Vice President Czarda Reflects on Departure, New Presidency

Posted: April 7, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: April 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

By Daniel Walsch

Larry Czarda. Creative Services photo

On Friday, April 23, Lawrence Czarda’s employment at George Mason University ends; three days later he assumes the presidency of Greensboro College, a private liberal arts college in North Carolina.

Czarda joined Mason’s administration in 1983 and has been a fixture at the institution ever since. Over the past 27 years he has worn a number of administrative hats at Mason, served on the faculty and even earned a doctorate in public policy.

Since August 2008, he has served as vice president for administration and been on the faculty of both the Higher Education and Sports Management Programs.

Recently, Czarda reflected on his years at Mason, as well as on his new position at Greensboro.

You have devoted so much of your professional life to Mason. Can you talk a little bit about the thoughts that are going through your head these last few days?

As you can imagine, it has been on my mind a lot lately. But the reality is, I’m not really leaving Mason or the area, for that matter. We will keep our farm in Fauquier County, since we have four generations of family on the farm, and my adult children will take over our house. Plus, my wife is still finishing up her doctoral studies here, and I have numerous relatives who are alums or even currently enrolled. I have been lucky enough to make many friends here at Mason and in the region over the years. So, this university and the region will remain very much a part of my life.

From a professional standpoint and trying to be as realistic as I can, I have been at Mason 27 years, and in that time I have pretty much done everything I can do here. As exciting as the prospects of being present for the opening of a new performing arts center at the Prince William Campus is, or being able to walk through a new housing facility might be, in many ways after these many years I have done all that. At this point in my career, I felt if I was going to assume a higher position with more wide-reaching authority, then that time was now.

Greensboro is an exciting opportunity for me. Two years ago or so, if someone had said to me that I was going to become president at Greensboro College, I would have laughed and not believed them. Greensboro is an outstanding institution with great potential. The skills they need are skills I have, so I feel this will be a very good fit. The people there are so very committed to the success of the place. They have great energy and great attitude. I am eagerly looking forward to joining them.

Would you say you are nervous?

Perhaps a little bit. More than that, I would say I am more on edge than nervous. Throughout my many years with the university, and in county administration work and working with school boards and health facilities, I have had great opportunities to work closely with and observe firsthand many chief executives and organizational and university presidents. As a generalist administrator and with extensive board service, I feel I have had outstanding training for a presidency. Going into this, I know I can’t be [Mason President] Alan Merten. I can’t be [former Mason President] George Johnson. I can’t be any other leaders I have known and worked with. But what I can do, of course, is be me and draw from the best of what I have learned. I feel I have the proper temperament and understanding of what it takes to be a college president. So, I guess you could say I am quite confident about my ability to do the job but on edge about actually getting down to Greensboro and doing it.

A college or university president is always on duty. They always have to be thinking of what is best for the institution. Whether you are going out to eat with your family or to Home Depot on weekends, you are always representing your institution. This is what Greensboro wants me to do. Whether as president I am dealing with an athletic coach or a board member, a major donor or a star faculty member, I cannot be swayed from making decisions and choices that are best for the institution. The challenge will be to be consistent and to carry out my duties well.

With your departure, what changes, if any, will be made in your area of responsibility here at Mason?

As things wind down for me, I have five positions reporting to me. Three will begin reporting to the senior vice president [Morrie Scherrens] directly; and by a matrix report, one to the assistant vice president and dean of students [Pam Patterson], and the other to the vice president for research and economic development [Roger Stough]. This may change as time goes by, but for now that is the plan. As far as I know, there are no plans to fill my position in the same manner I hold it today. (Editor’s note: Scherrens has indicated that final reorganization decisions regarding the vice president for administration’s area will be made over the next few months.)

Larry, there’s no question the university owes you an enormous debt for all you have done on its behalf. And the fact that you have done what you have done these many years so well has made those of us who know you, as well as the university, all the better for it. Any closing thought or two you wish to share?

Thank you. I love George Mason and always will. Mason will always be a part of who I am. As I said earlier, I do not feel as if I am leaving it. It has given me so many wonderful opportunities, and in return I have tried to do my best for it. Go, Patriots!

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