As someone who has been active his entire life, I consider “retirement” a dirty word. But sooner or later, all of us retire, or are retired by fate. I take note of the impending retirement of Dr. Stuart Rabinowitz, the president of Hofstra University. Having been a trustee of the university for almost 30 years, I have come to understand how significant Hofstra has become in this region and this state, and the role Rabinowitz has played.
Hofstra is Long Island’s largest private college. It educates 12,000 students and has nearly 3,700 employees. It occupies 244 acres in the heart of Nassau County, adjacent to the Nassau Coliseum. Its campus is a model of greenery and a comforting atmosphere. Rabinowitz has been president for over 20 years, which makes him the longest-serving private-college president in the state.
When I became a board member in 1991, Hofstra was a modestly sized institution with all of the typical college courses that were being offered at the time. Its president, Dr. James Shuart, was a hardworking, affable guy, a good administrator and a competent leader.
I like to describe the time after Shuart’s retirement as the Rabinowitz era. In the early 2000s, the private-college scene changed drastically. The economy suffered numerous ups and downs, and college presidents couldn’t afford to sit idly by. Hofstra was known as a commuter school, and hadn’t attracted much attention beyond Long Island. At the outset, Rabinowitz recognized that something more dramatic had to be done to make Hofstra a destination for students outside the bi-county area.
Any college that wants to attract new students must be ranked by the various college publications. Course offerings and campus environment are a very big deal to any prospective student, and it was important for Hofstra to expand its offerings and make the campus atmosphere attractive and safe. Rabinowitz embraced the challenge with vigor. Today, Hofstra is one of only three schools in the downstate area that offer degrees in engineering, medicine and law.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.