Almost There: UC Announces Presidential Finalists


Matt Rogers, Co-Editor-In-Chief

On Jan. 13, in an email sent to the students and faculty of Utica College, Mark Salsbury, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, announced the three finalists for the position of president at Utica College.

Dr. Laura Niesen de Abruna, Dr. Charlie T. McCormick and Utica College Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer Laura M. Casamento were named as the three finalists to succeed Dr. Todd Hutton, who in March announced he would retire effective Aug. 1, 2016.

The decision came after numerous hours of research, background checks and interviews conducted by both the search committee, and the search firm, R.H. Perry & Associates.

The Board of Trustees will now decide on who becomes the next president. This decision will be made following on-campus visits made by the candidates.

Each candidate has or will spend two days on campus. While on campus, each finalist will meet with the different constituencies that comprise the campus community. There are sessions with current staff, faculty and students.

While the candidates will also have a great deal of interaction with the board members, who ultimately have the final say, Mark Pilipczuk, chairperson of the Board of Trustees, encourages members of the campus community to attend these sessions and learn as much about each of the candidates as possible.

“As a board, we want to make sure we make the best possible decision for Utica College,” he said. “This is a chance for us to see how each candidate interacts with all our constituencies. I encourage our entire campus community to review the schedule and make an effort to attend the appropriate session for all three candidates. It’s a great chance to learn more about these highly-qualified individuals and speak with them directly.”

A complete and detailed schedule for the visits can be found at

Niesen de Abruna, currently the provost and vice president of academic affairs, as well as a professor of English at Sacred Heart University, was the first to make her on-campus visit. She was interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday.

She brings with her more than 35 years of experience in higher education, having held administrative posts at SUNY Oswego as well as Heidelberg University. In addition, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Ithaca College, and organized board committees at Susquehanna University, Heidelberg University, Roger Williams University and Sacred Heart University.

Niesen de Abruna has earned degrees from Smith College, the University of North Carolina and the University of Pennsylvania.

McCormick, who has been the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Schreiner University in Texas since 2009, began his on-campus visit on Thursday.

While at Schreiner, McCormick created the student success division, as well as the Schreiner Experience, a program that bundles textbooks in tuition.

He has earned degrees from Abilene Christian University, Texas A&M, and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his stint at Schreiner, McCormick served as the dean of academic affairs at Cabrini College near Philadelphia.

The final candidate to visit, and the only in-house candidate, is Casamento. Having been at UC since 2004, she has served as executive vice president and chief advancement officer since 2009. Her interview process will begin Monday.

A trusted member of Hutton’s cabinet, some of Casamento’s responsibilities include advancement planning, financial planning, and strategic enrollment planning.

Prior to her time at UC, she served as president and chief operating officer of Herkimer County Trust. She served in that capacity until December 2002, when the bank was sold.

Casamento has earned degrees from SUNY Canton as well as her M.B.A. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is currently pursuing her Executive doctorate in Higher Education Management at the University of Pennsylvania. She anticipates graduating in May 2016.

Last summer, the search committee went to great lengths to speak with different groups around campus to decide just what kind of president UC wants. Pilipczuk says the ideal candidate has not changed.

“We’re looking for a president who will be comfortable following the strong legacy of Dr. Hutton, understanding that we are on a positive trajectory and in a position of strength,” he said. “At the same time, the next president must be motivated and energetic, and will lead future growth. After all, we never stand still here at UC.”

Laura Niesen de Abruna

UntitledProvost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of English at Sacred Heart University

Over 35 years of experience in higher education, both as a faculty member and in administration.

Earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, her masters and doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her masters in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Has played a central role in fundraising initiatives over the course of her career.

Charlie T. McCormick

UntitledProvost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of English at Schreiner University.

Has served in that role since 2009 and has oversight of all academic programs and student services programs.

Earned his undergraduate degree at Abilene Christian University, his masters in anthropology at Texas A&M University, and his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to his stint at Schreiner University, McCormick served as Dean for Academic Affairs at Cabrini College.

Laura Casamento

UntitledExecutive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer at Utica College.

Has served in that role since 2009. Prior to that, Casamento served as vice president for Institutional Advancement at the school.

Earned her associate degree in data processing at SUNY Canton, her M.B.A. in management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently pursuing her executive doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to her time at UC, she was president and COO of Herkimer County Trust.