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Honoring a Cabrini Great: Toni Iadarola Retires from Academia

Posted on 6/12/2017 3:12:39 PM

Former Cabrini president, Antoinette “Toni” Iadarola, PhD, is retiring after 44 years in academia, most recently as president of Lauralton Hall, an all-girls prep school in Connecticut.

“It’s another beginning—it’s a new phase … We should do away with the word ‘retirement,’” Iadarola said in an article from the New Haven Register. She is looking forward to visiting people she’s met all over the world through her community service and other business travels.

Iadarola spent 16 years serving as president of Cabrini (1992–2008) and made many long-lasting changes to the campus during that time.

“During her tenure as Cabrini’s president, she worked tirelessly to ‘Do Something Extraordinary,’” President Donald Taylor, PhD, said. “She created partnerships with Drexel University and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education, while developing the campus through the construction of numerous state-of-the-art facilities, the expansion of academic programs, and the development of a national profile.”

Iadarola reported to her first day of work as Cabrini’s sixth president on July 15, 1992, what happened to be Saint Frances Cabrini’s birthday. She saw that as a “good omen,” she said. Once she took the job, she wasted no time in working with faculty, staff, and Board members to improve the campus and strengthen the Cabrini community. First on her list was building a new recreation and athletic complex to help increase student recruitment.

Maria Elena Hallion, PhD, Chair and Associate Professor of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, was one of the first to work in that brand-new athletic complex. “I was hired as a fitness director,” she said. “During that time I was privileged to put Dr. Iadarola on a fitness program which helped us establish a lovely relationship. She always showed me such genuine kindness and was so happy whenever we saw each other.”

The growth and changes that Iadarola envisioned for Cabrini’s campus never came easy.  

“Toni arrived when Cabrini faced serious financial and enrollment concerns,” said Jolyon Girard, PhD, Professor Emeritus, History and Political Science. “In my view, her leadership changed that trend and set the school in a positive, successful direction.”

Iadarola was continually determined to make the changes Cabrini needed to stay up-to-date and saw those changes through each and every time.

“While she was president, her decisions weren't always popular but I am of the firm belief that she made them because she thought they were right for the College,” said John F. Brown, PhD, Chair, Department of Mathematics. “As a leader, you have to make choices based on what you think is correct and not necessarily how they will be received by others, and Toni always was thorough in her decision-making process and considered what was best for Cabrini.”

“Dr. Iadarola was an outstanding president who spearheaded remarkable physical and intellectual growth on Cabrini's campus,” said James Hedtke, PhD, Professor of History and Political Science. “Her leadership and vision positioned Cabrini to be one of the most outstanding institutions of higher education in the region.”

At Cabrini, Iadarola had a part in numerous building renovations and new additions on campus including the Dixon Center, Founder’s Hall, the Bruckmann Memorial Chapel of Saint Joseph, several residence halls, the Edith Robb Dixon Field, and the Center for Science, Education, and Technology (now the Antoinette Iadarola Center for Science, Education, and Technology).

Undergraduate enrollment also saw a substantial increase, from 732 to 1,700 students, and the number of resident students tripled, to about 1,000, during Iadarola’s time at Cabrini.

“Toni’s counsel to me was simple, ‘Raise the bar. Be ambitious for our faculty, our students, and the college,’” said Jonnie G. Guerra, PhD, former Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Her trust and support made innovation possible, and together the faculty and I undertook initiatives that increased students’ global opportunities, transformed campus technology, and enhanced Cabrini’s social justice mission.”  

After Cabrini, Iadarola moved back to her hometown of Shelton, CT. Not looking for work, she was recruited by a search committee to lead Lauralton Hall, and in 2009, she decided to take the job. Over her eight years at Lauralton, she made just as much of an impact there as she did at Cabrini, making positive transformations to the high school’s physical landscape and learning environment.

When I spoke with the consultant who was leading the Lauralton presidential search committee, I expressed confidence that, in her second act as president of Lauralton Hall, Toni would continue her inspirational leadership,” Guerra said. “She has done just that.”

Lauralton honored Iadarola at a ceremony held on Tuesday, June 13, where it was announced that the campus’s carriage barn she helped transform into an arts center would be dedicated in her name—The Antoinette Iadarola Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.


Ceremony for Iadarola

Members of the Cabrini community attended Lauralton Hall's ceremony for Antoinette Iadarola: (l-r) Raymond Bell, former Trustee Joan Buzzallino ('66), Antoinette Iadarola, former Trustee Elizabeth Riley Bell ('69), former Trustee Carol Guardo, former Trustee Barbara Rawls, Julie Rawls, Steve Highsmith ('88), and Jayne Highsmith.


Iadarola expressed her gratefulness for the tribute and for all the opportunities Lauralton gave her: "Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said, leaving attendees with these words of encouragement and advice, "Resolve to do good today and even better tomorrow."

On Cabrini’s campus, students, faculty, and staff still feel and see the impact of Iadarola and her unwavering determination to grow Cabrini into the institution it is today. 

"Let’s never forget that Cabrini University is owed to Toni Iadarola’s vision,” said Seth Frechie, PhD, Professor of English. “The fact that we have grown as significantly as we have in the last decade—the fact that we are a university today—is a testament to her leadership and inspiration."