By Alex Robinson
As a lifelong researcher and educator, Dr. Evangelos Gizis was ready to stand in as interim president when James Muyskens announced his departure from Queens College.
Muyskens’ stint as president came to a close last week after 12 years on the job.
The outgoing president oversaw significant increases in student enrollment, the construction of a new student residence and the renovation of the college’s existing infrastructure.
Founded in 1937, the Flushing-based college is the fifth oldest of CUNY’s 23 institutions. Queens College had 18,974 students enrolled in fall 2013 and was recently ranked second on Washington Monthly’s list of “Best Bang for the Buck,” which ranked schools nationwide on affordability and quality of education. Tuition at Queens College costs $5,730 per year for undergraduate students who are New York state residents.
Gizis said the stature of the school had risen during Muyskens’ time as president and that he hoped he could keep the momentum of his predecessor going.
“I bring experience in administration in such positions,” Gizis said. “When you bring an interim president into the college, there is no time for them to learn the job, so I bring the necessary experience.”
Gizis has had a long career at a number of CUNY institutions as an administrator since 1973. He retired in 2009 and has since held a part-time advisory job at CUNY’s central office.
A native of Greece, Gizis first came to the United States in 1960 for graduate school. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in food science and biochemistry at Oregon State University.
He then left the West Coast to do research at a number of universities, including Michigan State University. He moved to New York City in 1964 to start working as a researcher at Queens General Hospital, now known as Queens Hospital Center, in Jamaica.
Gizis said he was conflicted when he first made the jump from doing research to being an administrator. At first he thought he might be able to do both, but as time went on, it became clear he had to choose one or the other.
“Sometimes I wonder about the other road I could have taken, but I am very happy with the City University and the work we’ve been doing here,” he said.
Gizis joined Queens College as a vice president in 1986. He then moved to Hunter College, where he filled a number of administrative roles, in 1996.
In 2001, he returned to Queens College as interim provost and later became provost.
The new interim president hopes he can build on Muyskens’ momentum in many aspects, particularly in fund-raising and alumni relations.
“The area in which I’m going to work is to improve the recruitment, the retention and success of the students,” he said. “Also, to recruit distinguished faculty who also want to be good teachers and who are going ahead to look at the development of new graduate programs.”
Although he was honoured to serve in the interim position, Gizis said he will not be applying to become the next president.
“No, not at all. It’s not allowed. The rules of the university do not allow it and I have already retired. I have decided I would do it for a limited period,” he said.
Queens College expects to find a new president for the fall 2014 semester.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.