Benefactors’ Gift to Support University’s Department of Communication

May 9, 2016
Gerard R. Roche ’53, H’82 and his wife Marie Terotta Roche have made a significant gift to The University of Scranton.
Gerard R. Roche ’53, H’82 and his wife Marie Terotta Roche have made a significant gift to The University of Scranton.

A retired businessman who spent decades as an executive recruiter for hundreds of well-known corporations and was once named “Headhunter of the Century” by his peers has, with his media-savvy wife, made a significant gift to The University of Scranton that will have a transformative impact on its Department of Communication, University President Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., has announced.

Gerard R. Roche ’53, H’82, is Chairman Emeritus of the international executive-search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., and Marie Terotta Roche, a 1952 Marywood University graduate, has spent her life in the arts, as a highly recognized singer, dancer, actor and radio and television personality. She currently directs The Chappaqua Singers of northern Westchester County, New York. The significant gift will support areas of study close to the hearts of both.

 “Gerry and Marie have a history of philanthropy with the University that goes back more than 50 years,” Father Quinn said. “This generous gift will help our communication students become leaders in their chosen specialties, well-equipped to use the latest technology available in a global economy.”

Roche, who calls himself a “communications manic,” emphasized the basic reason for his belief in the power of communication.

“Nothing happens unless someone talks about it,” Roche said, referencing the 1982 commencement speech he made at the University, titled “Beyond Words.”

“Like it or not, communicators rule the world,” he said then and still believes now. “The movers and shakers of this world are good communicators.”

News of the gift thrilled Howard Fisher, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Communication, who said the gift will be divided equally into segments to support endowed student scholarships, an endowed professorship and major renovations to the campus television studio.

 “We’ve had plans on the books for at least five years to renovate the television studio,” Dr. Fisher said, explaining that the studio plans include the conversion to all-digital production. “The fact that they are not just thinking about one aspect of the communication department is incredible,” Dr. Fisher said. “They are thinking long-term – investing to help faculty and students to develop as well.”

Dr. Fisher said the gift will help students in the redesigned Communication Department develop in one of the three majors they have available to them: communication, which has a communication leadership and a communication and law track; strategic communication, which has advertising and public relations tracks; and journalism and electronic media, which has journalism and broadcasting tracks.

The technological possibilities supported by the gift have the department thinking broadly and ahead.

“We’re very conscious that our students live in a changing world and need to keep up with the technologies that go with that,” said Brian Conniff, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We really want our students to be intelligent creators of videos and technology. This is a very big part of the world our students are going to be living in.”

Dr. Conniff noted the gift ties well into the key components of the University’s strategic plan: integrated, engaged and global.

“There’s clearly a global reach to broadcast and video,” he said and the endowed faculty positions also will help the Communication Department focus on emerging technology.

“We’re going to be hiring faculty in the very near future who need to be leaders in this area,” Dr. Conniff said.

Roche, a longtime friend to the University for whom the Gerard R. Roche Center for Career Development was named, is a member of the President’s Business Council and received its inaugural President’s Medal in 2002. He is a former chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and an inaugural inductee into the Kania School of Management Wall of Fame. He was awarded an honorary degree in 1982, when he delivered the University’s commencement address.

He retired as Senior Chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in December 2015 after an esteemed 50-year career.

Among their accolades, the Roches also count the Lead On Award, bestowed by Marywood University upon established community leaders who demonstrate their vision to make the region a better place to live, work and raise a family.

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