two days after Marist College and the Presidential Search committee released word that a unanimous vote had taken place: David Yellen would succeed current President, Dennis J. Murray.
President Murray took the podium first to address the students. He expressed his pleasure to see the room filled with students eager to hear from the President-Elect. He noted the honor it is has been to serve the Marist community along with his wife, Marilynn, for the past 37 years and how excited he is for this new chapter that is beginning with David Yellen as President.
“David has an outstanding set of academic credentials,” said Murray, “He’s an educational innovator and an experienced executive. He’s also a leader and has a strong commitment to social justice, which fits so well within the Marist community. I know our board has made an outstanding choice and I’m excited to welcome him and Leslie to our community.”
President Murray then took a few moments to thank the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ellen Hancock, as well as Presidential Committee Chair, Ross Mauri ‘80, for their leadership and dedication to the search and the institution. Each also spoke to the student audience to relay different factors and events that went into the search over the last year.
In the last year, the community only knew of the search’s happenings from semi-regular e-mails from Mauri, but conversation around campus constantly lent itself to guessing when the announcement might come. It is now evident from both Hancock and Mauri that time was needed to make sure that the right person was chosen for the job and following President Murray’s legacy.
“We at Marist have seen firsthand how important effective leadership can be to a college or university. Among the most important responsibilities of a Board of Trustees is the selection and appointment of a new president, and we took this duty very seriously” said Hancock.
Echoing the commitment, time, and effort that the search required, Mauri noted, “The committee was charged with a very important responsibility, and we committed ourselves to follow the history of other practices and private colleges during our presidential search.”
Mauri went on to explain the process that took place over the past year. From soliciting input from the campus community regarding the qualities, characteristics, and competences they saw in the College’s next president to enlisting the help of an executive search firm, Isaacs and Miller, the search was filtered down to 78 individuals who would go through an extensive interview process and three rounds of decisions. Mauri noted in his address to the students that one candidate from the final three was unanimously chosen. Following the nomination of Yellen, the Board of Trustees also supported Yellen to become the fourth president in the history of Marist College.
After thanking President Murray for his commitment to Marist, the search committee’s efforts, and lastly the explanations and outlinings of the search process that led to the appointment of the new president on Saturday, February 7, Hancock and Mauri introduced David Yellen to the students to speak before them for the first time.
With a smile he began, “Thank you for coming out today; I’m looking forward to meeting all of you and talking more in-depth in the coming months. I’m very honored that the Trustees of Marist college asked me to become the 4th president. It is an amazing opportunity for someone like me who has been in higher education for half of my life. I’m incredibly excited to be in this place.”
Yellen made it clear to the student that he’d found Marist to be the right fit as he moved further in the interview process and spent more time on campus. Yellen shared an anecdote about how Marist was on his list when he began considering becoming a college president about five years ago: “When I started thinking about being a college president, I made a list of places I thought might be a good fit for me if the opportunity ever presented itself—I’m a list maker that way—and Marist was at the top of the list.”
As Yellen continued to speak to the students, he did not go without acknowledging the work of President Murray. “I can’t imagine that there is another sitting president in the United States who has had more of an impact on a college than Dennis has had in the last 37 years. This place has grown physically and academically in so many ways through his leadership. He’s an incredibly admirable figure and a wonderful man, as I’ve learned, and it’s deeply humbling to try and succeed him in this role.” He also did not forget the role Mrs. Murray has played within those 37 years by acknowledging that his own wife, Leslie, has big shoes to fill—ones that she looks forward to filling.
Although Marist is no longer affiliated directly with the Marist Brothers, a point that did arise several times both during Yellen’s speech and in speaking with President Murray, Yellen’s experience teaching at a Jesuit school has prepared him well for coming to Marist where the Brothers’ values and heritages are still so present.
Students might also be interested to know that Yellen was enthusiastically proud to say that he will the first Jewish president of Marist College. Having found a home that “fit like hand in glove” in Loyola University Chicago as a Jewish dean in the Jesuit law school, he believes that Marist and its religious commitment and mission to social justice will be no different within that aspect.
The Circle had the chance to speak with the new president briefly. He expressed enthusiasm for joining the Marist community along with his wife. Said best in his own words, “I am absolutely ready to become a Red Fox and to work with the overwhelmingly bright and eager individuals on the Marist campus.”
Yellen will officially take office July 1, 2016.