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.