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Office of the President

President Krislov’s Inauguration Speech

Mark and Steve, thank you for passing the torch to me. I couldn’t be more honored.

David, your kind and generous words mean a great deal to me.

Johnnetta, thank you for reminding us of two of our core values here at Pace: keeping the doors of opportunity open for all, and preparing our graduates to succeed in their careers and make a difference in their communities.

I’d like to take a moment to also thank Chancellor Betty Rosa and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins for being here and speaking to us today. And all of those who offered such wonderful remarks and greetings.

We’re also delighted to welcome my college friend Chuck Lesnick, representing Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer. I thank you for being here and showing your support on this important day.

I also want to welcome the distinguished members of our Board of Trustees,

Chairman Mark Besca; Chairmen Emeriti Carl Pforzheimer and Neil Bianco; Trustees Photeine Anagnostopoulos, John Byrne, Bridget-Anne Hampden, Marty McElroy, and Robert Robotti; and Trustee Emeritus Ivor Whitson.

I appreciate the confidence you have vested in me and in the Pace faculty and staff members.

To the Pace faculty, thank you for coming together from all three Pace campuses: New York, White Plains, and right here in Pleasantville. I look forward to continuing to learn from you, and work with you as we explore new ways to serve our students, innovate in the classroom, and contribute to both the Pace and professional communities.

Thank you as well to our administrators and staff for being here today and for supporting the unique educational mission of Pace and for your deep dedication to our students —I look forward to working with you as well.

Also with us today are members of our broader communities. Thank you for your support, your encouragement, and your partnership.

Finally, I want to thank the students who are here. Every day you entrust us with your dreams…and bless us with your creativity…and inspire us with your relentless pursuit of your educational goals.  

I am honored to be in the midst of all of you.

And I am humbled by the challenges that are before us.

But, I am confident that, together, we can build on the legacy of innovation, high quality education, service to the community, and commitment to our students that has made this university what it is today—a place where students discover that their dreams really are within their reach.

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We are here today at the start of a new academic year to mark and reflect on the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Pace University.

As we do so, it’s an occasion to look back at this university’s remarkable past.

It’s a chance to look around with fresh eyes at all this university has become and the turbulent times we live in.

And it’s also a time for a clear-eyed look at the challenges that lie ahead in our world as well as in higher education.

It’s not a secret to anyone that technology is changing all that we do, making everything faster and more convenient, leading to incredible advances in genetics and computational biology and predictive analytics and the use of “big data” in business and in health. Today, everything can be customized, including education.

But we also know that technology can have a down side. It is making some jobs obsolete...and raising concerns about privacy…and the nature of social discourse. The Internet has become a battlefield where terror is waged and democracy is tested.

But technology is not the only force creating uncertainty in our lives.

Climate change is disrupting weather patterns and causing damage beyond our comprehension. Religious intolerance and political conflict are displacing entire populations and the gulf between the haves and have nots has become a polarizing divide around the world, with the ripples felt in every corner of our society.

Rather than evolving into what some called a post-racial society with the election of Barack Obama, we are confronted with evidence wherever we look that we have a long, long way to go toward achieving racial equality and harmony. The hatred and bigotry displayed in Charlottesville, Virginia undoubtedly will spark difficult conversations as our community, like those around the world, searches for answers.

But, one thing we can embrace with confidence, even in these times, is the power of a college education to change lives for the better.

I know not everyone shares that view.

A recent Gallup poll found that nearly 60 percent of American adults have only some or very little confidence in higher education. A recent Pew poll found that the percentage of people who think higher education is a force for good has dropped dramatically.

It seems that much of the public thinks of college as a ticket to a specific job—and the cheaper the ticket, the better.

Clearly, we in higher education have to be willing to ask ourselves difficult questions and to do what it takes to deliver on our promises.

We must prepare our students with not only analytical, critical thinking, quantitative communication and other skills, but with the curiosity, adaptability, and inclination to respond effectively to the changes and challenges they will face throughout their lives. They need to be ready to understand and solve problems we can’t yet even imagine.

One way we do that is by helping students make connections between different disciplines, learning to treat each one as a different lens through which to view a problem and advance its solution.

Another way we do this is by enrolling a diverse and inclusive student body that represents a rich mix of cultures, languages, ethnicities, and socio-economic circumstance from the US and 117 other nations. At Pace, our students learn from one another and work together in a community.

This sense of community, even across differences, is particularly important because our students will graduate into a world in which business is global, and being able to understand the perspectives, cultures, and histories of others will be critical to their success. Their Pace education allows them to operate successfully in a world that, as Tom Friedman recently observed in The New York Times, has moved from being interconnected to interdependent, and prosperous countries will understand that problems as well as opportunities know no national borders.

We also must prepare our students to take on the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy. To be informed, to be involved, to participate. A democracy is only as strong as its citizens’ willingness to defend it.

For many years, the motto of Pace University has been Opportunitas. Many people assume that the English translation of that Latin word is opportunity. And, it’s true, that’s one of its many meanings. But it has other meanings as well, and the one I find compelling is advantage.

We want to ensure that our students, when they leave Pace, have an advantage that will help them make their way in the world—and change the world for the better.

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To do all this, we must see the imperative for change not as a burden but as an opportunity.

Pace University has never been afraid of change, going all the way back to our founding by Homer and Charles Pace.

In the early 1900s, Homer was a young man rising fast in the Great Western Railroad Company in New York City. He had always wanted to go into business for himself but he had a young family and his job paid well—so well that he feared he wouldn’t be able to give it up to strike out on his own.

He wanted to learn accounting, to help him with his duties at the railroad. He looked around for a tutoring service for the CPA exam but wasn’t satisfied with what was available in New York. So, he ordered study materials from England and adapted them for his own use.

He passed easily.

Others took notice and asked him to help them study for the exam. And he soon realized that his business opportunity was right in front of him.

In 1906, Homer and his brother Charles started Pace and Pace in two rented offices in the New York Tribune building at 154 Nassau Street in Lower Manhattan.

The first class was 13 students—within eight months, the accounting school had 100 students.

I mention the address on Nassau Street because—and I love this fact—today, the Pace University Civic Center is at that very same address—which reminds us of how far Pace has come from its humble beginnings.

Today, we have over 13,000 students enrolled in over 400 degree or certificate programs on our three campuses. The Dyson College of Arts and Sciences embodies the hallmark of a liberal arts education, developing critical thinking, problem solving, and quantitative communication skills for our students. The Lubin School of Business is among the best in the country. The Actors Studio Drama School is one of the best in the world! We’re seen as one of the best options for military veterans using their G.I. Bill benefits.

We can be proud of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law, our School of Education, our College of Health Professions, and the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

Think about that for a minute.

Imagine if, today, the founders of a tutoring service—because that’s what it was—set their sights on becoming, decades later, a great, multifaceted university educating students in hundreds of fields.

Incredible, right?

But let’s consider what made all of that possible, and it goes right back to those two offices on Nassau Street.

Homer had a good career but he wanted something more. So, he studied for a new profession, took a risk and became an entrepreneur.

He wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the tutoring he could get. So, he did it better.

He and his brother saw a need, and they filled it.

When opportunities for growth arose, they, and their successors, seized on them.

Thanks to them we are here today, on this lovely campus. We got started here after an alumnus who had gone on to become chairman of the General Foods Corporation donated his family home and property here in Pleasantville. A little over a decade later, Pace opened a Law School in White Plains. We have been building and expanding ever since, in response to strong demand for education here in Westchester.

So…..

…taking risks

…insisting on quality.

…serving a need.

…seizing opportunities to grow and adapt.

That is how Pace became the university that it is today, thanks to Homer and Charles, the vision of the trustees, the commitment of faculty, and the leadership of all of the presidents who have led this great institution before me.

I am honored to follow in their footsteps.

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This is my first year at Pace but it will be my 11th as a college president and, as I said earlier, I believe in the power of a college education to change lives. I am living proof.

My grandfather on my father’s side was a rabbi who emigrated from Lithuania to Cleveland and was barely able to support his wife and four children.  

My mother was born in what is now the Ukraine and her family also immigrated to Cleveland. Her father was a carpenter and her mother a seamstress.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression and they were very, very poor. They would tell stories of being hungry, shivering in the cold wind off Lake Erie, not having proper shoes.

But, despite the travails, my grandparents on both sides believed fiercely in the idea of America as a land of opportunity and they gulped the fresh air of freedom of thought and religion.

They also understood the power of education to escape poverty….and transform lives.

My father, Joe Krislov, was a professor of labor economics at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. My mother, Evelyn, was a social worker and a civil rights activist.

They taught me that we are put on this Earth to help others who are less fortunate and that each generation pays off its debts to those who came before by ensuring opportunities for those who come after.

My whole career has been animated by this idea and obligation. It’s a humanistic value but it’s also rooted in my Jewish faith. The Lexington I knew was divided by class and race, and the discrimination I witnessed and experienced inspired me to fight against inequality and intolerance.

I am grateful to be here at Pace because it allows me to continue this quest, as I work with all of you.

We have lots of students here who come from difficult circumstances. About 90 percent of our undergraduate students receive financial aid. About a third of them are eligible for federal Pell grants for low-income students. And about half of our incoming class is first generation in college.

More than half of all of our students are of color.

The young people at Pace I’ve met who are committed to making a difference in the world make me optimistic about the world they will shape.

Students such as Rita Abraham, a senior majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. She’s working with Professor Nancy Krucher on a cure for pancreatic cancer, one of the most invasive forms of the disease.  

An Information Systems major, Sasha Ariel Alston, Class of 2019, has already written a children’s book to encourage children of color, especially girls, to learn to code. Sasha’s long-term goal is, literally, to change the face of those working in the STEM fields.

Daniel Citardi is working with Professor Jean Coppola on a computer app that will allow people with Alzheimer’s disease to enter a calming virtual world to relieve the anxiety they often feel.

Matthew Mainzer came to Pace after serving two tours of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan. After graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, he went to Azerbaijan to work with the US Department of State and was awarded a Fulbright to teach in Serbia this year. He plans to get an advanced degree at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and then join the foreign service.

Recent School of Performing Arts alumna Dominique Fishback was recently called one of the fall’s breakout stars by USA Today for her role as Darlene on HBO’s series, The Deuce.

There are so many great students to call out, but I want to mention just one more, Lisdy Contreras-Giron. Lisdy and her mother came from Guatemala to join her father when she was only five years old. She’s in the joint BA-JD program and is on track to earn a law degree in only six years. She is a DREAMer and has shown great courage in speaking out publicly. Her goal is to help people in similar circumstances.

We are proud of all of our students.

Pace may have started out as a vocational training school but it is now a comprehensive university that specializes in developing people who become leaders in their fields and in their communities.

Pace also makes a difference in the lives of students. The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Pace as the number one private, non-profit institution in the country for propelling student mobility based on data from the Equality of Opportunity Project’s Mobility Report Cards, as reported by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty.

Much of our student’s success is attributable to the Pace Path—a hands on, experiential learning approach rooted in the DNA of Pace.

What is the Pace Path? It combines four elements: individualized goal-setting, strong academics, internships and co-curricular experiences, and dedicated mentoring, often by Pace’s very own alumni. Students following the Pace Path work in businesses, clinics, research labs, and nonprofits. They learn on the job, as well as in the classroom and abroad. The Pace Path prepares students to become sought-after leaders in their fields.

The Pace Path—and the success of our students—also depends on our faculty who not only teach, they change the world.

Let me tell you about a few of them and the extraordinary faculty-student collaborations.

Professor Matthew Bolton is a political scientist who founded Pace’s International Disarmament Institute. Under the Institute’s aegis, he and Professor Emily Welty advised the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which was just awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Talk about impact!

The Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, founded by Professor Emeritus Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and under the leadership of Professor Karl Coplan in the Elisabeth Haub School of Law, gives students the opportunity to work on behalf of nonprofit groups seeking to protect the Hudson River system.

The Elephant Protection Act was originated by students of our Environmental Policy Clinic and signed into law earlier this month by Governor Andrew Cuomo. With the inspired guidance of Senior Fellow John Cronin and Professor Michelle Land, the students actively lobbied in Albany and collected 1,100 student signatures in support of the bill making New York State the first in the nation to implement an outright ban on the use of elephants in entertainment. 

Under the leadership of Distinguished Professor Nigel Yarlett in the Haskins Laboratory, science students work with their professors to find cures for diseases such as African Sleeping Sickness that are caused by parasites.

Lauren Birney, a professor in the Pace School of Education, has enlisted New York City students in helping restore the oyster habitat in the New York Harbor. Many other education faculty work with students and faculty at the Pace High School in Chinatown.

Distinguished Management Professor Melissa Cardon has been called one of the “brightest stars of her generation in the field of entrepreneurship.” But she’s also raised more than $300,000 to fight cancer and won awards for her community work.

Dr. Li-Chiou Chen, in the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, whose cybersecurity program has resulted in Pace being designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, has brought in over four million dollars in federal funding to provide scholarships to Pace students who will be the first line of defense in keeping our nation's computer networks secure from hackers.

Lastly, Professors Lin Drury and Sharon Wexler, in the College of Health Professions, have been engaging undergraduate and graduate students in providing health care to clients who are at risk of homelessness due to extreme poverty, limited literacy, cultural and/or language barriers at the Henry Street Settlement in NYC.

Thanks to all of you and many more outstanding faculty and staff!

This kind of high-quality, hands-on education is expensive. As I said earlier, 92 percent of our students receive financial aid and the need is likely to grow.

So, alumni, friends, I’ll be reaching out to you and asking you to support the kind of education that not only changes the lives of students but also makes a difference in our communities, our nation, and the world.

One of my main responsibilities over the next years will be working with our trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and community members to evolve and implement the strategic plan initiated by the trustees and President Friedman.

The plan calls for continuing to work to make the Pace experience transformational for our students—helping them develop global competence and provide even more opportunities for experiential learning.

Second, we’re going to focus on outcomes. That means we have to do more to improve retention and graduation rates, maintain academic rigor, and use data to evaluate and improve our programs.

Third, we will keep Pace vital and dynamic, and alive with opportunities for students to expand their horizons, both in the classroom and in internships and practical experiences.

In Manhattan, we’ve added two residence halls and a new performing arts building and we’re working on plans to transform One Pace Plaza and 41 Park Row to make it easier for students to engage with faculty, collaborate with peers, and use state-of-the-art learning technologies.

You can look around and see what we’ve done to improve the Pleasantville Campus, with new residence halls, athletic facilities, and state-of-the-art classrooms.

The goal of all of this investment is to continue to be a place where students can dream big—and, if they work hard, can expect their dreams to come true.

We have so much to be proud of here at Pace.  

It’s time to take our light out from under the bushel basket and let it shine throughout the region, the nation, and the world. This hidden gem should no longer be hidden. Telling the stories of Pace is going to be one of my biggest priorities.

This is big and ambitious. But it is no larger than what Pace has already done over the past 111 years.

Homer and Charles, I am sure, would be proud of what that little enterprise on Nassau Street has become.

Were they here today, they would see in Pace students the same spirit of striving, of innovation, and ambition that got us where we are today.

No doubt they would urge us to embrace the mission of opportunity and strengthen the Pace advantage—that is exactly what we intend to do. 

We must embrace challenges while holding fast to our core values. We will change lives and educate our future leaders from every segment of our society. We will continue to make the American dream a reality for our students. This is Pace, our promise and our future. I’m excited to be part of this great institution and to work with so many people who make a difference every day. Let’s go!

Thank you.