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Cabrini mourns the passing of President Emerita Antoinette “Toni” Iadarola, PhD

Posted on 5/23/2020 10:18:00 PM

The Cabrini community mourns the loss of President Emerita and longtime friend Antoinette “Toni” Iadarola, PhD, who served as Cabrini’s sixth and first lay president from 1992 to 2008. Iadarola died Saturday, May 23, following a lengthy battle with cancer.  

“In everything she did, in every decision she made, Toni Iadarola expressed tireless thoughtfulness,” said Cabrini President Donald B. Taylor, PhD. “In her time at Cabrini and beyond, in her career in academia and outside of her professional life, she forwarded the Cabrinian legacy of preserving the dignity of all human experiences and providing an education of the person as a whole.”

Remembered as a thoughtful leader and President, Iadarola always considered what was best for Cabrini and its students. Her first day as Cabrini’s President—July 15, 1992—happened to be Saint Frances Cabrini’s birthday, a sign Iadarola took as a “good omen.” During her 16-year tenure as Cabrini’s President, Iadarola served as a pioneer and an innovator, establishing important relationships among higher education institutions and with industry partners, expanding campus with state-of-the-art facilities, broadening the college’s academic offerings and learning opportunities for students, increasing enrollment, and strengthening Cabrini’s reputation.

Toni Iadarola event

Under Iadarola’s leadership, Cabrini’s campus saw numerous additions, including the construction of East and West residence halls, the Cabrini Apartment Complex, the Dixon Center, Edith Robb Dixon Field, and the Center for Science, Education, and Technology (now the Antoinette Iadarola Center for Science, Education, and Technology). Her tenure also saw the dedication of the Wolfington Center as well as renovations and improvements to Founder’s Hall (including the opening of the Hamilton Family Foundation Wing) and the Bruckmann Memorial Chapel of Saint Joseph.

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.

“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, upon Iadarola’s Cabrini retirement. “Her leadership and vision positioned Cabrini to be one of the most outstanding institutions of higher education in the region.”

Iadarola was instrumental in bringing together the eight member institutions of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE), established in 1993, to collaboratively address the challenges within higher education—a valued resource still utilized to this day.

Mother Ursula and Toni Iadarola

Ursula Infante, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Toni Iadarola

A lifelong learner—a trait she indicated came from her parents, Italian immigrants who, although not formally educated, instilled a love of learning and affirmed the importance of education in their children—Iadarola earned a bachelor’s degree in history/political science from the University of St. Joseph in Connecticut and master’s and doctoral degrees in European diplomatic history from Georgetown University. Her postdoctoral studies included a Fulbright Scholarship at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, as well as studies at Yale and Fordham universities. Her research and publications typically focused on diplomatic history, women studies, and higher education. 

Her global travels included humanitarian and service efforts in addition to academic pursuits: Iadarola served in a volunteer capacity for the United Nations and the U.S. State Department, and her service and advocacy on behalf of the underserved brought her to Afghanistan, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Guyana.

Iadarola’s esteemed 44-year career in academia spanned positions as a high school history professor, Chair of the History Department at the University of St. Joseph, Provost at Colby Sawyer College in New Hampshire, her Cabrini presidency, and a presidency at Lauralton Hall, a Connecticut all-girls preparatory school.

Although born in New York City, Iadarola considered Connecticut home, and returned to Clinton, CT, after retiring from Cabrini in 2008. After being heavily recruited, she took on the presidency at Lauralton Hall, where she continued her legacy of positive transformation for not only the students, but also the institution. Her 2017 retirement from Lauralton capped her career in academia, but she refused to look at it as an ending. “It’s another beginning—it’s a new phase,” she said.

“Toni’s spirit lives on in all the lives she touched, and her impact on the Cabrini community as well as her dedication to the University’s mission and to serving the Cabrini legacy, is limitless,” said President Taylor. “She will be deeply missed.”

Read Iadarola's obituaries in the Philadelphia Inquirer and New Haven Register.

Toni Iadarola at Phillies

Memorial donations may be made to Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven Hospital. Those who wish to give to Cabrini University in memory of Toni Iadarola can give to the President Antoinette Iadarola Endowed Fund, which supports efforts to link learning to the common good, as well as faculty development and domestic violence prevention.