DJM IS BACK: Marist Welcomes Back Dennis Murray to serve as Interim President
For many Marist College students and alumni, Dr. Dennis J. Murray sports a familiar face. For the past three years, you could find him working in his office on the third floor of the library — greeting the students who head to the Alumni Reading Room for a day’s work.
However, over those three years — the number of familiar faces Murray saw probably decreased bit by bit. But for most whose graduation year is before 2020, he wasn’t just a familiar face — he was the face of a great deal of Marist’s growth for decades past.
Dr. Dennis J. Murray was President of Marist College for 37 years, and his tenure came to a close in July 2016, shortly precursing the class of 2020’s first-year entrance. Now, he is serving in the role of Interim President, following the resignation of former president of the College, David Yellen.
“This situation is not something I had anticipated, but I accepted the Board’s request to return as interim president because I love Marist and I’m deeply committed to doing whatever I can to provide stability and continuity during this transition,” Murray said.
The Marist Board of Trustees announced the resignation of David Yellen as President of the College in a June memorandum. The Board appointed former President Emeritus Dennis Murray as interim — until they “can determine a process and timeline for the selection of a new President,” according to an email statement sent to all Marist students.
The email memorandum indicated that Yellen plans to take a sabbatical then pursue other leadership positions in higher education. “This was a personal decision for President Yellen,” said Marist’s Director of Media Relations, Julia Fishman, in a June phone call.
“Marist is very fortunate to have Dr. Murray in this role because of his deep and meaningful understanding of the workings of the College and ongoing relationships with various constituencies,” the email statement said, signed by the Chair of the Marist College Board of Trustees, Ross Mauri '80.
“Dr. Murray will serve in this capacity until the Board can determine a process and timeline for the selection of a new President,” the statement continued. “We will provide you with updates during this transition period, but I would emphasize that Marist is a strong institution that will continue to advance in a positive direction.”
“I’m extremely grateful for the many messages of support I’ve received since returning, and I’m counting on the Marist community’s dedication and active engagement as we move forward,” Murray said.
During Murray’s time as President of the College, enrollments quadrupled and new academic programs were established. His administration acquired the Marist campus in Florence, Italy, as well as expanded in Poughkeepsie from 93 to 224 acres. More than $500 million was invested in the campus — including renovations of academic buildings and facilities: the Murray Student Center and dining hall, the Tenney Stadium, and Marist’s postcard landmark — the James A. Cannavino Library.
However — although Murray’s 37-year tenure only came to a close in 2016, Marist has seen multiple new developments and changes in recent years.
“I’ve definitely been ‘drinking from a fire hose’ as I get back up to speed, but this is undoubtedly an exciting time for Marist,” Murray said. “We have great students, strong academic programs, and our campus is more beautiful than ever.”
“The College is in a good financial position, and we’re going to keep moving forward in a positive direction,” Murray said, mentioning the opening of the new McCann Center this coming December.
“But there are undoubtedly challenges, in particular an increasingly competitive admissions environment and demographic shifts in some of our core markets,” Murray said.
During Yellen’s tenure, his administration mapped out a five-year strategic plan for the college.
“We’ll continue to follow the broad outlines of the Strategic Plan during this interim period,” Murray said. “Obviously, strategies can change in response to external circumstances, but this is true of any organization.”
According to an article posted by Marist in June, Yellen commented, “I am very proud of the many things that were accomplished during my time at Marist.”
Since Yellen became the fourth President of Marist College in July 2016, his administration provided a 2018-2023 strategic plan for the College, the opening of a Marist location in midtown Manhattan, and launched Marist’s first doctoral program: the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. His tenure also included the opening of the North End Housing Complex and the new Steel Plant.
In September 2018, Yellen announced the opening of a medical school, the Marist Health Quest School of Medicine. “I am sorry that I will not be here to see these things come to fruition, as I am sure they will, but I am extremely grateful for this experience and for the wonderful support I received from many at Marist,” Yellen continued.
“The Board is currently doing a full review of where Marist is right now and where we have the potential to go,” Murray said. “This is a normal assessment process, and it will help determine the qualities they’ll be looking for in a new president.”
Once the Board does the review, they’ll determine a process and timeline for a new presidential search.
“It is the people – the students, faculty and staff – who really set this institution apart. The wonderful work done by our students and their commitment to serving the community are among Marist’s greatest strengths,” Murray said. “To be successful, I’ll be counting on the student body to continue your extraordinary commitment and loyalty to Marist.”