One on One with the Senior Vice President & Senior Administrative Officer

Pace President Stephen J. Friedman has retitled Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer William McGrath’s position as the new Senior Administrative Officer for the Westchester Campuses of Pace.

According to McGrath, he doesn’t consider it as a promotion, but just added responsibilities.

For the new role, he will coordinate all the administrative components responsible for “nonacademic activities” for Pace in Westchester. McGrath oversees Pace’s Affirmative Action, Building Operations and Maintenance, Facilities Planning and Design, Human Resources, Information Technology, Security, Transportation, and Mail Services.

PACE BEGINNINGS

McGrath joined the Pace community in 2007, in a period which Pace was experiencing some bad times.

“I think Pace had just reached a low point in its recent history,” said McGrath. “People were experiencing turmoil, combined with hope. The hope was people knew the problems Pace has been having but at the same time people were optimistic about President Friedman and his ability to potentially turn the institution around.”

He started as a consultant for Pace, specializing in turnarounds and at that time “Pace was certainly at that time in turnaround-mode,” said McGrath.

During this time, the position for Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer was open. A nationwide search was underway to fill the position, and McGrath entered his name for the role.

Rick Whitfield, who at the time was the executive vice president and chief financial officer, currently served by Toby Winer, chaired the search.

“I applied, along with everyone else, and [Whitfield] basically reviewed the applications with some of the people who were on the committee and their feeling was there wasn’t really much competition for the position, so they didn’t go through with the entire interview process,” said McGrath. “They were really happy with what I was doing. They talked to a few of the applicants, but after seeing what their resumes were like, I was selected.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER FOR PACE-WESTCHESTER

Pace's Senior Vice President and Senior Administrative Officer for the Westchester Campus William McGrath displaying details of the Master Plan of the Pleasantville campus. (Photo Credit: Michael Oleaga).

Pace’s Senior Vice President and Senior Administrative Officer for the Westchester Campus William McGrath displaying details of the Master Plan of the Pleasantville campus. (Photo Credit: Michael Oleaga).

When asked how the new Senior Administrative Officer position came to be, McGrath stated that faculty and staff in Westchester have been asking “for many years” for a senior executive who will be responsible for the administration of the Westchester campus.

“[President Friedman] did not want to add another position, meaning hire a new person in. There have been many discussions about that, and given my role as the leader of the Master Plan, which is within my responsibility prior to this appointment, I sort of become the person people were going to regarding Westchester. The faculty leadership requested, the President agreed that it will just be an added responsibility,” said McGrath.

“I’m very thankful for their confidence,” said McGrath, in regards to faculty and staff. “They needed to know that there was somebody who would wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and worry about the Pleasantville campus.”

With the new responsibilities, McGrath will coordinate with groups on campus that don’t report to him, in order to have, as he stated, an “integrated strategy to support the campus.”

The new role is only for the Westchester campus, and there are no plans to appoint one for the New York City campus.

According to McGrath, “The reason there isn’t is that the faculty rightfully pointed out that most of the University executives are already on the New York City campus. That’s where their main offices are. What they were asking for was for an executive who had a main office here.”

THE MASTER PLAN: PLEASANTVILLE & BRIARCLIFF MANOR’S RESPONSE

In regards to the latest Master Plan efforts, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was cleared by Mount Pleasant and a public hearing is set for May 3 in Valhalla.

“[The town’s] response has been very reasonable. They start by saying that Pace is an important anchor in this town, and have a great relationship with Pace,” said McGrath, when asked about Pleasantville’s reaction to the Master Plan. “I thought I was very favorable, which is not starting by stating ‘no, prove to me why you should do this,’ they started by stating ‘okay, great, you’re an important member to the community, I’m listening, but I’m going to make sure what you’re telling me is not going to have a negative effect on anybody else.’ That’s the way they should be approaching it, and they are. I’m very pleased about that.”

According to McGrath, once Pace gets the approval for the Master Plan, the University will go for specific building department approvals for each building, and a building inspector will come at every stage.

“There are certain steps where you cannot go the next step without the town inspecting it, so we welcome it. We’ve been working with the town’s planners and consultants and they’re very competent, they’re good, they know their stuff. We hired the right firms that can help us ensure that we’re doing things that are complying with the town’s regulations.”

An aspect of the Master Plan includes selling the Briarcliff Manor campus. McGrath stated there has been “interesting parties” interested in the sale.

“It’s a unique property. It’s a 35-acre property with a number of buildings on it and if you look around Westchester, it’ll be very hard to find another property like that around. It’s not like a two-bedroom colonial house where there are probably hundreds on the market right now. It’s all been about if we get the right price for it,” said McGrath.

“I want to see a great buyer,” he added. “What’s important is that they’ll be good for the village of Briarcliff Manor. We have been there for a long time and they are great neighbors and they would be concerned with who’s moving in and we’ll share that concern.”

McGrath noted that relations with Briarcliff Manor have been position, and village officials understand the decision to sell the campus.

“They certainly understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Their concern is who’s going to come here (in Briarcliff Manor),” said McGrath, adding that town officials will be part of discussions between the potential buyers.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SVP & SAO?

“My next several years are pretty well defined with making the vision of this campus a reality. I’ve had a long career, and learned a long time ago ‘never look out for more than a few years because it’s useless,’ you can’t really predict what’s going on tomorrow,” said McGrath. “Having been on campus here for the last couple of years, I get a really strong sense of a campus spirit and the potential that the campus has, which is what draws me to want to be here in this role and to make things happen over the next few years to make the Pleasantville campus realize its full potential.”

[Note: This was Michael’s last article for The Pace Chronicle].

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