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Passion, leadership and innovation

Celebrating the 41-year career of Dean Diane Gayeski

 By Tara Lynch

10/9/19

In the fall of 1973, Diane Gayeski entered Ithaca College as a senior, pursuing her television-radio degree. Now, after 10 years at the helm of one of the top communications programs in the country, Gayeski announced her retirement as dean on Tuesday.

She plans to serve the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year as dean, but after a year long sabbatical, she will return to her first love: teaching.

After graduating in 1974, Gayeski went on to graduate school. Then in 1979, Gayeski began a new chapter as a faculty member at Ithaca College. She never realized she could become a professor so quickly at the institution she loved.

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Gayeski's senior photo from The Cayugan '74. Courtesy: The Cayugan

“This truly is a place that can transform and create new opportunities. When I started I was amazed that, first of all, I got a job as a professor at age 25 right out of grad-school. That was a huge leap,” Gayeski said. 

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In Gayeski's office, she has her diploma, the article announcing her as dean, and various photos. These commemorate her time at Ithaca College.

Gayeski’s perspective is rather unique. She began her time in Ithaca in the basement of Dillingham, which houses the Theater Arts program. There was no Park School of Communications or separate building for the school.

“When I was a student and when I first came back, there were only two majors here. There was the mothership of Television-Radio and then the spin-off of Cinema and Photography and only a few hundred students,” Gayeski added.

Now, there are 10 undergraduate degree programs alongside two graduate programs. Park’s enrollment is 1,800 students and Gayeski notes the faculty have grown by four or five times.

“The size and complexity [of the school] is totally different,” Gayeski said. 

Innovation and creation drew Gayeski back to Ithaca College as a professor. She was the first to introduce computers into the classroom as a production tool.

“We started out with a couple Apple computers and people didn’t quite understand why I was doing that. We moved into this building and there was a room with IBM-PCs and a lab and they called it ‘Diane’s lab’ because they had no idea what was going on,” Gayeski said with a laugh. 

She is an innovator, who introduced new technology and ideas into the modern communications programs. She laid the foundation for current and future students during her time as a faculty member and as dean.

Gayeski smiles as she remembers her days walking the campus as a student and as a bright-eyed faculty member, but her face lights up when she speaks about the present and beyond. 

She still feels the same energy in the Park School that she felt as a prospective student. As she transitions into this new phase, Gayeski will continue to consider Ithaca College her home, but she believes the pinnacle of her career has not happened yet.

“I think maybe the defining moment hasn’t happened yet. I am not willing to say that the book has been totally closed,” Gayeski said.