President moves: New hires, plus retiring leaders being lauded for their pandemic strategy

Dr. Milo Riverso's most distinguished accomplishment is his recent nine-year tenure as the president and CEO of STV Group Inc., in which he guided the planning and execution of the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum complex, among others.

Among higher education’s most recent presidential comings and goings, we have a mix of vetted academics and professionals who draw on the wealth of their outside experience. Milo Riverso, for example, has leveraged his esteemed background in construction and engineering to win over Manhattan College’s Board of Trustees. Anita Olson Gustafson, on the other hand, drew on her decades-long, relentless passion for liberal arts to gain favor at Presbyterian College.

As we continue to remove ourselves from the pandemic, two retiring presidents can look back at their tenure through that temperamental time with a triumphant smile. With level-headedness, Clarence D. Ambrister and Tom Bogart managed their pandemic-era funding to set their institutions up for long-term success.

More from UB: Report: International graduate student enrollment booms by 100% since the pandemic


Timothy G. Lynch – College of Staten Island

The City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees has tapped Dr. Timothy G. Lynch as the College of Staten Island’s permanent president. He has served as the college’s interim president since January 2022. The board grants him stay beginning July 1.

In the 18 short months that Lynch led CSI, he has championed diversity, equity and inclusion and increased the institution’s financial health. Specifically, he oversaw increased diversity among his faculty and staff and created a new cabinet position overseeing DEI and belonging. Moreover, he closed a $12 million budget gap, reduced the college’s structural deficit by 75% in one year and secured campus funding in collaboration with elected officials and community leaders, according to CSI Today.

Lynch is a first-generation student and native New Yorker, earning his baccalaureate and doctoral degrees from CUNY colleges. Now, he is responsible for the only public higher education institution in Staten Island.

Milo Riverso – Manhattan College

Dr. Milo Riverso is another leader selected to lead an institution in New York on July 1. Riverso, however, hails from a distinguished background in private industry, specifically in engineering and construction. His most distinguished accomplishment is his recent nine-year tenure as the president and CEO of STV Group Inc., in which he guided the planning and execution of the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum complex, to name a few high-profile projects, according to Manhattan College’s website.

However, Riverso does have a background in developing young talent through academia. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Buildings, Infrastructure and Public Space at Columbia University. He also served on the review committee at NYU for their master’s construction program curriculum. Additionally, he served eight years as chairman on the board of directors for a free after-school program for high school students interested in architecture, engineering and construction.

Anita Olson Gustafson – Presbyterian College (S.C.)

Tapped by the Presbyterian College Board of Trustees, Anita Olson Gustafson will be conducting a striking return to South Carolina in August as the private college’s next—and first female—president.

Gustafson served in faculty and administration at Presbyterian for nearly two decades before departing to Mercer University (Ga.) in 2016. There, she served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, whose 2000-student population is double the size of Presbyterian’s, according to the college’s website.

An avid professor, she taught history at Presbyterian and Mercer University while dean. Despite the current zeitgeist surrounding building career-connected skills, Gustafson passionately believes in the value of a multi-disciplinary liberal arts education. At Mercer, she regularly collaborated with different schools, such as law, business, engineering, education, theology, professional advancement and others, according to a press release.

“I am excited and honored to be returning to Presbyterian College as its next president,” Gustafson said. “PC is a special place, and I am eager to connect with faculty, staff, alumni and friends. I look forward to working with the entire PC community to implement the strategic plan and continue to move the college forward.”

Julie Kornfeld – Kenyon College (Ohio)

The Kenyon College Board of Trustees has tapped Julie Kornfeld as the next president, a position she will begin in October. Kornfeld will be arriving from an involved and esteemed career at Columbia University, in which she most recently served as vice provost for academic programs. Before that, she served as Columbia’s vice dean of education at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and an assistant dean at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“Julie Kornfeld is a brilliant epidemiologist, educator and administrator who has served the Columbia community with great skill and judgment over the last seven years,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger, according to Kenyon College press release.


Clarence D. Armbrister – Johnson C. Smith University (N.C.)

Five years and $80 million later, Clarence D. Armbrister is calling it at Johnson C. Smith University. Ambrister’s impact on the 156-year-old university includes securing its largest endowment, campus renovations and forging private and public partnerships with community leaders and elected city officials.

With prior experience in investment banking, Ambrister collaborated with community leaders to create his 2020 strategic plan to ensure the university’s community impact despite pandemic hiccups. Consequently, he secured the trust of Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, who granted JCSU the $80 million, which Ambrister used $9 million for residence hall upgrades. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration also granted the HBCU $5.5 million for technology upgrades.

president. “It is a bittersweet moment for me and my family because we love this university and the unparalleled opportunities HBCUs like ours provide for thousands of students across the country each year,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

Tom Bogart – Columbia College (S.C.)

President who took over a college or university smack dab in the pandemic was a tall task. However, Tom Bogart found himself riding into a battle-tested Columbia College that had unsuspectingly set itself up for success during higher education’s tumultuous time.

Facing declining enrollment and Columbia’s accreditor knocking on the door due to unpaid debt, Bogart’s predecessor, Carol Moore, cut down the school’s program offerings, expanded online and graduate program offerings and made the college co-ed. While Bogart entered into a “tense” campus community following these changes, its lean operational costs and online programs proved vital once campuses were deserted during the pandemic. Since 2020, the student population has grown 25 percent.

“I wish I could take credit for it, but I can only take credit for seeing it and convincing them to let me come join,” he said.

Bogart’s stewardship over the changes he had inherited when he started at Columbia College allowed him and his administration to focus on using HEERF funds strategically rather than having to “shovel it into the fire to keep the doors open,” said Bogart, according to The Post and Courier. Specifically, the college used emergency funding to upgrade campus and student technology, providing student financial aid and paying off old debts.

By building on the foundation of his predecessor, Bogart found it the opportune time to hang it up. “What I saw was what we are now, and I am completely unsurprised at the positive trajectory of the college,” Bogart said.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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