The Ramapo College Board of Trustees unanimously elected a new chairman, George C.Ruotolo Jr., as well as assigning a new vice chairman and secretary. Ruotolo, appointed as a trustee in 2010, is the chairman and CEO of Ruotolo Associates Inc., a consulting firm for nonprofits.
Ruotolo, a Bergen County resident for over 30 years, currently lives in Cliffside Park, but said he first started to get to know Ramapo College while living in Ramsey. He was later approached by New Jersey Sen. Paul Sarlo and was asked to serve on a board for a state institution-when that turned out to be Ramapo College, Ruotolo easily accepted.
"State schools are such an important part of the essence of the state, the brand of the state," Ruotolo said, "and I'm really proud to be associated with Ramapo. When I meet students, some of them have no idea that I'm chair of the Board or didn't know I was a trustee, but I find them to be terrific."
As chairman, Ruotolo said he hopes to guide the Board of Trustees in supporting President Peter Mercer and the College's mission and goals in the best way possible. He hopes to be a helpful resource for the College whenever possible.
"I want the entire college community to know that I'm here, and as appropriate, I want to know what they're thinking about relative to the connection between the faculty, staff, students, trustees and the President's Office," Ruotolo said.
Ruotolo added that he and the trustees will be reviewing the president's performance as well as the Board's. Working with the Association of Governing Boards, the group plans to evaluate themselves more closely "to make sure we're functioning and performing in a way that is of the highest standards."
Ruotolo led his first Board meeting on Monday, and already, he reports some changes he hopes to carry out. First, he wants to organize educational briefings for the trustees during each executive committee session of the Board that is held prior to public meetings.
"I want to have a program at every executive committee meeting where different aspects of the college community can come and speak to us for a half hour and let us know what they're doing, [and] what they're accomplishing, what their challenges are," he explained. "I'm doing that to try to keep the trustees educated about the pulse of the campus… I think the more we know about what's going on around campus, the better we can do our job."
During the Board's public meetings, Ruotolo said that, as chairman, he wants to hear from more students, faculty and staff. Board of Trustees meetings are structured to allow any member in attendance to speak to the group for three minutes.
"I want to encourage people to come to the public meetings whenever possible and to speak to the trustees," Ruotolo said. "Hearing people talk to us at the public session about what's going on, what life's like, what are some issues that…the trustees should know about-that's also, to me, very important."
Ruotolo, who left his job in New York City to start Ruotolo Associates when he was just 29, has worked with over 1,000 charities and nonprofits, largely in fundraising. However, Ruotolo said his firm does about 70 percent of its work on the East Coast, with colleges, hospitals, community groups, churches and social service agencies, among other organizations.
"It's been a great privilege, there's no other way to put it," Ruotolo said of his work. "I've been really fortunate in my life…to have this opportunity to participate and help advance the mission of so many charities and so many nonprofits."
Given this experience, Ruotolo was also recently named chair of the Ramapo College Institutional Advancement and Alumni Relations Committee, a newly formed group seeking to increase fundraising efforts and community outreach.
"As we look to advance our strategic goals and fund new programs and opportunities for our students, Chairman Ruotolo's vast philanthropic background will be critical to our success," Mercer said in a press release. "He will serve as a resource to the College, me and the Ramapo College Foundation."