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Provost Made SF State 'a greater University'

Provost John Gemello. Photo by Gino de Grandis.Provost John Gemello, who will retire at the end of the
academic year, has supported the faculty's pursuit of
both teaching and scholarship. "To be good at
teaching requires being intellectually alive and active
in the creation of knowledge," he says.
Photo by Gino De Grandis

John Gemello, provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced at the fall faculty meeting that he will retire at the end of the 2008 -- 09 academic year. The sustained, standing ovation that followed was a testament to the respect Gemello has earned from faculty during his long and distinguished career at the University.

Gemello joined SF State in 1975 as a lecturer in economics, achieved full professor status in 1986, and was appointed to his current position after a national search in 2003. "John has one of the best minds and hearts of anyone with whom I have worked," says President Robert A. Corrigan. "I am deeply grateful for the time we have had, and all that he has done to help make SF State a greater university."

During his tenure, Gemello focused on three priorities: implementing the University's strategic plan, expanding and diversifying the tenure-track faculty and strengthening the graduate program. He was instrumental in moving key programs of the College of Business to the Downtown Campus, taking advantage of its proximity to the San Francisco business community. Under his leadership, SF State launched its first freestanding doctorate program in education and further developed a climate for community-based research that has yielded benefits for the Bay Area and the State of California.

Academic Senate Chair Shawn Whalen, a communication studies lecturer, points out that Gemello has served as chief academic officer during an incredibly challenging period in the California economy. "It is hard to imagine that a provost who faced declining resources in almost every year of his tenure could be leaving so highly regarded," Whalen says. "His ability to anticipate University needs and plan for resource shortfalls has been an essential element to keeping San Francisco State's academic programs vibrant."

He and other faculty have valued Gemello's open and direct communication style, from his daily interactions with his colleagues on campus to his gracious hosting of a faculty party in his home each fall (senate chairs, we're told, are given the honor of throwing the first bocce ball on Gemello's home court).

Professor of English Jim Kohn, past academic senate chair, says Gemello has had a great influence in the California State University (CSU) system as well, pointing to his participation in the drafting of Access to Excellence, a new guide for the Board of Trustees in making policy decisions during the next decade. "[Gemello] was successful in getting language added that will give individual campuses some decision-making ability, instead of the older system of highly centralized decision-making in the CSU."

As a national search for the next provost is under way, Whalen says that Gemello "leaves the University energized and optimistic about the future."


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