by Zanna Shapiro

Rob Oliva ‘04 earned his recognition for his role at SFC.👏

Currently Director of Recruitment for the Office of Admissions, he attended SFC from 2000-2004 and earned a B.A. in Political Science and Government.

He heard SFC as a student at Xaverian High School, when “the head of the admissions office, John McAuliffe, who I worked for during the summers, mentioned to me that was in his old neighborhood (Marine Park) and bumped into Dr. Frank Macchiarola, who was the president of St. Francis College.

“They met a few days later, and Dr. Macchiarola shared with John all of the great things that were taking place at SFC. John had began is enrollment career as an admissions counselor at SFC and was so pleased to hear of the exciting changes taking place.

“During my conversation with John, he said the SFC was the perfect fit for me – and that I should strongly consider attending the Open House. I did…and the rest is history!

“After basically begging my dad to give up a football Sunday to attend the Open House, we got in our car, sat in traffic on the Gowanus expressway, and got to Brooklyn Heights, where we circled around and around for a parking spot.

“After quite some time, my dad gave up, and we parked at a johnny pump (fire hydrant). When we walked into the College, we were greeted by Brother George Larkin, SFC’s legendary Dean of Admissions. The minute he greeted us, I felt like I belonged.

“I fell in love with the feel of the College – and when we left I knew that I’d be seeing Brother George again. We got back to the car – and there was a big orange ticket on the car…my dad said this better be worth it —and don’t you know, it was the best investment my dad ever made!

“A few months later, Brother George invited me back to campus, and handed me my acceptance letter to SFC with a scholarship that changed my life. I was on my way!”

Rob paved the way for his siblings to attend SFC as well — his brother graduated in 2008 and his sister graduated in 2011.

He said his “blue-collar working-class parents worked hard to provide the opportunity for us to attend Xaverian HS, Bishop Kearney HS, and St. Francis College.  They believed in a values-driven education.”

Rob Oliva entered SFC as an undecided major:

“I first thought I wanted to student Business Management after taking a team-taught Introduction to Management course taught by Professor Bill Tamparo and Professor Reeves Gandy. 

“Then after taking Brother Joseph Maloney’s Introduction to Public Speaking course, I thought Communication Arts was what I wanted to study.  But it wasn’t until I met Dr. Frank Sorrentino, and the students he mentored like Ron Castorina (SGA President), that I decided my passion lied in the world of politics, and I decided to study Political Science.”

After graduation, Rob moved to Boston, and decided to attend the New England School of Law. He said he absolutely loved Boston and his classmates, but hated law school.

“After just two weeks, I quit.  Yes, I quit.  As soon as I came home, you know it, I visited SFC and had meaningful conversations with Brother George and legendary alumni director, Dennis McDermott.  They were caring and supportive, as I discussed what my potential next step would be.

“My next step was to my high school alma mater, Xaverian, where I met with the president, Dr. Sal Ferrera.  Within the first ten minutes of meeting, I was offered a job to work in the Office of the President, Alumni and Development, while also teaching [a few religion courses].  Over time, I coordinated the school’s exchange program to Bruges-Belgium, coached the Varsity Volleyball Team, and eventually served the community as their Alumni Director.”

However, Rob’s journey at SFC didn’t end there. In Fall of 2009, Chris Gibbons, the College’s Director of Special Events, gave notice that he would be joining the Events Management team at Brooklyn Law School.

“I had worked for Chris as a student assistant, and was familiar with his position.  His departure coincided with the Bro. Urban Golf Outing at Dyker Beach Golf Course.  At the event, I had a conversation with SFC’s president, Brendan J. Dugan, and SFC’s chancellor, Dr. Frank Macchiarola, who let me know Chris was leaving, and they’d like to connect with me to see if I was interested in the position.

“A week later, I met President Dugan for a cup of coffee, we had a great conversation, and the following week, I received a call from Linda Werbel Dashefsky, VP for Government and Community Affairs, who said, we know you, you know us, I’d love for you to interview for the position.  So I came to campus, and interviewed with Linda, Richard Coladarci (HR AVP), Steve Bogart (EVP), and June McGrisken (CFO).

“Shortly after, I was offered the position, and began on November 30, 2009.  In the fall of 2017, I began transition to a position in the Admissions Office focusing on Recruitment, which I began full-time after the College celebrated our first Commencement Ceremony at the Coney Island Amphitheater in May of 2018.”

When asked what Rob’s goals are, he said the following:

“My main goal in life is quite simple.  To be a good husband.  To be a good father.  To be a good family member.  To be a good friend.  To be a good colleague.

“And most importantly to continue making a difference in the lives of others.  I want to impact young people the same way Bro. George Larkin, Dennis McDermott, Dr. Frank Sorrentino, Dr. Frank Macchiarola and President Brendan Dugan impacted me.”

Rob also has a message for students — “as an SFC student, you are blessed to attend a values driven institution steeped in the charism and tradition of the great Franciscan Brothers.

“Over 160 years ago, they stepped foot in Brooklyn and were the change makers of their time – and it is my hope that you will be a change maker in your community and in the world. 

“The best advice I would give is to follow in their footsteps and in all of your actions be compassionate, humble, trusting, zealous, and simple.”

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