John Falabella

Interview with John Falabella    by John Desmond

 I interviewed Professor John Falabella on March 12, 2015.

John Desmond: What did you do before joining the faculty at Dutchess Community College?

John Falabella: I taught Dental Laboratory Technology at Southern Illinois University while going to graduate school there. I taught during the day and attended graduate classes at night. I was a full-time teacher and had been for two years. Because I taught full-time, the only tuition I had to pay for my graduate studies was the annual $60.00 student-activities fee.

John D.: What caught your attention about Dutchess Community College?

John F.: The Dental Laboratory Technology Program was a two-year associates-degree program within the two-year college division of Southern Illinois University. The department head was retiring. I and another faculty member were in contention for that position. I also was interviewing at other community colleges for a teaching position in Dental Laboratory Technology. A friend who taught Dental Laboratory Technology at another community college called to tell me he had received a letter from a Dean Larry Monoco at Dutchess Community College stating that Dutchess was starting a Dental Laboratory Technology Program and that the college was looking for someone to design the curriculum for the new program and to be the program chair. I called the Dutchess number, talked to Larry, and arranged to meet with him and John Demenkoff, department head of Allied Health. Two days later, after a whole-day visit with Larry and John at the college, I was offered the position. It was the chance to start something new and to return to New York where I am from originally.

John D.: How did you design the curriculum?

John F.: The program was funded by a seven-year Veterans Affairs grant. During the 1974-75 academic year, I defined the courses, bought the equipment (including stations for handicapped students), and selected the space for the labs in Hudson Hall. That space is where the Writing Center is now. In the fall semester of 1975, we admitted our first students. In the fall semester of 1976, we hired Ted Mass to teach with me.

John D.: When did the Dental Laboratory Technology Program end?

John F.: We ran the program until the fall semester 1989. That semester, we did not admit any new students and taught only the sophomores from the year before. The program was one of only sixty such programs in the United States. It was certified by the American Dental Association and by the National Association of Dental Laboratory Technology Programs. The program also placed in the top five such programs in the nation.

John D.: How did the program end?

John F.: At the public portion of the Board of Trustees meeting of August 25, 1989, it was announced that the Dental Laboratory Technology Program was dissolved, along with Dental Assisting and Medical Office Assisting. The reason given was the high cost of the program. The V.A. Grant had run out, and the college did not want to carry the cost of the program even though the enrollment was strong.

            Alfredo Fonts was at the meeting, scheduled to make a presentation of the Allied Health Program. He called me from a pay phone in Bowne Hall to tell me the program had been cancelled. We were both shocked. A few days later, Dean Mary Louise Van Winkle called me to say that in case I had not heard, my program was dissolved. She said I was to call the freshmen enrolled in the program for the fall semester to tell them the program was gone. I told her that she could call all of them.

            Since the program existed for the remaining sophomores, Ted and I were still employed by the college. Ted taught the sophomores, and I showed up at the college every day, dressed in a new sweat suit, sat in my office, left the door wide open, put my feet up on the desk, and read the newspaper.

            At the end of the academic year 1989-90, Ted and I were done with the program. Ted took the half-year pay and medical coverage and went back to work full time at his own dental lab. I took the other option to be retrained in business. I went on a sabbatical for the academic year 1990-91 and took courses toward a second graduate degree in business. This action was an agreement worked out by DUE that still exists in the contract as the Retrenchment Clause. In the fall of 1991, I began teaching in the Business Technologies Department.

John D.: Who are the people whom you respect at Dutchess?

John F.: From the past, Dean Ross Pattison, Dean Gary Pfeifer, Dean and President Sabra Toback, John Demenkoff, Larry Monoco, Business Department Chairperson Tony Krzywicki, Business Department Head Sam Englehart, and Business Department Head Jerry Hamill.  These people were—are—moral and ethical, and they were student-faculty orientated.

            In the present, pretty much everyone currently here, especially Joe Norton, Carl Marchese, Holly Molella, Ellen Gambino, and certainly the entire Business Department.

John D.: Who or what are the people or committees you do not respect at Dutchess?

John F.: Not that I don’t have the courage to name names, but what would the endgame be?  This interview will be in print, and someone named might respond. In the end, both parties will claim victory, and the loser will be the College. That situation is something I would rather avoid.  Trust me, given the opportunity, I will do this in person.

            I would like to say that the environment at the College has changed. I truly feel this is due to a number of new people here, both administration and faculty.  Please know that “new to me” goes back a long time. I trust the College is in good hands going forward. Congrats to Pamela. This makes it easier for me to leave.

John D.: What policy changes would you like to make?

John F.: Stop the requirement for the $50.00 deposit fee for students before they can attend class. Some students pay the fee, never show up for class, yet do not drop the class. These students take up seats that other students, who may want to take the class, have no opportunity to. Require full payment for tuition. Those students who have no intention of attending class would not pay the full fee and would drop the class, providing the opportunity for others to attend.

            More tuition assistance is needed for faculty who need to take courses required for promotion. The promotion process itself needs to be reviewed. Once the candidates meet the requirements and submit their applications, the remaining steps have the potential to become a popularity issue. 

            Spend less time on administration tasks and more time on classroom and student tasks.

            Notify the high schools that the students who attend Dutchess are less socially prepared for college than they have been in the past. The freshmen need to assume more responsibility for doing their assigned work on time and not asking for extra credit or re-dos after every assignment that is past due or is poorly done.

John D.: Why are you retiring?

John F.: Economics. I will be in very good financial shape. Life is too short. Gil Seligman, a retired Business professor, told me, “You’ll know when it is time to leave.” Also, I tolerate stupid less and less.

John D.: What do you plan to do in retirement?

John F.: Spend more time with family, friends, and the boat. I plan to upgrade to my captain’s license, so I can run charters for sightseeing and to transport other boats up and down the East Coast.