When Queens College Interim President Evangelos Gizis took over the reins this month at the Flushing campus, he had a short learning curve, having served in the past there as vice president and later provost.
CUNY announced his temporary position last week, replacing James Muyskens, who retired at the end of December to return to teaching after 11 years at the Queens College helm.
When Muyskens revealed his retirement plans last fall, the CUNY board authorized a national search for his successor. Board Vice Chairperson Philip Berry, a Queens College alumnus, is leading the search committee, which also includes trustees, a CUNY college president, faculty, students, alumni and others.
Gizis, 79, who retired in 2009 as provost, remained part of the CUNY administration, working part-time as a senior advisor. He is expected to retain the interim post in Flushing until officials pick a permanent replacement prior to the fall semester.
“I feel honored to be appointed interim president of Queens College and I accept this responsibility knowing the challenges the college will face,” he said. “It’s a great college and it well serves the borough.”
The interim president also had high praise for Muyskens, who oversaw new programs and the building of the school’s first residence hall. “I applaud President Muyskens for enhancing the academic experience of our students, with the result that the college is now nationally recognized as a leader in quality education,” Gizis said.
He indicated he will focus on student recruitment and developing new high-demand academic programs, especially at the master’s degree level. The college’s enrollment is around 19,000 and he wants to attract another 1,000 students.
“We have an obligation to tell residents the advantages that Queens College offers — a high graduation rate and high standards, affordability and a beautiful campus,” he said.
He will reach out to residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties as well as the rest of the city.
Gizis defines high-demand academic programs as majors that the college doesn’t offer yet. “There has to be existing jobs and a demand by students,” he said.
A native of Greece, Gizis left in 1960 to pursue graduate degrees in the United States. He earned his M.S and Ph.D. in food science and biochemistry at Oregon State University, went on to do research at Michigan State University and other top labs before taking administrative posts at four City University colleges.
A biochemist with a specialty in food science, Gizis has previously served as interim president of Hunter College, Hostos Community College and Borough of Manhattan Community College.
“It wasn’t hard to change course because I did it little by little,” the president said. “Eventually, it didn’t work trying to do both and I’m happy with the decision I made to become an administrator.”
He first came to Queens College in 1986 as vice president for college affairs, planning and information systems. Two years later, he chaired the committee for the college’s first five-year plan, which evaluates existing programs to see if they are relevant.
Gizis left Queens College for five years to work at Hunter College, where he held several posts, including interim president. He returned to Queens in 2001 as interim provost and became provost two years later, a position he held until his retirement.
He and his wife live in Manhasset, LI.