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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Pfannestiel: ‘We know where we’re going because we know who we are’

President Todd Pfannestiel poses with Jeremy Thurston chairperson Board of Trustees [left] and former chairperson Robert Brvenik [right] after accepting the universitys institutional charter.
Kayleigh Sturtevant
President Todd Pfannestiel poses with Jeremy Thurston chairperson Board of Trustees [left] and former chairperson Robert Brvenik [right] after accepting the university’s institutional charter.

As students, delegates, cabinet members and faculty walked into the Charles A. Gaetano Stadium on Sept. 29 to witness the inauguration of Todd Pfannestiel, the scene: cloudy skies with winds gusting at 13 mph – was much different from the McDonald’s that Pfannestiel, then provost, first learned he was selected as Utica University’s 10th president. 

This time it was signed and sealed. 

“Walking into Gaetano Stadium was truly one of the best [memories],” Pfannestiel said. “Everyone was so supportive. But especially to see all the students in the bleachers, and to hear their enormous response as I came into view is one I will never forget. I still get chills even as I speak about it.” 

Board of Trustees Chairperson Jeremy Thurston presided over the installation ceremony, which lasted an hour and 27 minutes, and delivered the opening introduction. From there, Student Government Association President Kathe Jabi extended the greetings on behalf of the student body and said when first meeting Pfannestiel it was apparent he possessed a genuine care and attentiveness to the needs of the students.

“Dr. Todd was and still is,” Jabi said. “Someone who is willing to lend a listening ear, to sit down with any and every student to answer their questions, address their concerns and alleviate their worries.” 

In his inaugural address, Pfannestiel said he’d accepted the challenge but the journey to where he is now started as a freshman at the University of Arkansas. In his quest to define perfection, he turned to his love of baseball.

“Just imagine this — a bouncer deep in the hole at shortstop requires a perfect throw to first base to beat the runner. Just as much as a slow roller to third base required the same perfection. Ninety feet is perfection,” Pfannestiel said he’d written in his freshman essay. 

Years later, with a second chance to define perfection for Utica University Pfannestiel said in a desperate attempt to find inspiration, he tossed out contrary adjectives and focused on one theme: making the impossible possible. 

“I came to realize that perfection is not unattainable at Utica University,” Pfannestiel said. “Because the perfection we seek is in our interactions with each other. It’s in the paths we physically walk and the other paths along which we strive. It is in the perfect journey that we undertake as much as we might incorrectly assume that it’s in the destination to which we arrive.” 

Now, the journey for the coming years and what the president envisions for Utica is that of an excellent, relevant, innovative institution. But that mission statement is similar to the words you find in other universities’ mission statements, Pfannestiel said. 

“Our perfection at Utica University is not a static goal or achievement. It’s all about the path. It’s about the journey,” Pfannestiel said. 

What is our 90 feet? And how do we define that path? Pfannestiel asked. 

“Just imagine,” he said again. “A puzzle with over 4,000 pieces much like the more than 4,000 individuals who comprised this university community. Not to mention the thousands of alumni and friends. It would be near impossible to piece together that puzzle if we didn’t have the picture on the box to guide us but — we have that picture. We know where we’re going because we know who we are.”  

As Pfannestiel concluded his address he turned his attention to the students saving “the best last.” 

“This perfect path that we are all here trying to create — it’s for you,” Pfannestiel said. “Utica University exists because of you and for you.” 

By the end it was official. Frostburg State University President Ronald Nowaczyk, in reference to Jim Collins’s concepts of level five leadership in his book ‘Good to Great,’ described Pfannestiel as a “level five leader in the making.” However, for the man himself who rose through the ranks of academia, the first of his kind to become president of Utica University said his inauguration “is a transition meant to look forward.”

“It sinks in more everyday,” Pfannestiel said. “But everyday is still a learning experience, as you never know what challenge may arise.”

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About the Contributors
Mickale Thompson
Mickale Thompson, Editor-In-Chief
Class Year: Senior Dual Major: Communication and Media & Business Management Previous Position: Contributing Writer (2021), Staff Writer (2021), Special Assignments Reporter (2022), Features Editor (2023), News Editor (2023)
Kayleigh Sturtevant
Kayleigh Sturtevant, Multimedia Editor
Class Year: Senior Major: Sports Management Previous Position: Multimedia Editor (Fall 2023)

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