Walking around Columbia’s campus it is hard to imagine what the college might have looked like more than 20 years ago, with the number of campus buildings so few they could be counted on one hand. The area was filled with empty, decaying buildings amid an abandoned railroad yard.
This was the South Loop Michael DeSalle came to when he first took the chief financial officer position at Columbia in 1989. DeSalle, who has a background in accounting and finance, said he came to the college with aspirations of having the small arts college continue its expansion.
The South Loop and Columbia’s campus have changed their face since 1989, a vision achieved during DeSalle’s 22 years as CFO. DeSalle said his reason for leaving the position is to teach.
“I had in my contract the option of teaching, and I just felt that after 22 years it was time to move on into something a little different,” DeSalle said.
Before he returns to Columbia in fall 2011 he will be taking a short break.
“I am very delighted, pleased and blessed to be able to take a sabbatical,” DeSalle said.
DeSalle, 58, was Columbia’s third CFO and followed in John Schiebel’s footsteps. Schiebel was vice president of finance for approximately 13 years before retiring in 1989. In that year, Columbia had approximately 6,500 students and consisted of four buildings. The college’s total assets were roughly $40 million with a $5.7 million endowment fund.
Columbia’s current student population has nearly doubled with 12,500 students. The college’s total assets are nine times greater with a total of $360 million. Additionally, the campus now owns 22 buildings.
According to DeSalle, the help of three presidents, faculty and staff guided the college to reach the financial health and stability it has now.
He said he is truly proud of the staff who helped him create what Columbia is today.
“There are a lot of really good people [who] have worked very hard on behalf of the college in all areas,” DeSalle said.
Although he is leaving the CFO position, his contributions to Columbia will continue in a different area of the college. He said when he returns to the institution in fall 2011, he will teach in the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management Department.
Previously, DeSalle said he taught a finance course for six years in the AEMM graduate program in the 1990s, but the obligations of being CFO forced him to stop teaching. According to DeSalle, he will most likely teach management, finance and accounting classes, but the specifics have not been decided yet.
Before he came to Columbia, he held accounting and financial positions at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and the now closed Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, DeSalle said.
According to Philippe Ravanas, chair of the AEMM Department, DeSalle will be a great addition to the faculty.
“We are delighted to have [DeSalle] coming to the department,” Ravanas said. “He has an extensive experience as a management professional and as a teacher. He has taught in the department in the past and with great success.”
Patricia Heath has been appointed interim CFO and vice president of Business Affairs while a successor to DeSalle is chosen.
For Steve Kapelke, provost and senior vice president of Columbia, the sentiment behind DeSalle is one of loss and excitement for what lies next.
“He’s not really leaving the college, and I think it’s important to realize and focus on that,” Kapelke said.
DeSalle said he delights in of what the college has achieved during his time as CFO and hopes the college maintains its climb toward being a prominent, nationally recognized college.
“I am very proud of Columbia and what it has accomplished,” DeSalle said. “I’d only like to see Columbia continue to grow and prosper.”