Education leader Frank Macchiarola dies

Dr. Frank Macchiarola, 71, died at his Brooklyn

Dr. Frank Macchiarola, 71, died at his Brooklyn home after a long illness. (Credit: Handout)

Frank J. Macchiarola is known for running any number of powerful and impressive New York City institutions, having served as schools chancellor; dean of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; and president and chief executive of the New York City Partnership Inc., to name a few.

Most recently, he served as chancellor of his alma mater, St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, where he also had been president.

Macchiarola, 71, died Tuesday at his Brooklyn home after a long illness.

Apart from his lofty positions, he would want his legacy to be that of "champion of children," said Chiara Coletti, a longtime friend who worked with him when he ran a jobs program for low-income youths in the summer of 1988 for the former New York Newsday, where she was spokeswoman.

Dr. Mac, as he was called, will be remembered as "a large soul with a humble heart who lived and died in the service of children," Coletti said in a statement from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, where she is head of communication.

While city schools chancellor, he placed "a huge emphasis on offering educational support to financially disadvantaged children," the statement said.

Macchiarola "wasn't a bureaucrat -- he was a doer, an ideas person," said Carol Francescani, who was head of public affairs for the schools during his tenure. He also held teaching positions at several schools, including Columbia University and Baruch College.

In addition, he was hands-on, Francescani said, pointing to the time when, as chancellor, he stepped into an acting principal vacancy at Jamaica High School to see its inner workings.

"He was a bit weary of bureaucracy and longed for direct experience in the field," Coletti said.

One month into that role, he told Newsday that "You've got some fine minds here," but that he felt the "kids can do much more than they are being asked to do."

While St. Francis' president, Macchiarola was known to sort through transcripts, calling in students for praise or a pep talk, as needed, said Richard Relkin, director of media relations.

So many young people are in law school or graduate school because of those pep talks, said Richard Halverson of Hampton Bays, who worked with Macchiarola at the board of education and St. Francis. "He was always drawn to one-on-one helping of young people."

Born April 7, 1941, in Brooklyn, he received a bachelor's degree in history from St. Francis College, as well as a law degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from that school's Department of Public Law and Government.

This year, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed Macchiarola with the Papal Honor of Knight Commander of the Holy Order of St. Gregory the Great.

He is survived by his wife, Mary T. Macchiarola; sons Joseph, of Garden City; Michael, of New Jersey; and Frank, of Virginia; brothers Joseph, James and Henry; and seven grandchildren.

A wake will be Wednesday and Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. James, Brooklyn, with burial in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn.

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