Aerial view of the Dean College campus

Dr. Paula M. RooneyIn a message to the Dean College Community, Dr. Paula M. Rooney announced that she will leave office at the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year, following a 27-year tenure as president. Named the 13th president of Dean College in 1995, Dr. Rooney has led Dean through exceptional growth in enrollment, reputation, academics, and financial stability with an unprecedented focus on student success over nearly three decades.

“The success of Dean College has been built on the strong traditions of the 156-year history of Dean,” said Dr. Rooney. “That history, and the Dean of today, is a vibrant and passionate Campus Community based in an exceptional commitment to student success.” She added that she remains committed to delivering the current strategic goals and “… to advancing the Mission of Dean – an extraordinary college made strong because of extraordinary people.”

“Dr. Paula Rooney has become synonymous with Dean College. The Board and I cannot thank Dr. Rooney enough for her outstanding leadership and dedication. As one of the longest serving college presidents in the country, she has an enviable track record of success that will stand the test of time. The framework for student-focused higher education that Dr. Rooney has created at Dean should be a model for institutions everywhere,” says Mark Boyce, chair of the Dean College Board of Trustees. “President Rooney is the very embodiment of The Dean Difference.

“Coming to Dean at a critical juncture in the school’s history, Dr. Rooney transformed the institution into the strong and thriving College it is today,” added Boyce.

Boyce said that the Board of Trustees has been working on succession planning in preparation for Dr. Rooney’s announcement and will be providing more details in the coming weeks.

A College Transformed

Under Dr. Rooney’s leadership, Dean established the offering of baccalaureate degree programs to augment existing associate degree programs. As of fall 2021, Dean’s enrollment stands at 1,121 with 93% of these students working towards a baccalaureate degree. Dean’s enrollment reflects a 7% increase over the previous year.

Dr. Rooney spearheaded Dean’s transition to NCAA Division III athletics, now competing in 16 varsity sports. This transition coincided with recent improvements to multiple athletic venues including Grant Field, the Longley Athletic Complex, and most recently the construction of new locker rooms, fitness center, and the overall modernization of Pieri Gymnasium. 

In addition to the athletic facilities, Dr. Rooney has overseen numerous campus development projects such as the Green Family Library Learning Commons, Morton Family Learning Center, Theodore and Cynthia Berenson Center for Writing, Mathematics and Presentation Excellence, multiple residence halls, expansion of the Campus Center featuring state-of-the-art classrooms, the Main Stage Theatre, Joan ’48J & Richard ’48A Smith Dining Center including the Wasserstrom Dining Room, the Holly and Jan Kokes ’64 Fitness Center, the Robbins Family Center for Advising and Career Planning, Dr. Frank B. Campanella Board Room, Fernandez and Smith Center for Student Development and Retention, and the multi-purpose Guidrey Center. Further, Dean continues to benefit from the Rooney Shaw Center for Innovation in Teaching, dedicated to the constant improvement and evolution of learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Academics and Reputation

During her tenure, Dr. Rooney has also overseen many academic advances. Dean has been ranked as a Best Regional College – North by US News and World Report for eleven consecutive years while also being recognized for the second consecutive year by the same publication for Best Undergraduate Teaching – Regional Colleges. Dean also earns annual recognition as a College of Distinction on four distinctions – engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community, and successful outcomes.

Beyond Dean’s recognition as a leading academic institution, Dr. Rooney was the driving force behind many academic advancements that helped further the Dean brand including Dean’s long-standing exclusive academic partnership with Kraft Sports + Entertainment. Through this relationship, Dr. Rooney helped to spearhead the creation of The Center for Business, Entertainment and Sport Management, providing students with internships and invaluable one-of-a-kind learning opportunities, including interacting with professional athletes and high-level executives. From serving as on-field volunteers at Gillette Stadium at multiple NFL Kick-Off celebrations to Dean student-athletes practicing in New England Patriots and Revolution training facilities, Dr. Rooney has been the visionary behind this exclusive partnership.

Financial Health

Taking over a college in 1995 with financial challenges and a small endowment, Dr. Rooney quickly went to work. After laying a strong foundation and through many years of executing strategically sound fundraising and financial decisions, Dean’s financial footing could not be more solid.

Dean has run a budget surplus for eleven consecutive years and for twenty-two of the past twenty-three years. In addition, the College has an endowment approaching $70M and consistently scores at the very top end of the Department of Education’s Financial Responsibility Compositive Score. For the most current year, Dean received a perfect score.

The Dean Difference

Nothing was more important to Dr. Rooney than Dean’s students. Each day, every decision was made with care and centered on one concern – will this make our students personally and academically successful?

Over the years, the College became known for The Dean Difference, the school’s distinct model for student success. It is how the Dean Community meets each student where they are, inspires them and works tirelessly to support them in their journey to achieve their highest goals. No one was or is more committed to this outcome than Dr. Paula M. Rooney.

Through her nurturing, focus and leadership, every member of the Dean Community, including staff, faculty, and alumni, is bonded in one common goal – helping every student succeed. From hosting student events at her home and her constant presence at athletic, academic and performance events, to more impromptu pep talks than could ever be counted, Dr. Rooney made herself available to Dean’s students every minute of every day for twenty-seven years.

This commitment to student success will live on with her and within the Community that she has built. “It is an honor to lead an institution that gives opportunities to young people, to see the impact of a community of hope and determination – a community that values every member,” says Dr. Rooney. “Knowing that students have opportunities resulting from their Dean experience gives them the ability to accomplish more, create more, and to see the world from different perspectives. They then believe that they can be extraordinary citizens of the world. Every student is The Dean Difference!”

Read Dr. Rooney's message to the Dean College Community.

Dear students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends,

The success of the Fall Semester and the spring that awaits us, has been built on the strong traditions of the 156-year history of Dean. That history, and the Dean of today, is a vibrant and passionate campus community based in an exceptional commitment to student success. It is the reflection of an institutional Mission that fosters care and an unwavering belief in the ability of our faculty and staff to bring students to a place where they believe in themselves, and a bright future made possible by their Dean experience.

Dean has an entrepreneurial spirit that has and will continue to respond to the complexities of our day-to-day existence and to plan for a world of unknowns. The demands and burdens of our Covid existence have strengthened our resolve to understand and to prepare for a new world order. We have placed hope in our future and have weathered a vastly complex and sad time with unsurpassed resiliency and a vision for what tomorrow might look like for all of us.

It is an honor to lead an institution that gives opportunities to young people, to see the impact of a community of hope and determination --- a community that values every member. Knowing that you have opportunities resulting from your Dean experience gives you the ability to accomplish more, create more, and to see the world from different perspectives. You believe that you can be an extraordinary citizen of your new world. Every student is The Dean Difference!

When I was inaugurated twenty-seven years ago, students were the center of that ceremony. I am proud that throughout my presidency, students have remained the priority and have been the focus of all that we have accomplished together as a community.

After much prayer and reflection, I have come to the decision that it is time for me to conclude my time as president and to begin to walk a different path. A path that will afford Gerry and I the opportunity to visit with our son, to spend time with my sister and goddaughter, and to share new adventures with my dearest old friends. Family and friends have been a part of my Dean experience and made it possible for me to spend most of my waking hours caring for and worrying about Dean’s present and future.

Therefore, I have shared with the Dean College Board of Trustees, that I will conclude my presidency on May 31, 2022, or earlier if a successor is appointed. As members of the Board of Trustees deliberate next steps, I am committed to leading us through the current admission cycle, to celebrating the success of this academic year, and to keeping us focused on delivering our current strategic goals to secure a strong and fiscally sound future for Dean.

I thank each of you for the honor of serving as the Dean College President.

I remain committed to advancing the Mission of Dean --- an extraordinary college made strong because of extraordinary people.