Utica University in New York names Sapulpa native as next president

UTICA, NY – The Utica University Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Todd Pfannestiel as the University’s next president. Effective August 1, 2023, he will be appointed as the 10th president in the University’s history.

He will succeed Dr. Laura Casamento, who will retire on July 31, 2023, following her highly accomplished seven-year presidency.

“Utica University’s future as a leader in higher education and an influential contributor in the region continues to grow,” says Pfannestiel, who currently serves as Utica’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I am honored to serve the institution and its amazing students, faculty, and staff along that path.

Dr. Todd Pfannestiel addresses the media during a press conference announcing that he will be the university’s 10th president during a press conference at Utica University on Monday, February 27, 2023 in Utica, NY. To his left is Board of Trustee Chairman Robert Brvenik ’77. Dr. Pfannestiel’s presidency will begin on August 1st, 2023. (PHOTO BY NANCY L. FORD)

“As with many universities, we face challenges which together we will address head-on with the same spirit that has become a hallmark at Utica,” he continues. “My wife and I are excited about what the future holds for all of our Pioneer family.”

Board of Trustees Chairperson Robert Brvenik ’77 says, “The Board’s primary goal in this national search was to find a new chief executive with the vision, knowledge, and experience to lead Utica University forward in a manner commensurate with its extraordinary potential as rising center of innovation and excellence in higher education.

I speak for my fellow Trustees when I say that we have succeeded in this quest by securing in Dr. Pfannestiel a leader of the highest caliber – one who is ready and eager to guide this institution to greater heights and meet the challenges of the coming decade.

“This decision follows a national search and comes after careful and exhaustive consideration of a highly qualified group of finalists, each of whom made a distinct and compelling case for the opportunity to lead this institution. The fact that this search garnered such remarkably capable and experienced candidates is testament to the growing international reputation of Utica University as an innovative and dynamic institution of higher learning – a reputation enhanced in no small measure through the efforts of our incoming president over the past five years.”

Pfannestiel has 25 years of experience in higher education, as a faculty member, school dean, and senior administrator. Through the course of his tenure as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Utica, he has led and collaborated closely with faculty on a variety of initiatives to raise the academic profile of the university and further its mission. Chief among these achievements was the recently implemented redesign of the university’s general education curriculum, as well as the launch of a number of innovative academic programs designed to address emerging workforce and societal needs, including the M.S. in Social Work, the Family Nurse Practitioner M.S. and graduate certificate, the M.S. in Data Science, and others. Under Dr. Pfannestiel’s leadership, the university has met a rapidly changing undergraduate market with its first A.S. and B.B.A. degree programs, providing a greater variety of career pathways for students of all backgrounds.

He played a pivotal role in the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health and safety of the entire campus community while working cooperatively with faculty and staff to keep the learning enterprise on track through an innovative mix of virtual, in-person, and hybrid instruction.

“Above all of his many qualifications, Dr. Pfannestiel possesses a deep and abiding appreciation for the student experience at Utica University and the transformative power of higher education,” Brvenik says. “He has built strong relationships with our students, playing an active role in campus life beyond the traditional scope of his role as provost. He closely identifies with the families we serve and the challenges they face, drawing on his own experience as a first-generation student at the University of Arkansas.”

Prior to joining Utica University, Pfannestiel served on the faculty of Clarion University of Pennsylvania for 20 years, earning the rank of professor of history. During his time at Clarion, he also served as Dean of the College of Arts, Education, and Sciences, interim provost, and acting president.

Pfannestiel earned his Ph.D. in History from the College of William and Mary, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellow in the Humanities; completed post-graduate studies at Duke University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow in Economics, and completed his B.A. in History and Economics at the University of Arkansas as a Fulbright College Scholar summa cum laude.

A native of Sapulpa, Okla. and graduate of Sapulpa Public Schools, Pfannestiel and his wife Dr. Aimee Zellers, an associate professor of philosophy at Carlow University, reside in Sauquoit, N.Y.