Berliner takes over Hofstra biz school

Longtime Hofstra Provost Herman Berliner has agreed to run the university's business school.

It’s a busy summer at Hofstra University, where a history-making provost is settling in and a longtime administrator is going full circle, with a business bent.

Gail Simmons, the former provost and vice president for academic affairs at Manhattanville College in Purchase, this week accepted the mantle from Herman Berliner, who retired from the Hofstra provost position after 24 years. Simmons, who earned a PhD from the Department of Genetics at UC Davis, was selected after a comprehensive national search that included input from Hofstra faculty, students, administrators and trustees.

After 44 years at the university, Berliner agreed to manage Hofstra’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business for one year before his official retirement, succeeding former Dean Patrick Socci. Socci retired at the end of the academic year in May, according to the university.

When the music stops and everyone sits down, Hofstra will have its first woman provost and the Zarb School will have an intimately familiar interim dean. Berliner, who will man the helm while the university conducts a national search for a permanent replacement, served as Hofstra’s business school dean before becoming provost.

Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz said in Simmons, the university found a provost who “understands the challenges and opportunities in higher education.”

“Dr. Simmons is an academic leader who is both creative and collaborative,” Rabinowitz said in a written statement. “She has worked with faculty, staff and students to find solutions.”

Simmons improved student retention and helped expand graduate programs at Manhattanville, a private college of about 2,700 students in Westchester County. Prior to Manhattanville, she served as the dean of the Division of Science and Technology at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York; in that role, she worked to diversify the college faculty and helped land nearly $1 million in federal funding to support student success in science, technology, engineering and math programs, according to Hofstra.

A recipient of multiple National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health grants, she also has served as associate editor of the Journal of Molecular Evolution, the university said.

Simmons called the Hofstra provost position a “great honor.”

“I look forward to many years of working to bring the university to new heights,” she said in the statement.

Like the man she’s succeeding at Hofstra, Simmons is also credited with creating a school: As Manhattanville provost, she helped created the college’s School of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, Berliner led the creation of Hofstra’s School of Communication; he also created the university’s Honors College in 2001.

Berliner, who earned a PhD in economics from the City University of New York, was Hofstra’s longest-serving provost. He came to the university in 1970 as an assistant economics professor and became a full professor in 1985; among other administrative positions, he’s served as Hofstra’s associate provost, associate dean of faculties, acting dean of the School of Education and associate dean of University Advisement.