Pace president concludes tenure

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Stephen J. Friedman, who also served as dean of the law school, has been at the university for 13 years


  • Stephen J. Friedman, Pace University's seventh president, will leave the school at the end of June. Photo: Pace University

The seventh president to serve Pace University leaves at the end of June, concluding his second five-year term. As of May 31, Stephen J. Friedman had already begun packing away the office he has occupied for the last 10 years.

“Moving is one of the great traumas in life,” Friedman said through laughter. “They list it along with divorces and deaths in the family.”

Friedman, who turned 79 in March, said earlier this year that he does not intend to seek a third term as president, and instead spent the past few weeks fulfilling his remaining duties, and offering wisdom to incoming president Marvin Krislov, who himself served for the last 10 years as a university president, at Oberlin College in Ohio.

“This, if done right, is a very demanding job,” Friedman said of the office he’s held since 2007. “I think I’d like to work a little less hard.”

More importantly, he said, a decade-long tenure seems appropriate.

“It takes seven to 10 years to really affect change in a place this size and this complicated,” he said. “Could I be effective for another two to three years? Sure. This is the most gratifying, and fun, and challenging thing I’ve ever done. On the other hand, I really think Pace would benefit from an infusion of new experience and new ideas.”

Pace is a diverse school attended by many first-generation immigrant students, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, Mark Besca, said.

“And here’s Steve – coming, probably from the top university in the country – and when he came to Pace, he had a passion for our students second to none, just as much as I did coming from here,” Besca said. “And knowing that – being a first-generation student and getting help from Pace – really changed my life.”

Besca was referring to a Pace career service that helped him gain work in 1979. That approach to student mentoring is now referred to internally as the Pace Path, and seeks to pair Pace students with mentors in their chosen fields, and has grown under Friedman’s leadership.

Moreover, in addition to growing enrollment and large-scale renovations at Pace, Friedman is well-regarded by business and neighborhood boards around Lower Manhattan, according to Jessica Lappin, of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

“President Friedman has been a fixture in Lower Manhattan over the past decade,” Lappin said. “He loves Lower Manhattan and actively worked with the community to improve our neighborhood.”

Friedman earned his bachelor’s from Princeton in 1959 and, three years later, a law degree from Harvard Law School, where he received a Sears Prize for academic excellence and edited the Harvard Law Review. Since that time, he has witnessed radical changes, spurred on by technology, to the nature of jobs graduates are landing, including those from Pace.

“Evolutionary biology, which used to be all about bones and paleontology, is now all about DNA and massive computing power,” he said. “It used to be if you went to business school and didn’t like numbers, you majored in marketing, because that was all about words. Now it’s all about data analytics.”

Friedman, who previously served as dean of Pace Law School, added that while Pace is not a trade school, it is the function of the university to prepare students for the changing workload of an increasingly technical world. Krislov, he said, is the right person to do that.

“I have a very big investment in his success, because we really have accomplished a lot, and Pace is in a very different place than it was 10 years ago, or even 15 years ago,” he said. “And that’s a real springboard for further growth in stature and excellence, and rigor, and academic reputation.”

Friedman said he would be available to Krislov and they have already discussed Pace leadership together. He declined to go into detail about any specific advice offered to Krislov.

“Oh, I don’t think I would share that,” Friedman said, again through laughter. “It’s between presidents.”

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