Frank R. Vivelo

Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia College

1301 Columbia College Drive, Columbia, South Carolina, United States
Columbia College
HQ Phone:
(803) 786-3012

General Information

Employment History

President  - Santa Fe Community College


doctoral degree  - Rutgers University

master's Degree  - Rutgers University


Member  - United States Air Force

Web References  

Santa Fe Reporter | Deja Vivelo

Under the helm of its fourth president, Dr. Frank R. Vivelo, it appears to have emerged from a rocky financial era and to have survived a massive reorganization. You'd think people would be singing the man's praises. They're not.Below the surface of improved finances and streamlined procedures lies a faculty increasingly upset with Vivelo's management style.SFR conducted one in-person interview with Vivelo, and also queried him on several points via e-mail.On Sept. 18, Vivelo e-mailed the SFCC community regarding SFR's questions on low morale at the school. ,This is the first I've heard of this,, Vivelo wrote, and encouraged everyone to attend a special meeting Sept. 20, ,whether you're pleased with things at SFCC or displeased with them.,More than 60 faculty members showed up last Friday and, for three hours, were nearly unanimous in their criticisms of Vivelo's reorganization of the school, his communication skills and his failure to keep the faculty involved in decision-making.In a letter read by representatives of the faculty senate, Vivelo was characterized as ,naive, for not recognizing the discontent. This isn't the first time Vivelo has found himself in this situation.SFR has learned that Vivelo's tenure at his previous job was marred by antagonistic relations with many of his faculty and staff, a steady turnover rate and even a very public mediation. Even more significant is that SFCC's board members were unaware that Vivelo's former faculty had registered complaints similar to those now surfacing at SFCC.When considering Vivelo for the job, the board hired a Washington, DC-based company to check references and then assumed they'd heard everything they needed to hear. Frank Vivelo arrived there in 1994 from Columbia College in Columbia, Mo., where he had been vice president and dean of academic affairs.A former member of the United States Air Force, Vivelo had flown missions up and down the Russian coast during the early 1960s.It was after his stint in the Air Force that Vivelo became interested in anthropology, eventually earning both master's and doctoral degrees in the field from Rutgers University.He'd moved up the academic ranks quickly, teaching at schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and Harrisburg Community College,where he was dean of the school of arts and sciences.In his early 50s, he landed his first presidency position at Wharton. From the get-go, Vivelo's plans appeared ambitious.In his first year, he forged an agreement with The National Association of Scuba Educators, a group of scuba diving instructors based in Orange Park, Fla., a tiny town tucked into Florida's northeast coast.Under the deal, people pursuing scuba diving certification from any NASE locations throughout the country could also earn class credit at Wharton. ,He said at a board meeting that he was going to raise lots of money for the school through this deal,, remembers Albert Barnes, Wharton's registrar. ,We had about two dozen people get college credit that way.It didn't turn out to be much of a money-maker,It was certainly questionable, whether it should have been done.,Some of the questions concerned Vivelo's 1995 presidential contract with the school, which stipulated that 10 percent of the money generated through the scuba-diving deal would be allocated into a ,special executive bonus plan, for Vivelo.Vivelo told SFR that the scuba diving program, which he ended in 1997, was comparable to one at Duke University. ,Instructionally, it was a great program, just as Duke's similar program is.It was, in fact, potentially very beneficial for the college and for the students in the program, but narrow-mindedness and prejudice,not to mention petty jealousy,were making it into something negative, so I ended it.,Vivelo said that, despite his contract, ,The record shows that I never accepted a penny of the income Wharton received while this program was in operation,even though it was legally due me.But even if I had, the arrangement was quite ethical since I brought the program with me when I came to Wharton,and it's not uncommon for a CEO to be granted a small percentage of new business he or she brings to the organization.,Margaret Willie was head of Wharton's faculty council for two years while Vivelo was president. In 1996, Vivelo forged another partnership, this one with Hook Up, Inc., a transportation company based in Joplin, Mo. (near his former employer, Columbia College).Under this program, entitled Transportation Management, overseas students were able to earn associate's degrees at Wharton while simultaneously training to receive their trucking licenses by driving trucks for Hook Up.Again, Vivelo described the truck-training to SFR as ,a standard kind of arrangement found at colleges all over the country.The idea was to bring special expertise and resources to the college that Wharton didn't have to help train truck drivers, both locally and internationally.It even brought a number of international students to Wharton who rented apartments in town, spent their money in town and attended classes at the college.Everybody benefited.,Again, Vivelo said, it was his decision to shut down the program. ,I didn't think Hook Up was following through on some of its commitments for our local students the way it should have., Yet if these projects made Vivelo a target for some criticism, it was his manner, more than anything, that seemed to irk Wharton's faculty.,The tension between the faculty and Dr. Vivelo could not have been worse than what it was,, says Dr. Margaret Willie, head of WCJC Faculty Council for two years during Vivelo's tenure and 10-year veteran Legal Studies instructor at Wharton. ,For it to have gotten worse, it would have to have gotten physical., Some of the problems began in October 1994, when Vivelo changed a long-standing policy that allowed faculty members to present issues to the Board of Trustees every month.Under Vivelo's policy, faculty members were now required to bring any items first to his office; he would then decide what to bring to the board's attention.Indeed, a review of Vivelo's faculty evaluation from his first year at Wharton revealed extremely polarized reactions from the very start.Some were impressed with his intelligence, hard work and straightforwardness; others said they were concerned about his people skills, authoritarian demeanor and failure to consult before making a decision. In December 1996, the Wharton Journal-Spectator reported on the board's annual review of Vivelo, which was held publicly at Vivelo's request.Titled ,Vivelo praised, blasted, but no one seems neutral,, the article began: ,It could have been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being described,, According to the article, faculty described Vivelo as a ,mean, tyrannical, intimidating, unfriendly, nit-picking egoist, while civic and business leaders characterized him as a ,responsive, innovative, effective administrator.,Titled ,Vivelo praised, blasted, but no one seems neutral,, the article began: ,It could have been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being described,, According to the article, faculty described Vivelo as a ,mean, tyrannical, intimidating, unfriendly, nit-picking egoist, while civic and business leaders characterized him as a ,responsive, innovative, effective administrator.,Dr. Jim Coats, who served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and interim president when Vivelo traveled, left the school after 28 years. ,I would have probably stayed another year or two,, Coats told SFR. ,I just didn't like the environment in which I was working.,Nonetheless, by 1999, Wharton's board was satisfied with Vivelo and renewed his contract.For three months, Hightower interviewed faculty, staff, administrators and Vivelo.In an e-mail response about Hightower's report, Vivelo disputed that there was an investigation, saying Hightower ,merely repeated a list of allegations made by some people without checking their accuracy or whether the claims they made were true or false.In the same e-mail, Vivelo writes: ,You have no idea what a corrupt and vicious place Wharton County Junior College is,There is a real sickness at that college that goes very deep and goes back a long way., According to Vivelo, the complaints about him were levied at previous presidents as well. ,These complaints have nothing to do with what a particular president did or didn't do in actuality; they have to do with the hostility these people have toward ANY president,I continued doing my job, and I left the college on my terms and when I chose.,He left at the beginning of 2001,two years before his contract was up.Frank Vivelo looked more like a character out of a gangster movie than an e

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