April 18, 2019

To the William Paterson community:

I am writing to you today about a staffing change that will occur in the President’s Office effective July 1, 2019. Chief of Staff Dr. Robert Seal had discussed a transition with the Board of Trustees as the search for the new president began during the 2017-2018 academic year. The Board asked Dr. Seal to remain through December to help with the transition, and I in turn, asked him to stay through this academic year so I would have a year with his considerable institutional knowledge and wise counsel. He graciously gave me the entire year. Dr. Seal, like many of us came into higher education because he enjoyed working with students, and he made it clear to me it was his desire to return to that work at William Paterson University. Therefore Dr. Seal will return to his tenure home as a Professor of Higher Education Leadership in the fall of 2020 after a well-deserved sabbatical.     

Dr. Seal has had many accomplishments during his tenure in the President’s Office. Some of the highlights are: 

  • He played a significant role in developing the University’s first Strategic Plan, providing  background information and working with the consultants to move the plan forward. This was a role given our upcoming Middle States review. 
  • He guided and staffed the Presidential search 2017/2018. 
  • He co-chaired the Provost search 2018/2019, and chaired the searches for the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, the Vice President for Enrollment Management and the first University General Counsel.
  • He carefully led the on-boarding of new Board of Trustee Members.
  • He beautifully orchestrated and choreographed two presidential investitures.
  • All of this, along with his excellent work coordinating the Board of Trustee Meetings along with the Board’s various committees.  

It should be clear to all of us that he has performed these duties selflessly and in an exemplary fashion worthy of meritorious acclaim. We will find ways to celebrate Bob and his many contributions in the coming days. 

I have asked Dr. Shelley Bannister to stay on as my Chief of Staff and she has graciously agreed. Many of you know Dr. Bannister through her work as the Senior Advisor to the President for Strategic Initiatives during this academic year. She led my fall listening tour, helped with the Strategic Plan, became a Pioneer athletic fan, and attended various other events throughout the year. She served in the Chief of Staff function for me during my time as Interim President at Northeastern Illinois University, and has served that institution in various roles including faculty member and faculty union officer, accreditation director, and Associate Dean. She was an American Council of Education Fellow, and was named Distinguished Teaching Professor of Justice Studies & Women’s and Gender Studies. I am grateful that she has agreed to stay on in this critical role.    

Please join me in thanking them both for their leadership roles at William Paterson and please wish them both well in these new journeys. 


Richard J. Helldobler, PhD