Vaughn College Installs Dr. Sharon DeVivo as Seventh President in 82-Year History
By Lydia Liebman
Recently, Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology appointed Dr. Sharon DeVivo as the college’s seventh and first female president at the campus in Queens. The installation ceremony, in an unusual building resembling a plane hangar, featured words of praise for Devivo from a plethora of Vaughn College dignitaries. “Sharon knows absolutely everything,” said Mr. Thomas Broschart, President of the Faculty Senate: “she helped move us to the point that we’re at now and she has visions for the future. I know that she will continue to work tirelessly and I hope that she stays with us as president for many, many years to come.”
Jade Kukula, a 2007 graduate of Vaughn College who currently works in the defense and intelligence community at Aerospace Data Facility East, Lockhead Martin, spoke highly of the college and of Dr. DeVivo. “We have a saying where I work: supra et ultra. It means to go above and beyond,” said Kukula, “and if ever there were a place where that’s going to happen it’s here at Vaughn College with Sharon DeVivo.” Kukula said Vaughn College “gave her literally everything” and that the education she received has “kept the fire burning” since she graduated nearly eight years ago. “The staff and faculty instill a fire in us and we need more of that in the STEM world,” she said.
The president of the Student Government Association, David Cepeda, also shared positive remarks about DeVivo and the college. “Devivo has hit the ground running. She has been the vigor behind many of our events this year and has cooperated with the students to bring forth many accomplishments,” said Cepeda. “DeVivo has been the epitome of communication and integration.” Cepeda went on to praise DeVivo for facilitating and organizing a recent meeting at the college with Vice President Joe Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the student ambassadors to discuss the future modernization of local airports.
After Cepeda’s comments, DeVivo was formally installed by Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Thomas J. McKee to thunderous applause. “I am so touched,” began Devivo, “This ceremony is not about me but about this campus and this community. It’s about taking time to mark the significant achievements of this institution.”
DeVivo spoke on her last nineteen years at Vaughn with pride. Notably, she discussed how when she started at the college, 90 percent of the students were tied to one industry that, at the time, was struggling. Then, in 1996, Vaughn received approval for a Bachelor of Science degree. In 1997, the inauguration of President John Fitzpatrick brought about a series of significant changes that included several new degrees including flight, management, engineering, graduate degrees, a residence hall and fundraising efforts, among others. She spoke at length about the importance of community at Vaughn College, noting that it is a priority of hers for all to feel welcome, respected and valued.
DeVivo also addressed the challenges facing Vaughn College and higher education in general, citing the shrinking number of high school graduates, the high cost of college tuition and the need for higher education to be simultaneously innovative and rigorous. “Our response to these challenges must include voices from inside and out,” said DeVivo. “It will only be through a transparent, inclusive process of developing new degrees, finding new teaching methods and providing complimentary services that we will meet the needs of 21st century learning. DeVivo invoked the words of William Butler Yeats, one of her favorite quotes: “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” “As educators [lighting a fire] has to be our goal. In the short term it is to provide the knowledge and the skills necessary to write a paper or solve a problem but the long term goal is to inspire a generation who are curious about the world,” said DeVivo. “The challenge is to inspire lifelong learning.”#
In 2013, Vaughn College enrolled 1742 students. Currently, the institution offers Master’s, bachelor’s and associate degree programs in engineering, technology, management and aviation as well as certificate programs in air traffic control, aircraft maintenance and aircraft dispatch.