After five years of serving as dean of the St. John’s College of Business that now bears his name, Peter J. Tobin will be leaving his position at the end of the academic year.
Tobin will remain in the University, moving to a new position as special assistant to University President, the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M.
“I love the mission of the University and particularly the leadership that Fr. Harrington has provided,” Tobin said. “He asked me if I’d come back and help him out, and provide some leadership for the college and some management talent and approaches. I was thrilled to be here.”
Graduating from St. John’s College of Business Administration in 1965, Tobin returned to become dean in 1998 at the request of Fr. Harrington after spending 32 years in public accounting and banking. He served as Chief Financial Officer of what is now the Chase Manhattan Corporation for 12 years before his retirement.
Throughout his tenure as dean, Tobin has contributed his time, energy, and resources to improving various aspects of the School of Business. It was renamed the Peter J. Tobin College of Business (TCB) following a $10.25 million donation made by Tobin and his wife, Mary, in December of 1999.
Tobin accepted his position as dean with specific goals in mind. One of his main objectives was to change how the college was viewed; an area he feels has improved dramatically during his time here.
“One of [the goals] was to improve the image of the college, which I think we’ve accomplished,” he said.
“Primarily by communicating with all of our stakeholders – students, faculty, alumni, board of advisors and the like – exactly the good things that were going on in the college already.”
Another goal of Tobin’s was to grow enrollment not in terms of numbers, but in terms of quality. Though graduate and undergraduate enrollments have remained relatively stable, he said, the caliber of students in the program is always improving.
“I think when I arrived, the morale in the college was at a low point amongst faculty and administrators,” Tobin said. “And I think what I’ve been able to do is provide the leadership to demonstrate to them that we could change and improve the image and let the world know exactly how good we were and that we had a first class operation here.”
One of the greatest accomplishments of the Tobin era was the acquisition of The College of Insurance, which merged with TCB in 2000. The move made the college’s faculty, students and alumni part of the St. John’s community, as well as created a new campus.
“I think we’ve got a jewel of a program,” Tobin said. “We’ve expanded the program offerings that we can provide to our student body with insurance, risk management, and actuarial science, and at the same time, we picked up a new campus in Manhattan.”
Tobin has been contributing service to the community long before he returned as dean. He has been involved in various fund-raising efforts, and has served on committees aimed at helping those with financial needs to get an education.
About two years before retiring from banking, he and his wife established a charitable foundation that provides help to families in the areas of housing, health and education. They manage the foundation together with their two children, Kristin and Peter.
“I think giving back is something that everybody should do during their lifetime,” Tobin said. “For people who have more resources, they should do more than others, but for people that don’t have the financial resources, giving back your time or your talent as a mentor to a student or speaking to a class. Because you’ve in effect received a lot of benefits along the way in your life and you should try and give some of that back to others.”
Tobin has been honored by St. John’s on several occasions. In 1996, he was awarded an honorary doctor of commercial science degree, and he was the recipient of the inaugural Spirit of Service Award in 1998.
In 2000, he was given St. John’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
Tobin’s new position as assistant to the President will allow him to devote more of his time and talent to areas that require his business experience, expertise and reputation.
“Another one of my objectives when I first came here was to get to the point where I was spending 50 percent of my time outside doing fundraising and developing corporate relationships,” he said.
“I never got to the level of time attached to those objectives. This switch now gives me the opportunity to spend full time working on [them].”
Looking back over the time he has spent working at his alma mater, Tobin has only good memories.
“I’ve had a wonderful time,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed particularly working with the faculty and the students, helping students get jobs in a very difficult environment, and I’ll be sad to be leaving.”
But Tobin also anticipates the future and the things he will be able to accomplish in his new position, with new goals and responsibilities.
“On the other hand, I’m not totally leaving,” he said.
“I’m going to be working in a new role and again I look forward to doing that to help raise the resources that are necessary for our students today.”