Florestano announces retirement AACC president to leave in June

October 14, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The man credited with putting the "community" into Anne Arundel Community College announced he will retire from the school's presidency at the close of the academic year.

"No more beepers, no more neckties," said Thomas E. Florestano, 61, who plans to retire June 30, 1994, three weeks shy of serving 15 years at the helm of the state's fourth-largest community college.

He has been telling the Board of Trustees that he wanted to retire for the past five years, repeating it even as he signed a two-year contract.

This week, he and the board agreed on a date that will give the college ample time to find a successor. He may even put it in writing, but certainly not before he gets in another afternoon of golf.

"I told them, 'You should be glad you're getting rid of this crazy Italian,' " Dr. Florestano said.

"They're having a tough time getting their thumb out of their mouth -- a real separation syndrome," he said.

Supporters say Dr. Florestano has combined TC diamond-in-the-rough style with aggressive leadership, sound management and tireless marketing of a school that has 12,387 students this semester.

That is up dramatically from 7,366 in the fall of 1979.

This increase is something Dr. Florestano touts as a measure of success -- if the school wasn't attractive to the community, he notes, an increasing number of students of all ages wouldn't enroll.

He developed the health curriculum from a lone nursing program to a range of studies so successful the school will open a $6.2 million Allied Health and Public Services Building in January.

At 6 foot 3, the Crofton resident has been a big man on campus with a big mission. "I have really mainstreamed this college into the community," Dr. Florestano says.

He served as dean of continuing education at Anne Arundel from 1969 to 1974, then head of evening and community education at Prince George's County Community College before returning.

"He is a shameless promoter," said O. James Lighthizer, state secretary of transportation and former Anne Arundel County executive. "It's what you have to do to prosper."

Robert DiAiso, president of the community college's Board of Trustees, praised Dr. Florestano as a "humanist" who knew how to make everyone -- and everything -- work in harmony.

Rosalind R. Rivera, assistant dean and chair for Allied Health Technologies, said she didn't dare approach the college president with notions about new programs without doing her homework and a little more.

"He's very conscious of cost and quality," Ms. Rivera said. "That's a very good combination. That's fine with me."

His savvy is legendary.

Since his arrival in July 1979, he has piloted the school through internal turmoil and external politics so well that his name has come up in speculation as a potential candidate for office.

Not interested, he says.

An Annapolis native and son of Italian immigrants, he holds a master's degree and a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland.

When he leaves the college, he plans to set up a private counseling practice, do some consulting, listen to the jazz he loves, maybe some teaching and definitely more golfing. His score hovers around 90.

Today, Anne Arundel Community College is barely recognizable from the often disparaged "Dartmouth on the Severn" 2-year liberal arts preparatory school it was 14 years ago.

Enrollments were dropping, the staff was bickering, and the school was mentally isolated from the community.

Dr. Florestano had also inherited a sex discrimination lawsuit for equal pay by 90 women faculty from predecessor Justus Sundermann.

The lawsuit and its permutations dragged on into the late 1980s.

The school ended up having to raise tuition to pay for it. "I really could have lived without that," he says.

But before he leaves, Dr. Florestano has warned trustees, he will seek more full-time teaching posts to accommodate the increasing number of students and push for a pay raise for a work force that hasn't had one in three years.

"I've mapped out the next eight months. Just watch me cook," he says.

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