Fiorentino officially named West Chester University president
January 6, 2017 12:40 PM
Photo by Rusty Kennedy
President Chris Fiorentino speaks during the commencement ceremony at West Chester University in May.
West Chester University
Christopher M. Fiorentino was named West Chester University's 15th president on Thursday. He had been interim president since April.
By Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania’s state-owned university system was in its infancy in 1983 when the man named Thursday to head its largest member school, West Chester University, arrived on campus for what seemed a temporary assignment.
Instead, Christopher Fiorentino — filling in for a professor on sabbatical — put down roots, rising from an assistant professor of economics to a campus dean, a vice president and, as of April, the university’s interim leader. Effective Monday, he becomes West Chester’s 15th president.
“I’m very excited,” Mr. Fiorentino, 63, said after a vote by the State System of Higher Education’s board of governors to make his appointment permanent. “To be able to do this at the place where I’ve spent my career is personally rewarding.”
The suburban Philadelphia institution with 17,000 students has seen enrollment growth while most of the 14 State System universities have absorbed declines. Even so, the new president said he is realistic about the pressures his school faces in a state where government subsidies lag and the population has been shrinking.
“We have been fortunate in that the demographics have held up a little better in the southeastern part of the state. We’ve also come up with other ways to grow,” he said.
Mr. Fiorentino has three degrees in economics: a baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral, all from Temple University. He has been vice president for external operations at West Chester since 2013 and previously worked for almost two decades as dean of the university's College of Business and Public Affairs.
Given those roles occupied during three-plus decades, he was a familiar quantity at West Chester, long before being introduced as its new leader Thursday.
"He not only understands the university’s mission; he has helped to shape it," said Board of Governors Chair Cynthia Shapira in a statement. "The Board has great confidence that he will continue to provide exceptional leadership to the institution into the future.”
In that statement, State System Chancellor Frank Brogan struck a similar note in praising the new president.
“I am certain he will continue to play a valuable role, not only in West Chester’s future, but also in the future of the State System as he works with the other university presidents on behalf of all of the universities,” Mr. Brogan said.
Mr. Fiorentino's salary will begin at $296,900 under a three-year rolling contract, said State System spokesman Kenn Marshall. Mr. Fiorentino succeeds Greg Weisenstein, who retired.
West Chester, along with being the largest system school, also is the least expensive of them based on a comparison of current-year data. The $17,789 a year for tuition, room, board and all other fees that West Chester charges its largest share of residential students is lowest among the 14 State System universities -- almost $3,000 less than the system average.
Mr. Fiorentino was one of two individuals whose names were forwarded by the campus to the State System board and to Mr. Brogan for final consideration. The other individual, Cady Short-Thompson, is dean of Blue Ash College, a regional college within the University of Cincinnati.
Mr. Fiorentino’s wife, Susan, is a West Chester alumna and assistant professor in the university’s Management Department who currently serves as Coordinator for the Master of Science in Human Resource Management program Before moving to academia, she was a full-time attorney. The Fiorentinos have three children.
The State System's 14 member schools enroll 105,000 students.
The campuses in addition to West Chester include: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg and Slippery Rock University.
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.
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