Reflections on State: Provost Reminisces
Retiring Provost John Gemello talks about his time at SF State
May 6, 2009 8:31 PM
After almost 34 years at SF State, Provost John Gemello is looking forward to doing nothing after he steps down this summer. At least for a little while.
"I think I'm going to step away and do nothing for a while," Gemello said on thinking about what he will do when he retires. "But I'm sure I'm going to get involved in something. I've got too much energy."
Gemello, 63, will officially step down as provost on Aug. 15, and retire after 34 years of service to SF State. His successor will be Dr. Sue Rosser, currently the dean of Ivan Allen College at Georgia Tech University.
The provost is the chief academic officer. All of the deans, administrators, vice presidents of research and sponsored programs and academic program development answer to the provost.
"I'm sort of like the symphony leader. I've got all of these tremendous musicians out there doing their job and I kind of coordinate them all," said the grandfather of two.
Gemello was the associated vice president of academic affairs before becoming a temporarily provost in May 2002, after the previous provost resigned. He officially became the provost in April 2003.
Gemello was born and raised in Mountain View, Calif. He states he is a "Peninsula guy," and currently lives in San Mateo.
He received his bachelor's degree in economics at Santa Clara University and his doctorate at Stanford University. His field of specialty was in was urban economics and public finance.
Gemello started teaching at SF State in economics in 1975 as a lecturer, before becoming a full-time professor in 1986. He has also taught at the University of Toronto, UC Davis and Stanford University.
"I loved being a faculty member. I thought it was the best job in the world," Gemello said proudly.
He soon became the chair of the economics department, before becoming the first associated vice president of academic resources in 1990. At the time, there had been no academic affairs budget, forcing Gemello to form a budget from scratch.
"For an economist it was great," Gemello said of his old job. "It was sort of like using my training."
As provost, one of things he has been proud to be involved in is the new Children's Campus that opened this past January. He said the idea came when he and SF State president Robert Corrigan kept hearing the faculty talking about the need for childcare center.
Another was being involved in hiring and training the next generation of faculty members. Gemello called them "intelligent people. People, who really care about the university."
And the faculty members call him a great friend and mentor.
"He has led through times of growth as well as times of great challenge for the university and the accomplishments during his leadership are considerable," said Nancy Hayes, dean of the College of Business, and one of the people that Gemello hired.
Don Taylor, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said that Gemello had helped him work through the day-to-day problems that occurred.
"I am going to miss those occasional coffee and cookie walks to Café 101, and the chats along the way about all sorts of things, especially baseball and farming," said Taylor, whom Gemello also hired.
Gemello mentioned that one thing he was going to miss was seeing the faculty that were first timers when he became provost seven years ago, now moving up in position. It gave him closure.
"Now they are going to be the leaders of the university," Gemello said. "I sort of can walk away with the understanding that the university is in good hands and that is the best feeling."
And while Gemello said he doesn't think Rosser would need any advice, he will leave her with one thing.
"One thing I can leave behind is really a top notch staff and I think I've done that," he said.
As for the future of SF State, Gemello believes the university is the "city's university" because of the university's commitment to community engagement.
And he believes, that even though there are going to be tough times, "I know we would survive because we are a vibrant institution," Gemello said. "We will be able to do all things we want to do."
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