Women Shaping History 2004:
Regina Peruggi, President, Central Park Conservancy
Factors in Career
Choice: I think
the age during which I grew up and the education I received
had the most significant influence on my choice of career.
I was in high school and college during the sixties and was
very influenced by the Kennedy era during which time there
was a tremendous emphasis on being involved in public service.
In addition, the education I received in high school and
college was also very value focused and emphasized not just "getting a job" or "career",
but doing something that would make a difference for your
fellow man. At first, I was very interested in joining the
Peace Corps, but for a variety of reasons didn't. Instead
I was able to find a position as a social worker working
with female drug abusers who were in a locked facility in
Manhattan. This became the first of many public service positions
I've held throughout my career.
Pivotal Points: A pivotal point in my career came when I had
worked at The City University of New York for almost six years
and decided to go back to graduate school for my MBA. At the
time I was running the York College Community Learning Center,
which was almost entirely, grant funded. I realized that, in
fact, it was like running a small business and I wanted to
develop my managerial and financial skills so that I could
run the Center as effectively as possible. From this position
I moved on to the Central Office of the University (a position
I would not have gotten had I not been on my way to completing
an advanced degree). It was there that I decided that I wanted
to have the opportunity to make a more direct impact on students
and returned again to school at night to pursue a doctorate.
I knew that having the doctorate would give me the credential
I needed to be considered for higher-level college administrative
Achievements: I'm proud of
developing the York College Learning Center many years ago.
I am proud of the CUNY Literacy, GED and other adult programs
that I was able to expand at the University. I believe that
the 11 years I spent as President of Marymount Manhattan
College made a difference. Currently I am president of the
Central Park Conservancy and I am proud of the work we do
every day to keep Central Park the glorious Park it has become
over the past 24 years.
Obstacles: I think the real obstacles
I encountered originally were in relation to graduate education.
Pursuing a career in higher education demands graduate credentials
and it took me a while to get myself started to go back to
school at night. In fact, even once I decided, it took ten
years to get my MBA and doctorate at night. Clearly going
at night and having a very responsible position during the
day was difficult. How did I overcome the obstacles–I
can't really say except that once I got on track I just kept
going. There seemed to be no other choice and I had good
moral support from the man I was living with at the time.
Other obstacles were more internal, lack of self-confidence
probably being the most difficult to overcome. But, I think
I overcame that by pushing myself into difficult situations
and getting through them. After awhile you begin to say...I
can get through anything.
Mentors: Early on I would say that
my high school teachers were really very instrumental in
mentoring me. At my first job my supervisor, Phyllis Hyde,
really taught me everything I learned about counseling and
supervising other people. Jim Hall, my first boss in higher
education was probably my most important mentor throughout
my life. He encouraged me, supported my work, pushed me to
go further, and taught me so much about education, about
people and about life. In fact, I would not be where I am
today without his guidance and support. The other important
mentors in my life were and continue to be Dr. Augusta Kappner,
President of Bank Street College. I worked for her in 1984
and it changed my life. She was an inspiration, a real friend,
the best supervisor, colleague, teacher and mentor. The work
we were doing was important. We worked really hard but enjoyed
every minute of it and had a lot of fun as well. We have
remained close friends and I continually seek her advice.
And–Mary Anne Schwalbe. Mary Anne is the retired executive
director of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.
I met Mary Anne when she was a trustee of Marymount Manhattan
College and ever since have looked at her as a true role model
for the type of person I would like to be. Her commitment,
enthusiasm and caring for others are extraordinary. She is
a mentor, model, friend and someone on whom I rely for advice.
Advice: I think the most important
thing is to find something you truly love to do and are passionate
about. If youÕre
not passionate about what you do you wonÕt do it well
and you wonÕt be successful. Success most often comes
when what you do really matters to you. Then, you work hard
and you do well. I would also say that success comes
in many forms and ultimately the most important success is
the kind that makes you feel good about what you have done
with your life and how you have treated the people who are
important to you along the way. IÕm a firm believer
that success is really a lot more than getting a big paycheck
or being a high-powered executive. Success is about being at
peace with yourself and how youÕve lived your life.
Goals: My most immediate goal is to preserve and continue
to fully restore Central Park for everyone's enjoyment. There
is no place that is more the heart of New York City than Central
Park. It's part of everyone's soul and is our City's most precious
democratic space. It's the play space for our children. It's
our City's largest outdoor, free gym. It's the relaxing space
for our weary workforce. It's a safe place for our seniors
to stroll. Central Park means so much to this City and I am
trying to work towards a time when it will be fully funded
in perpetuity so that we never have to worry that it will deteriorate
again. Most people don't know that the Park is 85% funded through
private dollars, so my goal is to try to find a way to ensure
that the daily cost of maintaining the Park is assured forever.
Other goals are to pursue my interest in issues related to
refugee women and children. I have been a board member of the
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and children for almost
nine years and I continue to want to do, learn and help more.
80% of the world's refugees are women and children and there
is not sufficient attention to their special needs in crisis
situations and after.
My other passion is education and I continue to work on various
boards and advisory groups to promote access to higher education.
I've been involved with higher education for so much of my
life that it's in my blood. It continues to be an important
part of my life and continuing to be involved is one of my
Finally, lest you think that I am
all work–one of my
really important goals is to ensure that I have personal time
in my life to "play" with family and friends. My
family and my friends are very important to me and is what
sustains me. As I said, success is about a whole life!#