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Barry University Oral History: Tim Czerniec





               Tim Czerniec

Today is October 1, 1985.  I am Sister Eileen Rice.  I am in Mr. Tim Czerniec's office.  He is the Vice- President for Financial Affairs. 

Sister Eileen: Tim, tell me a little bit about your background. Where were you born?  Where did you go to school?

Tim: I was born on February 6, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to school at St. Timothy's grade school in Cleveland, Garfield High School now. I went to Shenell High School in Bedford Ohio. I went to college for a B.D.A. degree in 1969 and graduated from Kent State University in Kent Ohio. I got a master's degree in Higher Education at the University of Miami in 1971. I completed my Executive M.B.A. program at the University of Miami in 1977. 

Sister Eileen: Well, that's quite an impressive record. How long have you been at Barry?

Tim: I started at Barry in February 1, 1971. 

Sister Eileen: How did you come here?

Tim: It was through a contact I had to the placement office at the University of Miami where I first found out about an opportunity that occurred through people that had contacted the placement office to see if there was a potential individual who might be interested in a financial aid office. Having come from Higher Education, a higher education graduation program where I had some internship experience with Barry and also with the University of Miami. I said that this would be a good fit, and even though at that time I did not know that much about Barry, I lived here for a year and a half. I didn't know that much. I was pleased to land a job in higher education and particularly at Barry at that time. 

Sister Eileen: You were here under several presidents. Would you like to evaluate your impressions of the presidents, the way they conducted themselves as administrators, and what they did for the college?

Tim: Okay, well, Sister Dorothy, I was at the tail end of her tenure. So, my experience with her is rather limited in terms of direct experience. I can give you some things that happened in the 1971-73 era. But, I'd like to tell you this, that she was first of all a great administrator and a great person. She was a caring person and she wanted to do a lot with the school. She had a vision and her vision was completed at the time that she left, I felt. But, she certainly was a devoted person and made Barry in the '60's, the growth year of higher education, and took it to a stepping stone, with principles as much as she could at that time. She did a great job.

Sister Eileen: Now, Sister Trinita.

Tim: Sister Trinita would be called the Age of Administration. That's the time when the controlling process occurred at the school from the administrative stand point.  Administratives were brought in, functionalization of management occurred, and it was more structure than there had ever been at Barry prior to this. This was because of growth, more people, new ideas, and a real press on finance which occurred at that time.  During that era, 1974-1981 I had the opportunity to see the bottom of the barrel financially as far as Barry was concerned where I actually looked wearily down the can and saw very little money left from a working capital standpoint because I have been primarily involved in finances for a long time. I've also seen the turnaround during that period in which civilization occurred. Sister Trinita's most substantial contribution was the bases upon which she was able to stabilize the institution, take it from a declining environment to an inclining environment, build the bricks for a substantial future.  She did not build buildings all over the place, she was not a growth oriented president, purse, but that was because at that time, we needed a caretaker, the administrator, a conservator. That's what was her primary time period.

    From '81 to present, 1985, I've been under Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, who is a growth oriented president. Takes a lot with a shot. In 1981 I believe the head count was around 2100, and right now we're looking at about 43 or 4400 for fall of '85.  We don't have it exactly figured yet. But, this is substantial growth in a short period of time. From 1979 to now, our budget has gone from $6.9 million to over $17 million. The time I started in this role in '74 to now, has gone from about 3.2 million to 17 million. In absolute dollars, we have outpaced the inflation area increase and grown considerably, both in terms of physical plant, staff, cost, refuge, and branching out from being a small college to a larger university. We're still small, but we are also much more complex. That's been the most interesting facet that I've had to face and continue to face in this dynamic world. This growth situation has caused even more need for functualization of management, for more professional management of the institution, for more understanding of the policies and procedures and structures within the school, for better management of money and funds, and all these kinds of things.  And so I've had a privilege to be involved with all of that.  That has presented to me the challenges and opportunities to stay and learn and be involved in for a long period of time. At this point, I'm 38  years old, I came in when I was 23 so you can see that I have spent a considerable amount of my youth here and now I'm not in the youth anymore, but I am certainly not old, I don't feel.  Age is a matter of mind and I still think I have a lot to contribute. I have a lot of opportunities right here at Barry. 

Sister Eileen: Would you make any comment at all on the students? Have you had much contact with students?

Tim: Yeah, Barry has gone through metamorphose with students and I think that to some extend it's also been a function of the times in the... I'm a product of the '60's coming out of Kent State, not there during the riots, but knowing that whole scenario. Knowing the seventies, the type of attitudes and what happened in society in the seventies, the loss of direction and that type of thing occurred.  I saw that at Barry and I felt that it was some loss in that direction.  It was not because the administration intended it that way on the contrary, but there was a loss of direction and this was driven by society.  Students at that time were tougher, I thought. There was more confusion. Everybody was kind of mixed up. Now in the eighties, I've seen... I've had the opportunity to teach since about seventy nine, economics and I've had this interface directly with students. I've been able to, not only from the stand point of being in a teaching/ learning experience, but also outside the classroom, notice that we seem to be drawing more responsible students here. Somebody that questions, but also listens and on a general basis, on a general statement, I have been very impressed with many of the students I run across. They don't take you at your word, but they don't take your head off if they disagree with you. I'm very pleased about that and I think the faculty can walk around the campus and you'll see somebody who you don't really know their name. They'll smile at you and say hello and be relatively happy at least on their appearance. That says something to me. I feel good about that and I feel good that Barry brings this out. 

Sister Eileen: Can you think of anything particular you would like to say in a humorous way during your period here? Any funny things that happened to you?

Tim: Well, not really funny, I'd say from a stand point of personal interest. I came here in '71, I met my future wife in late '71. I got married here at the Chapel. I had a daughter in 1980. The daughter was baptized at Barry.  All of these things have had a major relationship with my life.  My father and mother, my father when he was still alive and my mother who is still alive, really will think, when they come down from Ohio, when my father used to come and my mother still comes, they still think very highly of the flights and everything that Barry has done for them even though it's been my business. So, we have a very personal relationship with the institution and all of its people. I would say one of the things that probably I kind of miss because it is all part of the change process is the fact that you feel in the '80's the changes going at such a fast pace that you can't keep up with it.  Another facet that this is, the add of people, the new personnel that are coming on line to the institution, and the change of systems around here is causing a position that back in 1975 or 1978, I could walk around and I would literally know everybody on the campus.  There wasn't a corner I could walk into that I didn't know the people who were behind the scenes who were making the place tick. Maybe it's my position now, but maybe it's because the more people than we've ever had. It's hard to know everyone. I find it even impossible because of the growth and that means that we have had a more impersonal situation happening because of this growth. And now within this caring environment, I still think that we get around that, but still, you can't know everybody in the school because look at the size differential. 

     Humorous, I don't know if I can really pinpoint humor purse, but I can tell you very interesting things that have happened to me over the years. Many professional, many personal, meeting different people. I've had a tremendous respect for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. All of which are very highly educated people who I have found that as a group are very intuitively  personal oriented, personnel oriented, people oriented type of individuals who care a lot for society. A lot of people are like a hidden secret that people don't realize and so I think I've benefited from that. I've also been able to meet lots of different people over the years. I've never had a chance to meet people that are in high professional on the power of the world, but to other people who are major decision makers and I am impressed to having rubbed shoulders with.  So, from all those things, I've benefited from these experiences. Not to speak of the challenges that I have had in my job which has been.

Sister Eileen: How would you rate how the Miami Shores Community looks at Barry and then later how the Miami Community looks at us. Well, the candid answer to that is that I don't feel that Miami Shores itself really looks at Barry as a jewel. I honestly feel and I have personally been involved with in the last few years, many attempts to try and medicate those problems. Whatever they may be because some of them are in the minds of the people more than the reality. It has to do with the fact that Miami Shores is a very status quo oriented community. Many of these people that are elderly now, or older, don't like change and it's been difficult for them to accept even a modicum of change, even though Barry in my opinion has not been at the go weather area of being the changation of society. We're a conservative institution, generally speaking, we don't have wild situations happening here compared to other places in the country. But, for some reason certain people in the Shores seem to not feel that strongly about Barry. 

     I would like to see in the future, relationships grow and become better, and that's still in my optimistic mode that it can happen as the elderly people pass on and new people who are younger, who have more liberal attitudes and see things for what they are work for the institution rather than working the instant. As far as the city of Miami and metro Dade county is concerned, I do think that on both of those cities, think strongly on Barry and they see it as an asset to the community. I felt that particularly in the last three or four years. That there is definitely an attitude that comes from the political hierarchy as well as business hierarchy in this community that there is a strong attachment to Barry and Barry is making inroads to that, great inroads. It will continue to make inroads in this very diverse and cosmopolitive complex area of the country that we live in. So, I think Barry has a place in the sun and will do well in the future. 

Sister Eileen: How do you think our difference has come out regarding the students from central and South America and the islands? 

Tim: I think that Barry has to continue. My personal opinion is that Barry has to continue to market itself into those communities and into those nations both from the standpoint of justice and from the standpoint that it's good business being where  we are in the tip of the shoe so to speak in Central America. They are the target market for us in both directions, the Carribean and both Central and South America. The different cultures, I feel, bring a tremendous input to students here who are thoroughbred Americans that they may sometimes not appreciate, but will appreciate after they leave here because they will experience something that they don't necessarily have wherever they come from. I think that they have brought flux to the school. I have taught many of them and they certainly are excellent students and excellent people, highly ethical people that really have a strong standard of presence. 

Sister Eileen: Some people including some of the faculty are very unhappy about the fact that we have less Sisters and they have remarked that particularly for students from Central or South America, they expect this to be a school where there are more Sisters. What's your reaction to that?

Tim: Well, in the very immediate reactions, at first I think that on Sister Jeanne's part, there is a definite attempt with many successes to bring many Sisters present to the campus. So, I think that we are seeing increased numbers coming back here, but we also have a factor that is not in our control. That is the diminishing, declining number of Sisters who are in the higher education mission. That factor alone causes a supply to decline and we can't control that. All Sisters throughout the country are in a declining mode unfortunately. A tough proposition would be to be a Sister in today's materialistic society.  There is no question about it, it's a major commitment. I sure would like to see more, but on the other hand, we have to deal with what we want. I still think that Barry has to maintain the Adrian Dominican tradition going back to the founders of what was here, what started here, and what they thought went into the origin of the school. I don't see it losing that whatsoever. I think we need to still have Sisters here, if we get more fine, if we can't then I'm not sure that's going to be the thing that breaks a South American or a Central American who comes here or not. It is a factor, I agree with people who are saying it's a factor, they're thinking of parents from South America who are thinking about sending students here. But, they may be thinking of a different generation of Sisters of a different time period in terms of how things were in the '60's, compared to what they are in the '80's. 

Sister Eileen: How do you feel about the Board of Trustees? Would you evaluate their growth, did they have a similar growth?

Tim: Yes, I've been there right along with Mrs. Texky. The alienation process took place in '73 and I started getting involved with them in '74. So, I've seen the metamorphosis in a one year period in a personal experience.  Barry is now 45 years old. Its Board of Trustees on a self governing basis purse is only 12 years old.  That means that our government structure has not really become as sophisticated in terms of growth and history and setting on computers and all that as other institutions that have an entity that goes on through the years and has a tremendous bodiment of history and how it operates. Also, in my mind no matter what the legal affair is as far as the civil law, I think that the Sisters still own the school. But, there has been an alienation and turnover prior to the execution and the mentality is coming still thinking that the heart's the board and quite candid they still think that the Sisters run the school which is an ownership. That's good. That ownership on the part of the Sisters confirms the values of that community into the institution. 

     The board itself has gone through many changes. It's not easy to get good board members through efforts of the gray people who have been involved at Barry, Sheppard Broad, Inez Andreas, and others, numerous others that are what I call real, major, donators that have made contributions to the school that needs money and in brains, they have led the school and they've been able to make the board enforce such sophisticated operations for professional operation. The board is not easy to deal with.  It is a large group unweilding in some respects. That's the nature of the Board of Trustees. They are essentially the owners of the school on a civil basis. Policy which comes from the board has to be formulated up and down with participation and I think we even have moved in that direction.  The board is sensitive to the school, but as I've said before, it is not easy. In this day and age people that want to volunteer their time take on these headaches run in a private institution, in a very competitive environment which we operate. 

Sister Eileen: Would you have any comment on the faculty? Have you seen a change in the faculty since you came here aside from the less number of Sisters?

Tim: Well, I think that we went through metamorphosis in a more sophisticated, more technically oriented and more disciplined faculty. More discipline because you have more people to center the discipline. But, I think that the faculty is getting better. I don't really have the information to distinctly rate inflation or the PhD's and this kind of stuff so I have nothing to measure this on, but my opinion is that the majority of the faculty tend to be an interested, caring group that do give a hoot about the institution. Barry still strives to be a student-oriented institution. I'm not really caught up in the democracy and sometimes we have to change peoples mind in the way that they are thinking, all these things but I still believe at the center of the philosophy is a very student oriented operation. I think that is crystal clear in my mind as being the uppermost characteristic you've got that makes us saleable, marketable, something that people want to buy into. 

Sister Eileen: How do you predict the future of Barry say five years from now?

Tim: Well, to answer your question, first I'll deal with what I think about the most around here and that's my asset, business, management, finance. As I've said before, I've come through a metamorphosis where I've seen the bottom of the barrel and I've seen us grow to a point of stability.  But, I still see us in a position of being blown around by the winds, the forces of the environment that are out of our control. There are major institutions around us that are competing against us on the basis of price. We are trying to compete against them on the basis of price by targeting markets and going after the particular group of students that are not meeting needs, that are not being met in the community right now.  We have been successful in that through programs like Adult and Continuing Education, Biomedical Science programs, Podiatric Medicine, the School of Business, and on Computer Science.  That takes the core area of the school, Arts and Sciences which we have continued to be strong in and using those to accustomize ourselves in the marketplace so people could continue to come to school here and benefit and become productive citizens of Dade County, Miami, Broward County, and the rest of society. 

     Barry has a great need for a major endowment. Barry doesn't have a major endowment. In my mind at a finance standpoint, our greatest single need is a major endowment. By a major endowment, I'm talking about growing from our current number of about 600 thousand dollars to about a 9 million dollar endowment plan by 1990. I think that's achievable, but that is what we need and that's not even in the major leagues yet. That's not in the major leagues, it has to have a quantum increase in a relatively short period of time.  We need that in order to get an undergirding for our finances so that we can taper off on our tuition increases and have better yields from an increasing endowment which pull into our operating funds and funds the operations. Rather than get small sums like $100,000 a year from yields of 6 or 7 hundred thousand dollars in endowment we need close to a million or two million of undergirding per year as a small base in order to get this institution to pay for the high cost of operation because our high costs, our fixed costs are going up. They're fixed on a yearly basis, but they're rising. They're semi-fixed.  Our variable costs are still rising. 

     We have problems with faculty salaries, being competitive in the market place, being able to purchase, I should use that term hesitantly, but being able to go out into the market place and hire people who are stars and being able to meet their demand financially so that they come here to work. Those are additions to our faculty from which we will be able to draw students who will want to study from these people.  All of these problems, the problems of cost, problems of how to finance the institution, how to keep it running on a month to month, week to week, day to day basis are very critical issues. I see an endowment as one portion of solving that. 

     Another part of the problem too is physical plant. We have great needs for many different renovations that still have to be done. We've spent a considerable sum in the last ten years and in the last three years we've built several buildings and done several major projects around the campus. We still need more money to do those things because what we've done is the sin of deferred maintenance. The sin of differed maintenance catches up with you as inflation comes along and you have to pay more for something that didn't do periods back. 

Sister Eileen: Are you in favor of the people on campus being forced to retire at the age of 70? 

Tim: No, I am not. I personally have violated that policy several times for people who have been over 70 and don't believe that. If the person is capable of working and wants to work and has the mental ability to continue to work in what function they're doing, that could mean that they can take on different functions. That  doesn't mean that they have to do what they were trained to do. They can do something else, maybe.  I'm open to having people involved in the school. It doesn't make a difference to me whether they're 50 or 90, as long as they can do something productive that produces something that's for the good of the school. 

Sister Eileen: Would you like to comment on our new so-called consortium with Biscayne, now St. Thomas University?

Tim: Well, as far as I can tell it's defunct. As far as what I can see from it is, if there could ever be a meeting of the minds, I don't know whether there could be, there's a lot put on the scale that could pour out of the thing in various ways, shapes, and forms. But, whether that could ever be, I don't know. I do think this though, St. Thomas is a formidable proponent of Barry in the marketplace, but I'm not so sure that they are competing for the same students we are. I see them at a distinguishably different layer of students, different set of programs, and going after many different things.  Some are competitive. But, I am not that concerned about that to the point that it makes that much difference. There are pasts to this issue that can become complicated because you say, "Two Catholic institutions in a near ten mile area are going to ask for so many benefactors that there is going to be a point where there aren't any benefactors left. How do you continue to go after people if they don't have the money? You'll run out of people hit for the funds..." and this type of thing. That's a marketing challenge and that's an issue, but I frankly wish them well.  I hope they succeed. I feel we will succeed and I think that we will do it to use a term that's overplaced, situation, peaceful, co-existent. 

Sister Eileen: Is there anything else you'd like to say about Barry?

Tim: No, other than I've enjoyed being here and I benefited by it immensely. I've had lots of opportunities that a person my age normally would not have had, had I gone into some other profession. And so for that reason, it is not the money that has kept me here, it's the challenges.

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Frances Sciurba