Former longtime Nassau Community College president Sean Fanelli is the new interim dean of Hofstra University's School of Education.

Fanelli, who led NCC for 27 years before his January 2010 retirement, began his new role at Hofstra on Jan. 1, university officials said.

He replaced Nancy Halliday, who stepped down to lead Hofstra's Health Studies and Kinesiology Department.

Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz said Fanelli will "share his expertise and knowledge to help train the next generation of educators."

Some have credited Fanelli, 75, of Westbury, with building Nassau Community College's reputation as it grew to become the state's largest community college.

He holds several awards for his work in college administration, including the American Association of University Professors' Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom and the William J. Brennan Award, presented to him by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for defending free speech on the NCC campus.

Fanelli joined Hofstra in September 2010 as an adjunct professor of leadership and director of the university's Higher Education Master's program, which has an enrollment of about 60 students.

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"Teacher education is changing across the nation," Fanelli said. "Hofstra is in the forefront of trying to keep abreast of those changes and preparing the students for when they go out into the field."

Fanelli said he doesn't know yet whether he will be a candidate for the permanent dean's job at Hofstra's education school.

He said he will continue to teach one course at Hofstra this semester, Governance in Higher Education, to make sure he's in touch with the needs of the students.

Fanelli holds a doctoral degree in biological sciences from Fordham University.