by Sam Cicci
As the president of Christian Brothers University, Dr. John Smarrelli has been expanding on tradition since he joined the school in July 2009. Smarrelli has the distinction of being the first permanent lay president at the college. Historically, only Lasallian Brothers had served in that capacity.
Currently in his eighth year, Smarrelli has been working on having the school branch out and engage more with the community than in the past. Students today are encouraged to seek out community service opportunities. In addition, the University’s “September of Service” program has students volunteer at an organization for a full month. That visibility in the larger community has Smarrelli leading by example. It could be said that the entire campus is his office. “It’s up to me to be a more interactive president and get out of this office. That’s really why I’m here,” he says. “I love to walk the campus and that’s where I interact best with our students. I’m at virtually every athletic event, but what I really enjoy doing is walking to the cafeteria at lunchtime, saying, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’”
Smarrelli’s student interaction isn’t limited to the physical campus, however. “We created this hashtag: #smarrelliselfie,” he says. “I’ll go around campus sometimes and a student will ask, ‘Can I get in a selfie with you?’ The more interesting part about that is they’ll tell me their story and what the issues are that they’re facing, whether it’s financial or academic.”
While maintaining a presence on campus is incredibly beneficial for the student body, Smarrelli does have his office ready to entertain guests, whether they be students, journalists, professors, board members, or potential donors. Trees that have been cut down on campus do not go to waste; one has been repurposed into a beautiful table right inside his doorway. The eight surrounding chairs make it the perfect place for a conference. Behind his desk are numerous mementos from his life, paying tribute to an education in science, a love of sports, and past meetings with famous individuals such as President Obama, the Dalai Lama, and former basketball star Bill Walton.
Click on the pictures below to read more about the items in Dr. Smarrelli's office
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