Westchester’s Higher Education Leaders Guide the Way to Change

Manhattanville’s Reid Castle | Photo by Wenzhe Ma, courtesy of Manhattanville

These higher education leaders gave it their all while guiding not only students but also staffs and faculties through unprecedented change.

Manhattanville’s Reid Castle | Photo by Wenzhe Ma, courtesy of Manhattanville

Belinda S. Miles, EdD

President, Westchester Community College

Belinda S. Miles, EdD
Belinda S. Miles, EdD | Courtesy of Westchester Community College

When COVID struck in March of 2020, Dr. Belinda Miles went into overdrive to move her 1,000 staff members and 26,000 students to a fully online operation, all over the course of its annual spring break. Miles, who was named president of Westchester Community College in 2015, also made sure everyone had loaner laptops and state-of-the-art software, as well as food, money, childcare, and counseling to get them through the health crisis. A national leader in her field and a tireless advocate for community colleges, Miles works closely with the Business Council of Westchester and the county’s Office of Economic Development to address the county’s workforce needs.

Seamus Carey, PhD

President, Iona College

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Seamus Carey, PhD
Seamus Carey, PhD | By Josh Cuppek

In just two years as the ninth president of Iona College, Dr. Seamus Carey has overseen many forward-thinking initiatives at the New Rochelle college, including opening the LaPenta School of Business, hiring Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, launching a B.S. in nursing program, and acquiring Concordia College and partnering with NewYork-Presbyterian to create a new school of health sciences on Concordia’s Bronxville campus. Carey, a first-generation college student with a doctorate in philosophy, stands out as a passionate and vocal proponent of a traditional liberal arts education, as seen in his many contributions to Huffington Post. He is also the author of three books.

Marvin Krislov, JD

President, Pace University

Marvin Krislov, JD
Marvin Krislov, JD | Courtesy of Pace University

After 10 years as president of Oberlin College, Marvin Krislov came on board as the president of Pace in 2017. He is deeply committed to the importance of diversity and the notion that all students, regardless of their economic backgrounds, should have access to the transformative power of education. A Rhodes scholar who served as associate counsel in the Office of Counsel to the President, under President Bill Clinton, Krislov is also an outstanding writer, contributing a steady stream of insightful columns and articles for Forbes and a range of higher-education publications.

Milagros Peña, PhD

President, Purchase College

Milagros Peña, PhD
Milagros Peña, PhD | By James Gallagher

A distinguished sociologist with more than 20 years of higher-education leadership experience and five published books, Dr. Milagros “Millie” Peña was named the sixth president of Purchase College in May 2020 and is the first Hispanic woman to lead a SUNY institution. Most recently, she had been dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. Peña grew up in Manhattan as the daughter of Dominican immigrants and was the first in her family not only to graduate from college but to receive a high school diploma. Peña earned her bachelor’s degree at Iona College in addition to master’s degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Stony Brook University, from which she also received a PhD in sociology. She is a great believer in the value of a traditional liberal arts education and of late has noticed a trend of more Purchase students not declaring a major right away.

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Michael Geisler, PhD

President, Manhattanville College

Michael Geisler, PhD
Michael Geisler, PhD | Courtesy of Manhattanville College

After a very successful 20-year career at Middlebury College as a vice president and German professor, Dr. Michael Geisler became Manhattanville’s 13th president in 2016. Since then, the liberal arts college has opened a School of Nursing and Health Sciences and the innovative Center for Design Thinking, which aims to mix the traditional strengths of a liberal-arts curriculum with the practical requirements of training tomorrow’s workforce. His popular “Castle Conversations” series has brought lots of high-profile authors and scholars to Westchester audiences.

Cristle Collins Judd, PhD

President, Sarah Lawrence College

Cristle Collins Judd, PhD, higher education
Cristle Collins Judd, PhD | Courtesy of Sarah Lawrence

A tireless champion of Sarah Lawrence, Dr. Cristle Collins Judd came on board as the president in 2017 and immediately set about securing the college’s financial footing with a $200 million capital campaign. She oversaw the on-time, on-budget, and donor-funded construction of the Barbara Walters Campus Center, the first new building on campus in 15 years, and she recently established partnerships with Westchester Community College and Bronx Community College to welcome talented transfers to the liberal-arts college.

Tim Hall, JD

President, Mercy College

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Tim Hall, JD, higher education
Tim Hall, JD | By Leslie Kahan Photography

Under Tim Hall’s leadership at Mercy College, first-time, full-time freshmen retention has improved nearly 10%. Hall, who has a law degree from the University of Texas, has guided Mercy’s implementation of a personalized mentoring approach to reduce time to completion, especially for underrepresented, underprepared, or low-income students. The mentoring program pairs students with professionals who provide personalized support on important academic, social, and career factors, from pre-enrollment through college. In 2019, Hall was presented with the Individual Changemaker award at Nonprofit Westchester’s 2019 Keep Westchester Thriving Awards. Before becoming Mercy’s 12th president in 2014, Hall served for seven years as president of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.

Lynne Richardson, PhD

Dean, LaPenta School of Business, Iona College

Lynne Richardson, PhD, higher education
Lynne Richardson, PhD | By Lea Carpanzano/Iona College

After an extensive national search, Dr. Lynne Richardson became dean of Iona’s LaPenta School of Business in July. She has a wide range of business, finance, and leadership experience and has served on many nonprofit boards, in three states. Most recently, Richardson, who has a doctorate in marketing from the University of Alabama, had been dean of the College of Business at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. Previously, she was dean of the business schools at Mississippi State University and Ball State University.

Related: Westchester Colleges Adapt to Post-Pandemic Career Needs

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