News and Analysis

Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 9:15 a.m.

Robert Chernak retiring after 24 years

Robert Chernak | Hatchet File Photo

Updated Feb. 10, 1:42 p.m.

The long-serving senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services and a bastion of former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s tenure will leave his post June 30.

University President Steven Knapp announced at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting that Robert Chernak, who received a standing ovation from the board, will retire this summer after 24 years.

“I think I fulfilled my obligation in the transition between the Trachtenberg era and Steve Knapp’s era,” Chernak said.

Knapp lauded Chernak’s contributions to the “transformation of this University from a largely regional to an international university,” facilitating long-term changes to admissions, residential life, athletics and affordability. The vice president also had a hand in expanding GW’s freshman orientation program to create Colonial Inauguration.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees’ Student Affairs Committee Alan From said he has known Chernak and his family for decades. He praised Chernak’s passion for students, which he said would become his legacy at GW.

“He really, really loves the students of this University. There is absolutely nothing more important to him. He treats them as his own children. He absolutely loves what he does,” From said.

From joked that his relationship with Chernak outlasted both of From’s previous marriages combined and that the pair was approaching their golden anniversary, yielding a boom of laughter from the board.

After leaving his position, Chernak will continue teaching in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development for three years, Knapp said.

“You can’t take him away from the fabric of this University,” From said.

Former Vice President for Communications Mike Freedman, who worked closely with Chernak and assumed an administrative spot at the University of Maryland last month, described Chernak’s retirement as the “end of an era.”

“Bob gave GW its vibrancy, its fun, and its personality. Intangibles, to be sure, and all worth their weight in gold. Simply put, he and Steve Trachtenberg formed the greatest one-two punch in the history of this University,” Freedman, the founding director of the GW Global Media Institute, said.

Chernak and Trachtenberg, who served as president for 19 years, worked together as higher education administrators for 32 years across three universities. When he stepped down as president, Trachtenberg described Chernak as a key partner in his administration.

“I’m Batman and he’s Robin,” Trachtenberg told The Hatchet as he announced his retirement in May 2006. “We just make a good team.”

The University also received two six-figure gifts from a single anonymous donor to recognize the administrator’s service, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger announced Friday.

He declined to give specific amounts, but said the first donation will establish a scholarship fund named for Chernak and his wife Linda and the second will dedicate a scoreboard for the baseball team’s new home field in Virginia.

As Chernak’s retirement nears, Morsberger said he expects more gifts to be made in the vice president’s honor.

  • A Parent Who Believe Institution’s can evolve

    Congratulation’s to Lauren French, Sara Ferris and all of Hatchet Staff for being so On Task with promoting GWU individual student Health, Welfare to be taken seriously to evolve into 21st Century Reality by creating the dialogue resulting in very long over due administrative exponential restructuring in SASS !!

    I have full faith GWU will become a leader in what can be achieved in protecting, nurturing people who pay good money to live learn experience Life at their institution !
    Have to have quality positive health mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically to focus on learning, doing, by BEING ALIVE in the Present Beautiful Moment of Life !

  • Will Be Missed

    Good Guy! I hope there’s a faculty member that can step up and really try to connect to students

  • Satisfied

    Thank goodness. From what I heard, he was another overpaid, power-hungry administrator who remained happily divorced from reality while he siphoned financial resources from the university. The university should be run on behalf of students and their professors, not on behalf of administrators trying to live phat lives like Wall Street CEOs.

  • Former GWU Employee

    Thank goodness he’s finally going.

    This is the man that said directly to me, when meeting me for the first time at a SASS department event, “Keep up the good work getting the students to stay enrolled….we want to keep those tuition checks coming!” Disgusting.

  • Later Bob

    Couldn’t agree more with satisfied. Bob is a good guy but he has surrounded himself with incompetent cronies over the years (not much new blood among his executive team) who have been more concerned with political infighting and sucking up to Bob than actually effectively dispensing with their jobs. Bob should be credited with building GW into what it is but its time for some fresh air that will put substance over “SASS” and PR.

  • What About Katz?

    Last administrator not hand picked by Knapp? Really? What about EVP Katz?
    @Satisfied … you heard wrong.

  • KATZ

    The last bastion of Trachtenberg is Lou Katz, not Chernak. Lou Katz’s office is more powerful than ever, swallowing up new offices all the time.

  • Living in the NOW is healthier then living in Past

    Good Post Satisfied and Later Bob.
    The Iron Curtain has to be removed on the disassociation of administrators when it comes to the actual People Paying GWU to exist which is the Student’s.

    There is zero equal infrastructure at GWU in Communication. Everyone Woman Dean or leader of a dept I talked to was HUSHed Up by the Authorities in GWU administration. Intimidation Rules at GWU. White lies are completely acceptable to protect What is the question.. Incompetence ??

    GWU is a internally disturbed institution that does not equate with it’s leadership academically. Fresh Air is beyond what GWU needs. More to the point is a complete overhaul over Student Dean’s office, SASS, Parent Organization, Student Healthcare, Police,security, Hospital etc. As these area’s are built on cronyism and outdated knowledge operations with complete lack of experience and education in the field of Human Welfare.

    It was when I got a phone call from Robert Chernak telling me he was in charge of my son and belittling me for being over concerned about my own child ! Having this Man Yell at me on the phone out of the blue the bizarrenes of it made me get on a plane to DC the next morning and find out what was really going on with my son. What I found that day still is reverberating today 2 yrs later due to the shock of it all.

    This started my journey with GWU in uncovering a very weird operation when it comes to student welfare…The layer’s started to come off with the exposure of how GWU counseling center is run this past fall and the equally bizarre leadership there.

    But this disturbing trend is in all the depts I listed above. It is Not Right and for sure Not functional for anyone. The employee who has to look the other way and the student who is getting short end of stick.

    There is no way as this job description says below One Person can Run 20 depts at a huge college in a major hot bed city with 25,000 students. Over Haul Needed !! Not moving chess pieces. If Lou Katz is the ” Decider” and he has been there since 1990 ~ It is time for leadership that equal’s 21st Century ~of NOW

    Robert A. Chernak manages 20 GW departments and programs serving students’ academic, personal, social and community-related needs. His portfolio encompasses undergraduate admissions, student financial assistance, athletics and recreation, university police, dean of students, parent services, the counseling center, student health services and campus life.

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