Some people restlessly move from place to place, while others find themselves, fortunately, placed in an environment that offers work and entertainment to fill a lifetime. Ron Paprocki is an archetype of the second category. Born in Rochester, NY, he went to school there, and went to the University of Rochester as an undergraduate, receiving a degree with high distinction in French Literature. However, his degree was not a good indicator of where he was heading.
A foundation in higher education
Ron stayed put and began working for the University as an advisor, in academic support and counseling positions. Then he moved into administrative work, beginning with budgeting and planning. “It was one thing after another,” he says. “It just kind of evolved.”
And evolved and evolved. He moved through the University’s administration, acquiring an MBA at Rochester’s Simon School of Business along the way. He was vice president for budgets and financial planning, then senior vice president for financial affairs and planning, and finally, in 2000, he was named senior vice president for administration and finance, and treasurer and chief financial officer for the University. He retired two years ago, covered with praise and admiration from his colleagues as reported on the University of Rochester website. The chair of the trustees said, “With his quiet, unassuming manner, [Ron] is always willing to work as hard as necessary to get the job done, and has been outstanding at assembling groups to complete projects of great importance to the University – “ and he adds every project manager’s favorite words – “on time and budget.” University President Joel Seligman praised Ron’s strengths: “His wisdom, sensitivity to the broad scope of our University, and ability to both see the big picture and manage a broad portfolio of responsibility have made Ron my closest associate. The secret to running a successful University is to surround yourself with talented people… Ron long has been a stalwart of our University.”
It’s a big deal. The University of Rochester is a private AAU (Association of American Universities) member. Membership is by invitation, and means that its research and graduate programs are among the best in the country. The university includes the prestigious Eastman School of Music and a highly esteemed College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, but is also heavily medical in its programs and research. It is home to an 830-bed hospital. The University’s budget is about 3.5 billion, and is the sixth largest private employer in the state of New York.
Ron has lived through plenty of change in Rochester, much of it economic. When he was growing up, Kodak, along with Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, were the major engines of the economy in Rochester. In 1986, when Ron moved from Arts and Sciences to central administration at the University, Kodak had 62,000 employees. Two years ago, when he retired, there were 1700. “A lot of the brain trust of Kodak migrated to smaller tech companies” in the area,” says Ron. “It’s a smart city – sophisticated.”
In 2008, the recession forced many businesses to slash payrolls. Ron, as the chief financial officer, was able to steer the University through that time without too much disruption. In fact, it was in 2008 that he presented a master plan providing for the University’s growth over the next 20 years. His conception aimed to fill likely needs for all kinds of space: office, classroom, residential, research, clinical, along with the infrastructure to support even the specialized needs of scientific projects.
Heading into retirement, and a move to Quechee
In February, Ron and his wife, Cathy, will celebrate 49 years of marriage. They were introduced at a high school football game. On vacations traveling with their three children, they have always enjoyed visiting Vermont, and over the years have made many trips to inns. “Somehow we stumbled on Quechee,” says Ron, “and we liked it very much.” In 2002, the couple bought a condo, but a couple of years later they moved into a newly built house. “It’s such a good fit here,” Ron notes. “As a retirement destination, it’s excellent, with an academic health center close by, so there’s great health care.”
Their children enjoy the amenities when they visit, but Ron and Cathy are not golfers or skiers. “We’ve always hiked, and had an affinity for the natural environment. They like to get out on snowshoes, or go fly-fishing. “ Their springer spaniel, Henry – “energetic and loving,” – adds another pleasure to their lives. “I had no outdoor interests as a kid growing up,” he says.
Serving the community, he now calls home
Ron has combined his interest in nature with his desire to serve the community and getting to know people by serving on the board at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). Mary Davidson Graham, assistant executive director at VINS, is profuse in praise of the energy, ideas, and follow-through he brings to the organization. “Ron is extremely active,” she says. “He’s been involved with VINS for 6 or 7 years, coming to events. He’s always here, and has helpful suggestions. He brings so much expertise to the table! And he’s good with marketing.” Ron, for his part, sees a lot of energy and good projects at VINS. “Environmental education is so important, especially now,” he says. “But I don’t want to talk politics….” He likes to get along with people.
“We’re not big joiners,” Ron maintains, but in addition to the VINS board, Ron serves on the Quechee Lakes Review Board. “It’s a way to meet people and get to know the community,” he says, and he has lots of experience, having served on a municipal planning board in New York state.
Ron also serves on the Upper Valley Haven board, where Executive Director Sara Kobylenski is delighted not just with his skills but with his sensitive teamwork. “He’s been a lovely addition to the board over the last year,” she says. “He’s an active member of the board, and he shows great wisdom and insight in building on the strengths of other board members. He’s been on the Finance committee, where he’s been wonderful, working to balance the Haven’s habitual and necessary frugality with spending when it’s really needed. Right from the beginning, he had a willingness to enter instantly into the values and mission of the Haven.”
For his part, Ron is happy to be part of the Haven’s volunteer apparatus. “There are so many dedicated people who are part of that organization which provides services to those in need,” he says, “and they do so much good.” Of course, Ron is one of the people doing good, and weaving himself into the community, as Sara notes, “They [Ron and Cathy] arrived looking for ways they could become community members by entering into important parts of community life. He’s a great example of how the community comes together to make good things happen.”