Wagner College will hold its annual commencement exercise on Friday, May 10 at 9:30 a.m. The program will take place under a big-top tent erected on the Sutter Oval in front of the college’s iconic Main Hall on Howard Avenue, Grymes Hill.
The commencement speaker will be President Richard Guarasci, who is retiring in June after 22 years with the college, first as provost, then as president since 2002.
Also being honored is Dr. Carin Guarasci, an “educator’s educator” and founder of the New Educators at Wagner mentorship and professional development program.
Two students will also address the 2019 commencement audience: Daniel S. Smith of Hauppauge, N.Y., and Kenya Z. Hyman of Ajax, Ontario. Both won an oratory competition to speak for the Class of 2019.
This year’s commencement program will be the 101st graduation exercise held on Wagner College’s Staten Island campus. The school, which was founded in 1883 in Rochester, N.Y., moved to Staten Island in 1918.
The graduation roster for this year’s commencement exercise includes 624 baccalaureate, master’s, post-master’s certifications and doctoral candidates.
RICHARD GUARASCI is a New Yorker, through and through.
More than a century ago, his grandfather Louis landed at Ellis Island and settled in Brooklyn, where two generations of American Guarascis were raised. Richard grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics at Fordham University before leaving Gotham. He enrolled in the graduate economics program at Indiana University Bloomington, where his interest in public policy led to a Ph.D. in political science.
It was during his first appointment as a professor, at St. Lawrence University, that Richard discovered his dual talents for administration and curricular innovation, leading a group that created SLU’s groundbreaking First-Year Program. This was followed by a stint as dean of Hobart College, which prepared him for his return to New York City in 1997 as provost at Wagner College.
Almost immediately, Richard Guarasci proved himself a great match for the college on the hill, leading faculty in a major curricular reorganization that produced the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts, instituted just a year after his arrival.
In 2002, when President Norman Smith announced his pending departure, Richard Guarasci was the trustees’ unanimous choice as his successor.
Since becoming president, Richard Guarasci has reinforced the College’s finances and its campus. During his tenure, the endowment has grown from $4 million to around $92 million. In 2010, Wagner opened its first new residence hall in four decades, Foundation Hall. Two years later, the College completed an exterior renovation of its architectural signature, Main Hall.
Richard Guarasci has also strengthened Wagner’s ties to the surrounding community. In 2009, he initiated a partnership between Wagner College and a coalition of businesses, schools, churches and nonprofits in the nearby neighborhood of Port Richmond that was designed to address significant challenges within the community while enhancing student learning and raising civic awareness. It led to a college preparedness campaign called 30,000 Degrees, which united Wagner College with St. John’s University and the College of Staten Island in working with local public schools to generate an additional 30,000 college degrees among Staten Islanders within 10 years. Aligned with both of these initiatives, the Port Richmond Partnership Leadership Academy has brought successive cohorts of students from Port Richmond High School to study on the Wagner campus each summer, many of whom have enrolled at Wagner as remarkable student leaders.
Richard Guarasci has not only been a leader at Wagner College; he has also been a national leader in the higher education community, heading up the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, New American Colleges & Universities, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, and Campus Compact. In January, he completed his term as board chairman of the Association of American Colleges & Universities.
CARIN GUARASCI is an educator’s educator.
This Flatbush, Brooklyn native has made her own education a lifelong project, starting with her bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and continuing through three separate master’s programs, one from Indiana University and two from St. Lawrence University, in educational foundations, guidance counseling, and administration, supervision and curriculum.
Carin Guarasci knows from practice the impact an educator makes, starting with her very first position, teaching 10 boys with severe discipline problems in West Long Branch, N.J., followed by 13 years as a remedial reading teacher in Ogdensburg, N.Y. She first ventured into educational leadership as the principal of a K-12 school in rural St. Regis Falls, N.Y., population 464. This prepared her to provide deeper support to more teachers at a broader level, working for more than a decade as a supervisor and trainer/consultant for two regional BOCES — Boards of Cooperative Educational Services — in Watertown and in Putnam/Northern Westchester, N.Y. Later, she worked as the regional literacy coordinator for a private company providing literacy programs for K-3 classrooms in the New York City public schools.
The apex of Carin Guarasci’s career, so far, are two projects that have been inextricably intertwined in her life: her pursuit of a doctorate in education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, and her creation of a mentoring and professional development program for those entering the teaching profession, called New Educators at Wagner. Knowing that nearly half of all new teachers leave the field in their first 5 years on the job, Carin created the N.E.W. program to focus the attention of new teachers on well-researched, evidence-based solutions to the problems they encountered in the classroom. Since N.E.W. was established in 2009, the percentage of its graduates leaving the teaching profession has been reduced to around 10 percent. Her doctoral research, which focused on the N.E.W. program’s outcomes, earned her an Ed.D. diploma in 2017.
Dr. Guarasci has contributed educational leadership on Staten Island as a member of the boards of the Notre Dame Academy and the New World Prep Charter School. She has been given many community honors since moving here in 1997, including the Les Trautmann Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to the People of Staten Island and awards from the Seamen’s Society for Children, Project Hospitality and the Chai Society of Wagner College. In 2014, the New York State Senate named Carin Guarasci a Woman of Distinction, and in 2016 the Greater New York Region of the National Organization of Italian American Women honored her as one of three outstanding Wise Women who have excelled in their respective professional fields.
On top of everything else, Dr. Carin Guarasci has been a tireless supporter of Wagner College, working with her husband to raise needed funds and establishing deep, enduring relationships with the college’s alumni and friends. The growth in Wagner’s endowment since 2002, from $4 million to $92 million, could not have been achieved without her steadfast support.
The two student speakers will be KENYA Z. HYMAN of Ajax, Ontario, Canada and DANIEL S. SMITH of Hauppauge, N.Y. Both won an oratory competition to speak for the Class of 2019.
Hyman, who is graduating with a degree in business management, has been a member of the college’s track and field team as well as the Women’s Professional Network, the Women of Color Dialogue Circle and the Black Student Union.
Smith, a public policy and administration major, has been a leader of the Iris Alliance, an LGBTQ+ student organization, and Exceeding the Expectation, a campus disability advocacy organization, as well as serving as guest director with Completely Student Productions and Student Run Musical Theatre. He has served in five internships throughout his Wagner experience with the Richmond County D.A.’s office, the deBlasio re-election campaign, the Wagner College Holocaust Center, the Long Island Crisis Center and Gay Men's Health Crisis.