Fiorentino completes a 33-year climb to the top at West Chester U.

Christopher M. Fiorentino had been serving as interim president at West Chester University since last spring. Fiorentino, who called it "a pretty emotional day," started at the university in 1983 as an assistant professor of economics. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer

Christopher M. Fiorentino has spent his entire 33-year career at West Chester University, and on Thursday he ascended to the top job.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's board of governors appointed Fiorentino, who had been serving as interim president, to the permanent post.

Fiorentino, 63, was one of four finalists for the job. He replaces Greg R. Weisenstein, who retired last spring after eight years at the helm of the state system's largest university, with more than 17,000 students.

He will earn $296,900 annually as West Chester's 15th president under a three-year rolling contract.

"It's a pretty emotional day," Fiorentino said. "This really is the culmination of my professional career. To be the president of West Chester University is only something I could dream of."

The other finalists were: Anny Morrobel-Sosa, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the City University of New York's Herbert H. Lehman College; Cady Short-Thompson, dean of Blue Ash College at the University of Cincinnati; and Bahman Ghorashi, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Tennessee Tech University.

West Chester's Council of Trustees narrowed the field to Short-Thompson and Fiorentino. The board of governors, which oversees the system's 14 universities, interviewed the two candidates and made the selection.

"Dr. Fiorentino has been a distinguished member of the West Chester University family since he first joined the faculty more than 30 years ago," said Cynthia D. Shapira, the board of governors chair. "He not only understands the university's mission, he has helped to shape it. The board has great confidence that he will continue to provide exceptional leadership to the institution into the future."

Fiorentino started at West Chester in 1983 as an assistant professor of economics. He spent the bulk of his time as the dean of the College of Business and Public Affairs, during which he developed off-campus academic centers, including the Graduate Center in West Goshen Township and the Philadelphia Center, and helped create an entrepreneurial leadership center.

Under Weisenstein, he became vice president for external operations and then interim president last April.

He has his bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from Temple University, as well as his doctorate.

Fiorentino inherits a university that has continued to see enrollment growth, unlike many schools in the system, where enrollment has been declining.

"To some extent the challenges we have are nice challenges," he said.

The university had explored expanding to other sites to accommodate growth, but Fiorentino said that was no longer being looked at.

"For our enrollment to continue to grow, it's going to have to be in very targeted places," such as online programs, he said.

He looks forward to opening the largest academic building on the campus in the next couple of weeks, a new home for the College of Business and Public Management.

Born in Philadelphia, Fiorentino grew up in Levittown and Langhorne, and graduated from Neshaminy High School.

His wife, Sue, is a lawyer and West Chester faculty member. The couple have three children, two of them West Chester grads. Fiorentino and his wife are runners and run together.

"That's how I release stress," he said.