By Theresa King
(TEANECK) – The university community will bid farewell to University College Dean Patti Mills in August after almost nine years of serving the position.
Dr. Patti Mills came to FDU in Sept. 2008 after holding academic and administrative positions in the Pennsylvania State University system. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Rochester, a M.A.S. in accounting from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in history from the State University of New York College at Fredonia.
According to Mills, her favorite moment every year is commencement. The first one she attended took place at the Izod Center in 2009, where she had a small speaking role.
“The first one was particularly memorable,” she said. “I had never attended one that was that large. When I stepped to the podium, the students just let loose, in terms of joy. It was absolutely thrilling.”
Mills also said that she feels her top achievement during her time at the university was seeing students move through their academic careers and into their professional lives.
“To see that trajectory – that is the kind of thing that is a top achievement.”
On the subject of University College and its biggest challenges, Dean Mills said she felt that many of its struggles are not unique.
“Affordability, access, infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt – although FDU has done an outstanding job of making facilities improvements,” she said of hardships still facing the school. “I don’t think our challenges are unique. We are faced with what the university is faced with, which is what all colleges face.”
Associate Director of the Peter Sammartino School of Education Teresa Montani has worked alongside Mills in University College, and looked back on how Mills has impacted her time at the university.
“I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to personally watch Dean Mills in action over the past seven years,” Dr. Montani said. “As a mentor, she has always made herself available to answer my never- ending questions and to listen to my problem solving options as I grew into the role of Associate Dean.
“Patti also demonstrated a rare ability to strike an effective balance between towing the line and esprit de corps in order to bring high- level projects in on time. I will remember her for these things as well as for her kindness, patience, and generosity.”
During Mills’ time here, she said she enjoyed a view of the Hackensack River from her office, occasionally catching a glimpse of bald eagles soaring by. Looking out the same window, she reflected on her favorite parts of the Metropolitan Campus.
“It’s the people who make a place, and that’s true of FDU,” she said. “We have such a fine staff and faculty in so many areas.”
Mills’ next chapter is retirement, as she said she does not see herself taking on any more academic positions in the future. And while she will likely not be involved on campus, she said she plans to keep in contact with the people she’s encountered during her nine years at the university. “I’ve made many friends here and I plan to remain in touch with them,” she said.
Dr. Vicki Cohen, director of the Peter Sammartino School of Education, reflected on Dean Mills’ time at the university.
“Dean Mills has been a dedicated and hardworking Dean of University College for the years of her tenure here at Fairleigh Dickinson University,” Cohen said. “She has been a champion of faculty rights and strongly supported policies to enhance the educational quality at FDU. I wish her the best of luck in her retirement and future plans.”
Reflecting on her time spent at FDU, Mills thought fondly of what she has done during her tenure.
“I truly consider it an honor that this university was my last academic achievement,” she said.