The Iron Man

By Eric F. Spina

Soaking in a Cincinnati Reds game at Great American Ballpark with Professor Joe Valenzano back in the summer of 2016, I asked myself an existential question: Can a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and a Philadelphia Phillies fan get along?

Ha! In some corners of higher education, that’s a little like asking whether a university president and the president of its academic senate can work together respectfully and productively…

I am proud to say that for the past two years, this Pirates fan — and my colleagues in the senior administration — have enjoyed a tremendously productive working relationship with Joe, who may alternately be known as the chair of the communication department, the president of the University of Dayton Academic Senate, a husband and father, (and, sadly for him, a forlorn Phillies fan).

While I certainly had a terrific relationship with Joe’s predecessor, Professor Carissa Krane, who was incredibly helpful and supportive as I learned about the University and prepared to assume the presidency, we never had the privilege of working together as president-president. And I look forward to establishing a strong and respectful relationship with Joe’s successor, Professor Corinne Daprano, who demonstrates every single day her deep loyalty and great value to the University. (Just maybe she is a Pirates fan?!)

 But this blog pays tribute to our colleague, Professor Valenzano, who assumed the role of Academic Senate president with a great sense of responsibility to the people of the University community and a clear focus on advancing the mission and ideals we all hold dear. At a university where many faculty and staff have exceptionally long tenures, it is remarkable to me how Joe — who has been at UD “only” seven years — truly lives our Marianist charism and reflects our values in all he does, whether teaching, scholarship, administrative leadership, or engaging in shared governance. Calm, though tenacious, Joe has that remarkable ability to defuse a tense moment with a humorous observation.

Over the past two years, Provost Paul Benson, Vice President Andy Horner, and I have spent quite a bit of time with President Valenzano, as have several other senior administrative leaders. Some meetings were routine, some called by me or another administrator, and some called by Joe. Some were for consultation, others seeking advice, and still others simply to tap into Joe’s wise perspective. In *all* of the meetings, though, Joe represented the University community faithfully, thoughtfully, and — when necessary — firmly.

I know Paul and Andy will agree with me when I say that our understanding of an issue evolved after hearing Joe’s perspective. In some cases, our approach changed for the benefit of the University. I deeply valued these exchanges with Professor Valenzano and believe that this kind of productive interaction — this key element of shared governance — is critical for the University of Dayton as we work together to realize our strategic vision against the backdrop of a hypercompetitive and changing higher education landscape.

Such a generative relationship between the administration and the senate leadership is not the case at all universities, of course. I’m so grateful for what we have at UD, which seems to me to be true to our values as a Catholic and Marianist university.

As he steps away from the Senate and its leadership, I ask you to join me in thanking Joe Valenzano for his extraordinary, selfless service to UD. He sacrificed personally and professionally for the sake of our community, and I am extremely grateful for his hard work, wise counsel, and excellent sense of humor.

In my eyes, Joe is baseball’s equivalent of the Iron Man, a leader who shows up day in and day out — and performs. Really, it’s just his baseball team that remains the problem.

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