St. John Fisher College President Dr. Gerard J. Rooney Named an RBJ Icon

November 30, 2020

Dr. Gerard J. Rooney, the seventh president of St. John Fisher College, was selected as a Rochester Business Journal 2020 Icon Honors recipient.

Dr. Gerard J. Rooney

Established in 2017, Icon Honors recognize Rochester business leaders, over the age of 60, for their notable success and demonstration of strong leadership within and outside their fields. Icon honorees will be celebrated during a virtual celebration on Monday, Dec. 7.

“The Icon Honors recipients are known for their strong leadership, notable success and commitment to mentoring. What they focus their attention on really matters; what they say is important; and what they do makes a difference for many of us in Rochester and often beyond,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, group publisher of the Rochester Business Journal, in a press release announcing this year’s recipients.

Rooney joined the College in 1996 and served as executive vice president for enrollment, advancement, and planning prior to his presidential tenure began in July 2015. Throughout his presidency, he has made an indelible student, academic, community, and College-wide impact through a variety of initiatives guided by the College’s Strategic Plan: Renewing our purpose. Broadening our impact.

Using a student-centered approach, Rooney has spearheaded several efforts to create transformative experiences leading to increased levels of student engagement and success. In 2018, the College launched The Fisher Edge, an innovative program offering students an integrated approach to academic advising and career planning and exploration. The same year, the Center for Career and Academic Planning (CCAP) was established. CCAP advisors provide cohesive advising to help students plan to excel in their major, explore careers, and develop professional skills through experience-based learning. Fisher graduates consistently report favorably on outcomes following their graduation, on everything from satisfaction with their Fisher education and successful career placement. 

Under President Rooney’s leadership, Fisher has added a variety of new undergraduate and graduate offerings, including this year’s launch of a clinically-oriented hybrid Pharm.D. pathway in the Wegmans School of Pharmacy – the first fully online Pharm.D. program in New York State. Rooney’s vision for developing institutes and academic centers that build on institutional core competencies and broaden thought leadership beyond campus led to the creation of the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, the Family Business Initiative at the School of Business, and the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing housed in the Wegmans School of Nursing, the first institute of its kind.

President Rooney has also launched Fisher Forward: The Campaign for St. John Fisher College, the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the College, with a goal of $75 million. To date, more than $54 million has been raised. The campaign will fund academic innovation, experience-based learning opportunities and high impact learning practices, endowed professorships and scholarships, and continuing transformation of campus facilities.

Earlier in his career at Fisher, and based on his research on college access and choice, he established the College Bound program, a weeklong residential program designed to help low-income, first-generation high school students navigate the college search and selection process. Since its inception, the College Bound Program has served more than 350 students, of which approximately 95 percent planned to attend college. A first-generation student himself, Rooney remains committed to maintaining college access for this population of students.

During his presidency, Rooney has been honored with the Executive of the Year Award from the Rochester Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America; the Dr. Lou Buttino Faculty and Staff Involvement Award from the College’s Teddi Dance for Love Committee; and the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award.

He holds a doctoral degree from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, Higher Education Program, at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He was the recipient of the Edwin D. Duryea, Jr. Higher Education Memorial Award. He completed his undergraduate degree in sociology at Villanova University and his master's degree in educational administration and supervision at Fairfield University. In addition, he received a certificate in Higher Education Leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education's Institute for Educational Management.

In the community, Rooney is a member of the board of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and the University of St. Thomas (TX). He serves as secretary of the executive committee for Goodwill of the Finger Lakes and is an executive committee member of the Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York. In addition, he serves as chair of the Presidents Council of the Empire 8 Athletic Conference and is a member of the NCAA Division III President’s Advisory Group. Previously, he served as a peer evaluator for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, as a member of the Middle States Regional Council of the College Board, and as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Research Center for College and University Admissions.

Several College alumni were also selected as 2020 Icon Honors, including past Board of Trustees Chairs Vic Salerno ’66, O’Connell Electric Company, and Martin Mucci ’81, Paychex, Inc. Gerald Archibald ’74, The Bonadio Group, and Augustin Melendez ’99, Hillside Family of Agencies, are also among this year’s  honorees.