2022 Education Power 50: I – Z (updated)

NJBIZ STAFF//September 19, 2022//

2022 Education Power 50: I – Z (updated)

NJBIZ STAFF//September 19, 2022//

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Tony Iacono

“There are more opportunities than challenges,” Iacono said in a Capital Analytical Associates profile earlier this year. “We try to move across the curriculum and create new programs in our core academic areas to prepare the next generation for tomorrow. The bulk of our challenges are juggling multiple construction projects, making sure people are successful in earning their degree and transferring students into four-year schools.” Since taking the helm at the County College of Morris in 2016, Iacono has brought that mindset to the role, focusing on partnerships and development of the college. Those collaborations have included with the Morris County Board of Commissioners and the Morris County Vocational School to create a Career Technical Education Center and Entrepreneurship and Culinary Sciences Center. He has also prioritized manufacturing education and skilled vocational and technical training. Iacono says his vision for the school is focused on an expansion of traditional academic programs and of workforce programs, while supporting the community and working with local stakeholders to assist the growth and needs of Morris County with a focus on their equity initiative. “We are not going to accomplish much of anything if we don’t cater to the community around us and the individual needs within in it,” he said during that profile.

Cindy Jebb

Jebb brings an impressive and decorated background to Ramapo following 39 years of service to the nation in the U.S. Army. She retired with a rank of brigadier general. Jebb has served in command and staff positions at home and abroad. She has also authored several books and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. “I am inspired by the college’s mission of education, grounded in liberal arts, and I deeply admire the passion, commitment, and talents of everyone I have met towards dignity and respect, character-building, and a student-focused powerful learning environment,” Jebb said when she took the helm of Ramapo in 2021. “All that is at stake in our nation and our world puts Ramapo’s mission and values in sharp focus, and I look forward to partnering with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater Ramapo community as together we chart the future.” Her predecessor, Peter Mercer, took note of her career. “Guided by her own lived experiences as a professor, a chief academic officer, and a military intelligence officer, I believe that Dr. Jebb brings with her the stability, compassion, and strategic leadership that our students deserve and that our college requires to thrive in these complex times,” Mercer said.

John Kennedy

Kennedy plans to retire soon as the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. His tireless efforts to promote manufacturing in the state makes NJMEP the foremost organization at-tempting to ensure that New Jersey can meet the future challenges with products made close to home. Backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NJMEP provides workforce development programs, supports entry-level training, provides credentials to state residents and offers employment to New Jersey’s underserved residents, such as veterans. Kennedy in August oversaw the opening of the organization’s South Jersey training facility in Bellmawr which will serve manufacturing businesses in the southern portion of the state. While Kennedy plans to leave his role as CEO, it’s hard to imagine that he will leave the public sphere. It’s a good bet that he will find his way onto lists like this even during the next phase of his life.

Jonathan Koppell

Koppell took over as president of Montclair State University in August 2021, arriving at the school after a decade as dean of Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and vice provost for public service and social impact. Under his leadership, the college more than doubled its enrollment, becoming the nation’s largest comprehensive public affairs college, serving more than 9,000 students in bachelor’s, masters and doctoral programs. During Koppell’s tenure, Watts added 20 new degree programs, expanded its online offerings and global pro-grams, and launched a joint venture in Hainan, China. At Montclair State, he recently welcomed the school’s largest incoming class. At an event marking the occasion, he told the students to embrace the experience. “While you’re having a good time, keep your eyes on that possibility. And if you do so, you’re going to find this is a magnificent time,” Koppell said. “So, congratulations to all of you. I can’t wait to see what you do here at Montclair State University. We are a great university because of you and your fellow students, and we are going to do fantastic things together.”

Patrick Leahy

Leahy joined Monmouth University in West Long Branch as president in August 2019. Like universities up and down the Garden State, Monmouth faced COVID-19 challenges. Amid the pandemic, Leahy still managed to post some accomplishments. In 2021, Monmouth welcomed its first class of students for its Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, slated to graduate in November. He tapped Pamela Scott-Johnson as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, a role she took on in August, where she’ll take a particular focus on broadening university research. He named Raj Devasagayam to serve as dean of the Leon Hess Business School. Also last year, the university and Monmouth Medical Center jointly opened the Linda Grunin Simulation Lab and Learning Center, which provides simulation training in health care education. Finally, in the most recent U.S. News & World Report best colleges list, released in September, Monmouth ranked at No. 18 among regional universities in the northern U.S., a sign that the school is gaining prominence.

Reginald Lewis

The percentage of Newark residents with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is lower than the state and national average. With many jobs both in the city and across the state and nation increasingly requiring higher education credentials, Newark needs to boost its numbers. Lewis is one of the educators deeply involved in efforts to boost attainment in Newark. He is the former executive director of the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, which aims to increase the proportion of residents with a higher education degree or credential to 25% by 2025. He took on a role as head of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership at Seton Hall University in 2020. There, he’s advanced the center’s mission “to advance the awareness, understanding and practice of servant leadership by individuals and organizations.” Gov. Phil Murphy took note of Lewis’ resume, and he was picked in 2019 to help implement the governor’s higher education goals for the state.

Teik Lim

Lim took over as the 9th president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, joining the Newark school from the University of Texas at Arlington. Not long after his appointment was announced, Lim told NJBIZ that he and NJIT were a nice fit. “I’ve done research my entire professional career and so NJIT being a top research institution is great,” he said. “It’s an urban setting — I love urban institutions.” Such a setting “allows me to create mutually beneficial private, public partnerships with industry that enhances the education of our students,” Lim added. “I find the board of trustees at NJIT is passionate, forward-thinking, very collaborative and I like that a lot.” But NJIT boasts one characteristic that Lim values above all others. “The most attractive feature is the diversity of the campus,” he explained. “I think we can make full use of the diversity here to really strengthen NJIT’s academics and research, and then use that to make NJIT a supercharged engine of social mobility.” All of which should be music to the ears of local officials and business leaders.

Syukuro Manabe

Winning a Nobel Prize is a classic power move. A senior meteorologist at Princeton University, Manabe was awarded 2021 prize in physics. “Syukuro Manabe demonstrated how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to increased temperatures at the surface of the Earth,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said of his work in announcing the prize. “In the 1960s, he led the development of physical models of the Earth’s climate and was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses. His work laid the foundation for the development of current climate models.” Thus, his work delves into one of the critical issues facing the world today and one that will continue to roil the global economy and individual businesses for years to come.

Patrick Murray

The Monmouth University poll, which Murray runs, is one of the most highly regarded measures of public opinion in the country. In fact, it is one of a handful of gold standard polls, recognized as rigorous and reliable, consistently receiving an A rating from 538.com. Murray himself routinely appears on television news programs covering national elections and is a go-to source for political journalists of all stripes. Each month, the pollster and his team survey hundreds of people on topics from politicians to pandemic woes to spending plans. These days, it seems like a big election is always around the corner. This year is no exception, with the midterm congressional election campaign already well underway. With New Jersey boasting some of the most highly competitive districts in the country, pollsters will be watching closely. And the Monmouth Poll will be watching those campaigns and others around the nation.

Ben Neill

Neill has been a professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey since 2008. There, he leads the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Music Technology, which prepares students for diverse careers in music production, recording, mastering, film and game composition, music programming, instrument design, or teaching. The educator is uniquely qualified for the role – one of the latest hands-on learning experiences at the school – as a performer and innovator him-self. Neill has taken part in concerts at venues including New York’s the Whitney, the Getty and Lincoln Center and was the artist-in-residence at Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in art and Technology program from 2019 to 2021. This year, he received a $10,000 Film/New Media and Technology grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for the final development and performances of Fantini Futuro, an immersive audio-visual performance piece the professor wrote for the Mutantrumpet, his self-designed electro-acoustic instrument, based on the music and life of early Baroque trumpeter/composer Girolamo Fantini.

Joseph Nyre

As Seton Hall University’s 21st president, planning is one of Nyre’s fortes: Since late 2020, he’s finalized and initiated a multiyear master plan for the school and commenced a campus master planning process to physically transform the university over the next 15 years in a way that supports learning, student life and research. Additionally, he’s planned and implemented the silent and public phases of the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign in over a decade, and funding has increased more than 100% year over year. Earlier this year, Nyre made fundraising a personal matter. Along with his wife, Kelli, Nyre donated $500,000 to Seton Hall to underwrite scholarships, research and instructional activities of faculty. “For President and Mrs. Nyre to grant a generous donation to students in need like myself shows the commitment that our president has made to see us succeed at our full potential,” Akaysha Palmer, a senior in Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations, said at the time. “Contributions like these have allowed me to focus on my education as a first-generation American and college student, with the goal of pursuing a career within foreign service. The opportunity to receive a Catholic education is a privilege that students at Seton Hall are able to experience because of contributions like these, and we will forever be grateful.”

Laura Overdeck

The Overdeck Family Foundation supports education efforts both in and out of the classroom. In the second quarter of 2022, the organization awarded 30 grants – 13 new and 17 renewals – totaling more than $12.5 million dollars. Laura Overdeck is chair of the Foundation; president and founder of Bedtime Math, a nonprofit focused on providing education on the subject to young children; and a founding board member of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. As a vice chair of the board of trustees for Liberty Science Center – she’s also a trustee at The Pingry School – Overdeck was on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking of the adjacent $300 million, 12.5-acre SciTech Scity last October. Included on the campus will be the Liberty Science High School; operated by the Hudson County Schools of Technology, the institution will accommodate 400 students across grades nine to 12. “The truth of what’s so fabulous about this high school is we are raising a very strong signal,” she said at the ceremony, “but we are also taking action to raise the next generation to understand we’re de-pending on them.”

Jeffrey Robinson

Jeffrey Robinson is a busy man and he’s just getting started in his newest position, provost and executive vice chancellor for Rutgers University-Newark, an appointment made earlier this summer. He’s also a Rutgers Business School professor, an author and co-founder of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. At the beginning of the year, he started his tenure as the Prudential Chair in Business at Rutgers-Newark, a position that employs a multidisciplinary approach to business education focused on science and technology, ethics and social justice. That lens aligns with a collaboration Rutgers Newark entered in August, which Robinson was on hand to celebrate, teaming up with Fiserv for the Fiserv-RU-N Program for Inclusive Innovation. In addition to offering annual scholarships, the effort will see the creation of a physical research and incubation center to be utilized by both the university community and local businesses. Robinson’s know-how is in demand outside of the academic realm as well, and he offers his expertise as a consultant, working with Fortune 1000 corporations, foundations and social sector organizations.

Chris Reber

Since becoming president of Hudson County Community College in 2018, Reber has emphasized student success and diversity, equity and inclusion. He leads HCCC’s engagement in local, regional and national partnerships to help change lives for students and the community. For his efforts, Reber was honored last December by the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, receiving the inaugural “Spirit Award” at the Legends 2021 Gala. He was nominated by former New Jersey Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, who cited Reber’s generosity to the North Hudson Community Action Corp. during its vaccination campaign and his thoughtfulness in waiving $4.8 million in debt for nearly 5,000 HCCC students during the pandemic. He was a 2021 member of the NJBIZ Education Power 50, an honor he said he shared with everyone at HCCC.

Gigi Schweikert

Schweikert was named CEO of Lightbridge Holdings Group in October, moving up to the position at the parent company from her role as president of early-childhood day care center Lightbridge Academy. She started with Light-bridge Academy five years ago as chief operating officer before being elevated to president. Schweikert takes the lead at a time when Lightbridge is poised for growth. Or rather, to keep growing. In May, Lightbridge Academy was recognized as a Corporate Growth Award Honoree by ACG New Jersey. Earlier in the year, Entrepreneur Magazine named it one of the 500 fastest growing franchises in the country, at No. 217 (the year prior it came in at 143). Lightbridge says it’s looking to grow to 150 units by 2026. According to the Entrepreneur 500 ranking, the brand has seen 60% growth over the past three years.

Anne Huntington Sharma

Anne Huntington Sharma took the helm as a second-generation leader at Oradell-based tutoring and test prep provider Huntington Learning Centers in fall 2019, responsible for heading franchise expansion, overseeing digital transformation efforts, developing strategic partnerships, directing organizational change and serving as the public-facing representative of the company. We all know what happened in 2020. Now, as students – and educators – struggle to make up for time and learning lost during the worst of the pandemic while simultaneously navigating a changing educational environment, Huntington is stepping up to help public schools. Earlier this year, the organization was recognized for its training systems, ranking 53rd at the 2022 Apex Awards. According to the education provider, 80% of its franchise system, which extends across the United States, has stepped up to help school districts looking for resources in their efforts to close learning gaps. Ac-cording to Sharma, these franchisee programs have become “a foundation for extending the Huntington reach nationwide.” A reach that she added has so far helped more than 1 million students in the U.S. The franchise system has also expanded. In the third quarter of 2021, it reported a 33% increase in inquiries about additional centers.

Stephanie Silvera

Silvera is a public health professor at Montclair State University. As an academic expert on epidemiology, she’s offered insights into COVID-19 concerns in a frank and astute manner since the onset of the pandemic. When the governor announced he would end testing mandates for unvaccinated educators and child care workers, Silvera called it like she saw it in a report by NJ.com, “I think they’re [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recognizing even though COVID is still out there and killing people, most people have decide[d] they no longer want to deal with it. … Even though I don’t think (Murphy’s decision) [is] a great idea for a public health prevention process, I can understand politically why it was done.” Now, she’s also using her platform – in addition to the aforementioned report, Silvera has been featured by numerous media outlets, including this one – to offer guidance as coeds head back to college, and shared living spaces, at the same time that concern about the potential for spread of the monkeypox virus looms.

Sean Spiller

Spiller leads the New Jersey Education Association and its 200,000 members. As teachers and students return to classrooms, he is tasked with navigating the continuing presence of COVID-19, the potential spread of monkeypox, the effects of the pandemic and remote learning and a nationwide shortage of teachers that has hit the STEM subjects here. On top of that, Spiller told WHYY at the end of August that the state has seen a drop in applications for other staff positions as well, saying flatly: “We are at a crisis point.” So if recognizing there’s a problem is the first step to finding solutions, Spiller is on the right path. And that path already includes potential solutions. Like the NJEA’s partnership on the Aspiring Educators program at William Paterson University, which introduces the education sector as a potential career choice to high school students. Conversations and concerns regarding school security are also at a high point. In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas, Spiller appeared with the governor, delivering remarks on the need for action. “The members I represent would do anything for their students,” he said. “We’ve had too many opportunities to see that educators will literally put their bodies in front of bullets to protect the children in their care. It’s our elected leaders, particularly those in Washington, who need to demonstrate the courage to finally address this crisis once and for all.”

Catherine Frugé Starghill

The New Jersey Community College Consortium works to bridge skills gaps for employers, employees and those looking for work. In December, the group launched the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities program with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. The collaboration is an effort to align interested parties across the spectrum – from companies and labor unions to industry associations, educational institutions and other workforce development partners – to address the changing needs of employers and chart a course for career opportunities. As vice president of strategy and partnerships at the NJCCC, Frugé Starghill leads that program in addition to serving as executive director of the New Jersey Community College Consortium of Workforce and Economic Development. Pathways is broken down into four Collaboratives (health services, infrastructure and energy, manufacturing and supply chain management, and technology and innovation) and those include 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation. All of that is made possible by the initiative’s more than 1,000 partners. In July, the program was included in Harvard University’s “Project on Workforce.” New Jersey was represented by eight members during a virtual convention with five other state participants put on by Harvard, and Starghill was one of them. “We are confident that our approach of breaking down silos to create a statewide education ecosystem connected to industry is needed to produce a highly skilled, innovative workforce,” she said during the event. With almost a year at work, and with workforce needs ever present, it’ll be interesting to see where this path leads.

Antonio Tillis

Antonio Tillis was named chancellor for Rutgers University-Camden in 2021, a post the noted Afro-Hispanic studies scholar came to from the University of Houston–Downtown. In May, he presided over a commencement that awarded more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees, with 91 grads residing in the city. In his first year the school deepened its ties to Camden, with the opening of a $16 million athletic complex and the launch of the Chancellor’s Mayoral Internship Program, which offers students the opportunity to work alongside civic leaders. The five-year partnership is part of Tillis’s “15 in 5” strategic initiative that is focused on competitive grants as a way to promote the student experience and support the advancement and development of faculty and staff. Tillis will start the new year with some challenges, but appears up to the task.

Editor’s note: Laura Overdeck’s profile previously stated that she was slated to serve as principal for the forthcoming Liberty Science High School; that was incorrect. The profile was updated at 9:47 a.m. ET on Sept. 21, 2022. Catherine Frugé Starghill’s title was updated at 1:54 p.m. ET on Sept. 26, 2022.