STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — When you want to make things happen, Dr. Tomás D. Morales is your man. The president of the College of Staten Island has in four years’ time literally transformed CSI from a small community public place of learning to a top-notch institution with an increasingly strong international reputation that simply makes all Islanders proud.
Located at 2800 Victory Blvd., in Willowbrook, the College of Staten Island (CSI), part of the City University of New York has a modern, 204-acre campus — the largest in the CUNY system — that offers lush, beautiful surroundings coupled with advanced learning facilities supporting its 14,200 students and 2,000-employees on an $84 million dollar budget.
CSI offers 43 undergraduate and 14 graduate programs leading to associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Doctorate degrees also are offered in conjunction with the Graduate Center of the City University.
But as good as it sounded on its own, CSI still needed something more. That something more was Dr. Morales. Since taking over as the school’s third president the changes he has implemented are nothing short of amazing. So for his intelligence, his dedication to education and his unquenchable fire to make CSI one of the best small college’s anywhere, Dr. Morales has been selected as the latest Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award recipient in the Not-for-Profit Category.
Since taking the helm in 2007, undergraduate enrollment has increased by 13 percent; graduate enrollment by 15 percent, the number of freshmen meeting baccalaureate requirements has increased by 57 percent, and the conferring of baccalaureate degrees has increased by 22 percent — and that’s just to start.
The school gave away $240,000 in scholarship money this year. Donations are up by 75 percent. The school is also home to a supercomputer designed to benefit students and faculty and is currently the most powerful one in the CUNY system.
CSI is also now attracting professors from top-notch institutions and graduates have advanced to prestigious medical schools, graduate and doctoral programs as well as to premier law schools.And the list achievements goes on and on.
“I am passionate about what I do here as the president,” said Dr. Morales, also CSI’s first Hispanic president.
When asked how all this happened so quickly, he is too modest to put his name across the banner.
“It’s we, that’s the operative word here, it’s not me. It’s we. It’s the college, the community, it’s the faculty, it’s the staff and it’s the students who really move the institution forward,” he said
For his part, Dr. Morales likes to say his job as CSI president is “to go out and tell the CSI story to anyone who cares to listen.”
While there are still some obvious challenges, Dr. Morales is a man whose ambitions and accomplishments to improve CSI seem endless. To that end, there’s a $257 million, 10-year master plan to enhance the school.
There’s also the recent release of CSI’s comprehensive “Many Voices, One Vision” Strategic Plan 2011-2016.
Dr. Morales’ 36-year career in education is extensive. He is one of the few higher education administrators in the country to have held senior administrative positions at the three largest public university systems in the nation: CUNY, The State University of New York (SUNY), and the California State University system.
During his time at California State Polytechnic University, he served in various capacities, including Vice President for Student Affairs, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Professor of Education and principal deputy to the president.
At CUNY, he served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students with The City College. His time in the SUNY system includes having served as Assistant Dean, School of Education, and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, State University of New York at New Paltz.
Dr. Morales said he loves seeing how CSI has made a strong impression. He said you can’t enter a physical therapist or doctors’ office, a school, a hospital, or other places here without running into a CSI graduate.
“That’s the impact,” he said. “When you think about the College of Staten Island, you have to think about the 55,000 alumni of which 22,000 live on Staten Island. That’s phenomenal. That’s a great give-back to the community.”
While he serves the entire college community, his deepest drive comes from students. “Students are really what drives me,” he said. “I love to interact with students. I love walking around the campus talking to students, faculty and staff.”
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Bronx, Dr. Morales came from humble beginnings.
As a young teenager who delivered papers, he recalls an incident with one of his customers, helped define him. The building superintendent, who had a bad back, offered Morales one dollar a floor to the mop the floors inside of the two, four-story buildings he was in charge of. Dr. Morales said it was easy money, but the moment was revelatory for him.
“I realized there was nothing wrong with mopping halls, but I also realized that in order for me to be able to make the kind of contributions I needed to make, I needed to go get me some education. I realized that very early on. But in the same token, I can not forget where I came from.”
A resident of Todt Hill, he lives with his wife of 39 years, Evy. The couple has three children and three grandchildren.
Tomás Morales at a glance
“I think it’s about giving back to the community. When I leave this world I want to leave it a better place than it was. I think that in every place I’ve been at my 36 years in education, and I started my career in 1975, that I’ve left that institution or left that program I was responsible for in better shape than when I arrived. I am a dedicated family man. I have a very close relationship with my parents, my siblings, my children, my grandchildren. I value that. I am a very loyal friend. I have relationships with people for a very, very, very long time. I think I have the best job in the world. There are tough days and better days (than others) and I get up every morning and I work very, very, very long hours, but I enjoy it and I am moving the institution with the faculty and staff in a positive way and contributing particularly to the Staten Island community. So my overall philosophy is to continue to affect the lives of young people.”
“I want the very best for the students, faculty and staff of the College of Staten Island. I want to have the resources to realize our aspirations as a college community. To me that is so important.”
Graduate, James Monroe High School, Bronx; graduate, bachelor’s degree cum laude in history (secondary education), the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz; graduate, master’s degree in Educational Administration and Policy Studies, City College of New York, doctorate in Educational Administration and Policy Studies, State University of New York at Albany.
Married, 39 years, to the former Evy Solano.
Two sons, Thomas and Omar Morales, one daughter, Amanda Jiminez; parents, Omar Morales and Elsie Maldonado; two brothers, Robert and Steven; three grandchildren, Isabella Rose Morales, Sophia Lily Morales and Danica Noelle Jiminez.
This story was originally published in the Staten Island Advance and on SILive.com on Sunday, January 01, 2012, and is reprinted here with permission.