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December 01, 2015

A career ‘with high distinction’

Ron Paprocki

When Ronald Paprocki ’69, ’86S (MBA) came to the University as an undergraduate in 1966, elm trees still lined Eastman Quadrangle. When they were blighted by Dutch elm disease, the University planted young oak trees in their place.

“The caliper was only about this big—” Paprocki says, extending his hands about eight inches. Today, the oaks are broad trunked and wide canopied.
“I’ve watched the oak trees mature over the years, as I’ve matured over the years.”

When Paprocki retires in January, he will put the final punctuation on a half century at Rochester and a career that has spanned the administrations of five Rochester presidents.

He earned his bachelor’s degree with high distinction from the University in 1969, and, in 1986, an MBA from the Simon Business School. He began his career at the University just after graduation, serving in academic support and counseling positions at the College and later advancing to budgeting and planning work.

“I’ve seen the University from all these different perspectives,” Paprocki says. “From the student perspective, the junior staff perspective, the faculty perspective, and the senior administrator perspective.”

He calls the time he spent working in the dean’s office of the College “one of the most rewarding parts of my career here.” There, he worked with “Bill Riker, Gene Genovese, Tony Hecht—some of the legends of the University. I knew and dealt with a lot of the giants. For a young person growing up in that environment, that was very formative.”

Ronald Paprocki receives Distinguished Alumnus Award

In recognition of nearly five decades of distinguished service and leadership, Ronald Paprocki was awarded the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal. “Ron Paprocki’s legacy is evident throughout the University,” President and CEO Joel Seligman noted in awarding a citation to Paprocki. “Ron has been an articulate champion for the ideals of Meliora, ensuring not only that the institution’s finances are sound but that our investments help make our University and the world around us ever better.”

Paprocki joined the central administration in 1986 and was named the University’s vice president for budgets and financial planning in 1992. Six years later, he became senior vice president for financial affairs and planning. In 2000, he was named senior vice president for administration and finance and chief financial officer for the University.

“Ron has been a remarkable partner for the schools and their faculties,” says Peter Lennie, provost and the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences & Engineering. “His early career in the College equipped him with an unusually deep understanding of the academic enterprise and the needs of the faculty and students, and we have benefitted enormously from this and his many powerful insights about how to make the University a better place for all of us.”

As CFO during the recession in 2008, Paprocki effectively navigated the University through the challenging financial crisis with his strategic planning and guidance, as well as his fiscal discipline. In part due to his financial leadership during the recession, the University was able to avoid the disruption and steep layoffs seen at some peer institutions. In 2008, the Rochester Business Journal named him its first ever Financial Executive of the Year for large nonprofit organizations in the Rochester area.

In the same year, Paprocki presented the University’s Campus Master Plan to provide a 20-year framework for the development of lands and facilities, specifically designed to meet the pattern of University growth and the need for increased classroom, meeting, office, research, residential, and clinical spaces.

Paprocki has always emphasized the need for a sustainable and reliable utility infrastructure for the University’s campuses. As part of that commitment, he supported a chilled water plant expansion and upgrade of 8,000 tons of chilling capacity—an improvement of fundamental importance to a utility system supporting health care, research, education, and residential life activities.

“Most people think of me as the money guy,” Paprocki says, but “some of the most important things that I do really aren’t related to finances. They’re related to maintaining a safe environment and continuity of operations.” He’s been concerned with student, faculty, and staff safety, from overseeing the public safety department to installing sprinklers in all of the residence halls.

Most recently, Paprocki and his team were principal players in negotiating every aspect of the College Town development agreement and the ground lease for the University’s land, including careful attention to financing, legal requirements, the design plan and overall construction details, and environmental issues. He helped establish multiple key partnerships at the city, state, and federal levels, and helped ensure that Mt. Hope Avenue community members and business leaders were engaged at every phase of the development.

Pursuing agreement has been a central part of Paprocki’s work. “Very generally speaking, this institution isn’t a hierarchical institution,” he says. “In our decentralized way of managing things, we’re very consensus driven. You really need to bring a lot of people along before you make a final decision. It’s something that adds a certain flavor to the work we do.”

In May 2013, Paprocki was honored at the College Town groundbreaking for the role he played in making the project a reality. At the groundbreaking, President and CEO Joel Seligman—who has called Paprocki “an anchor of our University”—announced on behalf of the Board of Trustees that a new plaza within College Town would be named for Paprocki. Last October, Paprocki Plaza was dedicated at the crossroads of College Town with a plaque placed outside of the Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Paprocki was also instrumental in the development of Brooks Crossing, a hotel, retail, business center, and student residential development joined to the University by a footbridge over the Genesee River. Paprocki initiated ways to leverage the University’s employee and student populations to be an anchor tenant, resulting in the development of more than $63 million in housing, hotel, office, and retail space.

He introduced the University Home Ownership Incentive Program, giving employees an added incentive for living in the historic 19th Ward and Plymouth Exchange city neighborhoods. In 2008, the University teamed up with the City of Rochester and several banks and credit unions to offer regular full-time and part-time faculty and staff mortgage grants toward the purchase of a primary residence in the city neighborhoods closest to the River Campus and the Medical Center. Since the program’s founding, $972,000 in financial incentives have helped University employees become home owners.

Paprocki looks forward to spending time with his family, including his four grandchildren, and tending to the Vermont home he and his wife, Cathy, have owned for several years.

But when he steps down, Paprocki won’t really be leaving Rochester behind; he and the University are too intertwined for that. He says that what he’ll miss most is “being on all the time—this is a 24-hour-a-day job—and being engaged in almost every part of the University. This hasn’t just been the job—it’s been, essentially, my life. I’ve grown up in this environment.”

It’s a fact for which he can see the most tangible evidence every time he stands in the shade cast by the tall trees on Eastman Quad.

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