A Farewell Message from President Dennis J. Murray
October 1, 2021—As Kevin Weinman prepares to take the helm of Marist on Monday, I wanted to express my profound gratitude to the Marist community for your extraordinary work during my nearly 40 years as President.
During the past four decades, Marist has become a distinctive American institution, going from a small local college to one with an international reach. We have built upon the foundation laid for us by the Marist Brothers, whose emphasis on excellence in teaching, sense of community, and service to others has endured. The Brothers’ values, tradition, and heritage set Marist apart from other colleges and are still very much alive today.
Increasingly, Marist’s faculty and programs are being recognized for their excellence by accrediting bodies and other organizations that evaluate academic quality. Recently, US News & World Report ranked Marist #7 in the Northeast for quality teaching and ranked the College #2 in the Northeast for innovation. Forty years ago, we were not well known outside of Poughkeepsie. Today, we find Marist listed in The Princeton Review’s 50 Colleges That Create Futures, alongside schools like Stanford, Princeton, and MIT. We’ve also established academic centers of excellence like the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership, the Institute for Data Center Professionals, the Hudson River Valley Institute, and the Center for Lifetime Study, which serves the community by promoting lifelong learning for senior citizens. Marist’s record of success is what attracts the bright and committed students who make up our student body, and we should take pride in knowing that we are producing society’s future leaders.
The growth and beauty of the Marist campus have been equally impressive. Over the last 40 years, we have gone from 107 acres to 251 acres. This remarkable development has been accomplished through 41 land acquisitions and two major gifts. We have built first-rate academic facilities, including the Cannavino Library, the Science and Allied Health Building, the Hancock Center, the Steel Plant, Lowell Thomas, Fontaine, and the Fusco Music Center, and we have funding in place to construct the new Dyson Center. We have also enhanced student support space and dramatically improved our residence facilities, Student Center, and McCann Center. We have reoriented the campus to our beautiful Hudson River and the spectacular sunsets we see in the west; these sunsets are enjoyed by thousands each year at the waterfront park we developed. We created three architecturally distinctive campus gates that are iconic symbols of our institution, and we connected the east and west sides of campus with a pedestrian underpass. Finally, we established a branch campus in Florence, Italy, helping to make Marist #3 in the country for study abroad, according to the US State Department.
As we prepare to tackle the challenges of an ever-competitive higher education marketplace, we stand on a strong financial footing and know that we can confront these challenges with confidence. We are a financially stable organization at a time when many of our competitors are struggling. Our endowment has reached $408 million; 40 years ago, it was $500,000. We have $86 million in cash; 40 years ago, we had $704,000. Our total assets are nearly $1 billion; 40 years ago, they were $22 million. Our net assets are $737 million; 40 years ago, they were $14 million. Fitch recently affirmed the College’s A+ credit rating and upgraded our outlook, noting our “very strong cash flow position” and “the positive impact of steps [taken] in response to the pandemic.”
Most importantly, we have people in our community who care deeply about Marist and our mission to serve students. Our people are at the heart of what makes this such a singular institution, and we will rely upon them to shape the College’s future. Our faculty, administrators, and staff have performed remarkably well over the past 40 years, but they have shown their true character during the COVID-19 crisis. Their response to the pandemic has been nothing short of inspirational. I would particularly like to note the outstanding work of the faculty, Cabinet, and operations team, all of whom went above and beyond their normal jobs to help Marist navigate this once-in-a-century crisis.
I would also like to express my gratitude to a group of people who are often in the background and who don’t always get the recognition they deserve: our office staff, grounds and maintenance workers, housekeepers, and food service workers. My thanks to them for everything they do to help keep our campus running.
Let me also take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to the team in Greystone for their exceptional dedication and hard work day in and day out. They have demonstrated infinite patience, performed under pressure, and done it all with grace and good humor.
In addition to faculty and staff, I want to thank our dedicated Board of Trustees, Alumni Executive Board, advisory boards, volunteers, and friends of the College, all of whom have given so unselfishly of their time and resources. Their support, and the confidence they have in our work, are what helps propel Marist forward.
Finally, I would like to thank my wife Marilyn for standing beside me during this incredible journey. She gave up a promising career, and her life in California, to help me serve the Marist community. Marilyn has been an outstanding partner, and her influence can be found throughout our campus culture.
Let me conclude by saying that leading Marist has been the honor and privilege of my lifetime, and I will always do anything asked of me to support the College. I won’t, however, be making comments or calling plays from the sidelines. I’m a firm believer in the saying that there can only be one president at a time. I am confident that the Board and Presidential Search Committee have chosen an excellent leader in Kevin Weinman. He has all the qualities needed to lead Marist into the future, and I look forward to witnessing what I know will be his many successes.
Again, my sincere thanks for your work making Marist what it is today, and for giving me the opportunity to serve as President of this great institution.