When Molloy College President Drew Bogner retires in June, he’ll have more than doubled its student population and opened its first dormitories despite having led it through some of America’s biggest challenges.
Appointed a year before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, he increased academic offerings through the Great Recession, rallied community spirit after Superstorm Sandy, and is handing over the reins to an expanded campus immediately after presiding over the Rockville Centre college’s coronavirus pandemic response.
“I really thought I would be easing out, but I’m working as hard, if not harder, than any time in my presidency,” Bogner told the Press.
His 20 years at the helm of the small private college that Catholic nuns founded in 1955 is unusually long for someone in his position. The average tenure of a college president is five years and getting shorter with time.
He recalls having to make a major decision about college operations every few hours when the coronavirus crisis first arrived on Long Island. Molloy announced on March 10 that it was suspending in-person classes and campus events for 18 days out of an abundance of caution, making it one of the first colleges in the region to take such measures — a week before Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed schools across New York State to stop the spread of the virus.
“Faculty will offer classes via alternate delivery methods,” the college said in a statement at the time. “Staff and administrators who can work from home may be required to do so until further notice.”
Fueling concerns for some was the fact that the college is right down the road from Mercy Medical Center, which employs the man who on March 5 became the first confirmed coronavirus case on LI.
Before the crisis forced classes and graduations to be held online for the foreseeable future — Cuomo, fearing the likelihood of a second wave of the virus this fall, had not said as of press time whether school will be back in September — there was much progress at Molloy.
While he boosted enrollment from 2,200 to nearly 5,000, what Bogner’s most proud of is growing Molloy from a commuter college where students spent little time outside class to planting the seeds of a robust campus life revolving around residence halls that opened in 2011.
“We’re just a very different kind of place than when I came,” Bogner says.
Previously known for its nursing and education programs, new marquee programs include one of the region’s top accounting programs, a competitive speech language pathology program, and one of the top 20 music theatre programs in the nation, centered around its Madison Theatre.
After he retires to his 18-acre Massachusetts home to write and tend to his new orchard, his successor will be James Lentini, the former senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. Bogner says, though, that he’ll be back to teach leadership remotely part time after an 18-month sabbatical.
Among his biggest legacies will be the formation of the Energeia Partnership, a nondegree program that has sharpened the community stewardship of 500 local leaders who’ve graduated with certificates through 12 sessions. Its goal is to help address some of the pressing issues that persist on the Island, such as segregation.
“I think it’s been making a real impact on Long Island,” he says. “We have a strong sense of community and we rally together in ways that I think are not very common.”
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