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Adelphi inaugurates Christine Riordan as its 10th president

On March 11, 2016, Adelphi University inaugurated its first female president in the school's 120-year history. Christine M. Riordan became Adelphi's 10th president. (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)

Adelphi University president Christine M. Riordan, at her inauguration, pledged to strive to raise enrollment, provide more financial aid and create a progressive culture of diversity and inclusion as the 7,300-student school embarks on a new chapter.

Riordan, 51, was installed Friday in a ceremony that drew hundreds to the Garden City campus. She is Adelphi’s 10th president and the first female leader in its 120-year history.

“Adelphi will be relentless in our commitment to student success,” said Riordan, who took office July 1. “Education is changing the world and our students’ success will change the world.”

Financial executive Robert B. Willumstad, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, officiated at the celebration — which carried the theme “A Modern University with Deep Roots” and was held in the Center for Recreation and Sports.

“We make history today as we install Dr. Riordan as our first woman president,” he said. “Adelphi has always been a champion in offering educational opportunities for women.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) , in his speech, said Riordan “will be a great president of a great institution.”

“Right away you could tell that she cared about the students and the community,” Schumer said.

Riordan spoke of the significant challenges facing higher education as she outlined her priorities for Adelphi’s future, noting rising costs and the dwindling college-age population in the region. In her address, she shared anecdotes from her last several months on the job and feedback from a 100-day listening tour of campus constituents she has conducted since her arrival.

Riordan praised the university’s faculty, calling them “the core of the institution,” and said she wants to strengthen academic programs, placing emphasis on liberal arts, nursing, education and business.

The nearly two-hour ceremony included processions by faculty, deans, university officers, alumni and representatives from more than 50 colleges and universities across the country.

It featured music by Adelphi professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec, as well as a rendition of the song “Seasons of Love” from “Rent,” the acclaimed rock musical by the late playwright and songwriter Jonathan Larson, a 1982 graduate of the university.

Riordan received symbols of the office — the President’s Medallion and a university hood in the school colors of brown and gold.

Formerly the provost of the University of Kentucky, Riordan replaced Robert Scott, 75, who led Adelphi for 15 years. She was appointed after an extensive national search.

“Adelphi is a thriving community of learning, but it is also an institution that requires effective financial and organizational management to succeed,” said trustee Gerry House, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Student Achievement, a nonprofit education reform group. “In Dr. Riordan, we found a leader with the business experience and expertise to serve as an outstanding steward of our great university.”

Alexandra Wurglics, 21, a senior majoring in history who will stay at Adelphi for a graduate degree in education, said having a woman like Riordan as president adds to the progress the school is making.

“So far, she has been very down-to-earth and makes the campus feel more like a family,” said Wurglics, who commutes from Glendale, Queens. “Diversity is a big issue in higher education, and she is making a conscious effort to bring different students together.”

Student government president Malik Clarke, 21, a graduating senior majoring in business, said he admired the way Riordan took the issues of diversity, financial aid and student graduation rates “head-on.”

“She doesn’t hold back and that’s what we need, particularly at this time,” he said.

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