By Laura Barlament
What are you going to do about that?”
President Richard Guarasci remembers this question as Carin Guarasci’s first response when he told her that the financing of Foundation Hall had fallen through. Teachers she has mentored, like Amanda Cortese Ainley ’09 M’10 (who is now a school principal), remember it, too, adding that she always helped them solve problems without fear of judgment. Her daughter, Bridget Guarasci, remembers hearing it often while growing up and facing challenges.
“She was saying, essentially, ‘I have confidence in your ability to find a solution,’” Bridget says. “She never gives up.”
As Wagner’s first lady, Carin Guarasci has played a key role in the College’s flourishing over the past two decades. Her soft-spoken manner and compassionate nature, joined with her gritty determination and sense of mission, have benefited the College in many ways.
When Richard accepted the provost’s position at Wagner, Carin said she was hesitant to go. But, she did want to be closer to their aging parents, who lived near New York City. Also, she knew that Richard felt a deep connection to Wagner and wanted to work with first-generation college students. The College became a passion and a mission for her as well. “I became concerned about a much bigger perspective,” she says.
Their house on Howard Avenue became a center for her role in the mission. It was named the Nicolais House to honor Michael ’49 and Margaret Christie ’49 Nicolais, whose gift made possible an expansion for hosting events. (In 2007, the Nicolaises also made the largest single gift ever to Wagner, $10 million, to support business education.)
“I think this house should be filled with people,” says Guarasci, sitting in her kitchen. “I want them to feel comfortable.” She has hosted innumerable meals and celebrations, large and small, inviting in the Wagner trustees, students, faculty, neighbors, and local groups.
Frank Young, who worked in development and alumni relations for many years, remembers the lunches she hosted for scholarship donors and recipients.
“She created this sense of community on the campus,” he says. “In 20 or 30 years, people who received scholarships will complete the circle and give scholarships themselves.”
Guarasci also threw herself eagerly into travel to meet with alumni and friends of the College throughout the U.S. and the world. “Thanks to Richard and Carin, alumni became involved with the College,” Young says. “Carin was wonderful with these people.”
In 2008, she used her expertise in K–12 education to create New Educators at Wagner (NEW), a post-graduate program that supports early-career educators.
“After 40 years of working in public education, I realized many young teachers were leaving early because of lack of training and support,” says Hank Murphy ’63 M’69, who has been a major supporter of NEW since its inception. “Carin had the initiative and the enlightenment to understand the problem. I congratulate her for being on the forefront of a major problem in public education and bringing talent into the field of education.”
Along the way, Guarasci pursued her own learning goals as well. She earned her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 2017.
“This [time at Wagner] is the happiest time in my career, where I have experienced the most personal growth,” she says. “I have met wonderful people whom I appreciate and love. It’s been a wonderful experience for me.”