BY YARLEEN HERNANDEZ
When we’re young, some of us might have hopes of becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, firefighters and policemen, but not many of us can say that we’ve desired becoming something and have been able to expand our desire so vastly that we become more than we ever thought possible.
Eugene Cornacchia, president of Saint Peter’s College, always knew he wanted to make a difference. He was born in Italy and migrated to the U.S. when he was only 9 years old. President Cornacchia was raised with strong roman-catholic beliefs. He wanted to put his beliefs to good use through teaching. Having received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D in Political Science from Fordham University, Dr. Cornacchia began teaching Political Science at SPC in 1981.
“I grew up in Eastchester, New York in a very suburban area. My father and brother were anti-war peace protestors, hippies and activists. I became fascinated by their debates,” Said Dr. Cornacchia.
Becoming president of a college doesn’t just happen overnight. Dr. Cornacchia had to work his way up the ladder of titles. He was first a professor, then chairman of the department, dean, provost and his last role before becoming president was vice president of academic affairs at SPC. When Rev. James Loughran passed away in 2007, Dr. Cornacchia took over as acting president and he had hopes of being able to stay in that role. Well his hopes were not in vain.
“Rev Loughran and I spoke many times of my interest in becoming president. He had given me his blessing,” said Dr. Cornacchia on his interest in becoming president long before Rev. Loughran’s passing.
Since taking over as president, Cornacchia has worked on improving the quality of education at Saint Peter’s College. The college, which was founded in 1872, will be renamed Saint Peter’s University in 2013 to attract more students. With the new Student Center, which will be completed sometime in 2013 also, he hopes students will be able to have a place to reconvene after classes with fellow peers as well as professors. SPC’s bookstore, fitness center, campus ministry, a large banquet hall (twice as big as Mcintyre Lounge) and many more places will be moved to the Student Center. Dinneen Hall, which is home to most of these clubs and programs, will be renovated and used as class space and offices for faculty. In addition, much of the money that is being raised for the campaign will be going towards building an endowment for the college, as well as other much needed programs like athletics, academics, the annual fund goal, mission & ministry and more.
When asked about the recent layoffs of many professors and staff, Dr. Cornacchia showed genuine empathy towards the matter.
“There were 12 positions on the list of layoffs. We were able to reduce that number to 5. This year, we had a shortage in enrollment and thankfully, we didn’t have to make cuts,” said President Cornacchia.
Furthermore, the crime surrounding the SPC area is a dire and lingering issue that adds unnecessary stress and fear to students and faculty alike. Students receive advisory e-mails at least once a month during the school year letting them know of a new crime incident involving a student or someone around SPC.
“Crime is worrisome in the times we live in. People prey on students who know they carry around smart phones and laptops. Jersey City needs to invest more money on police and law enforcement. I advise students to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” said president Cornacchia on the on-going crime in Jersey City.
Despite the challenges of being president, President Cornacchia has been able to bring positive changes to Saint Peter’s College, soon to be called, Saint Peter’s University. His innovative ideas is bringing the Saint Peter’s community to new lengths that would have not been imagined a few years ago.
“Although I miss teaching, being president of Saint Peter’s College is the best job in the world. It’s a 24/7 job but seeing students receive their diploma, it makes it all worthwhile.”