Glenn Gerstner, Ed.D. ’81SVC, Dean, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS), and Lesley H. and William L. Collins Distinguished Chair, is fond of telling his students he struggled during his undergraduate days at St. John’s University. A member of St. John’s faculty since 1989, Dean Gerstner is also a longtime Associate Professor in CCPS’s Division of Sport Management. Last June, he was appointed Dean of CCPS and is the first alumnus of the College to serve as its leader—a fact that is not lost on him.
“I am very proud, and I think I can serve as a role model to students,” he said. “I tell them, ‘If I can do it, so can you.’”
A native of Mineola, NY, Dean Gerstner’s parents both worked for the US Department of Defense, and his family lived what he described as a “very middle-class lifestyle.” His childhood was dominated by a love of sports that served him well, influencing his career path in ways he could never have imagined.
While sports dominated his consciousness, Dean Gerstner also possessed a love of facts and figures, excelling in subjects like mathematics (competing as a mathlete in high school). He also served as sports editor of his high school newspaper.
That juxtaposition informed his future career, exposing him to varied groups of students, allowing him to feel comfortable in different arenas, and providing him with what he considers a well-rounded perspective. He also developed a fervent interest in sports trivia.
Dean Gerstner stressed that he never had designs on teaching or working in higher education. He received his Master of Business Administration degree in finance from Hofstra University, and in the years since graduating from St. John’s, he held a variety of positions, most notably as a bartender.
“I always tell my students never discount the role of happenstance in your life and your career,” he said.
While at Hofstra, Dean Gerstner was working on his thesis with the chairperson of the finance department. His phone rang, and his secretary informed him that a professor broke his hip and couldn’t teach in the fall. “He immediately turned to me and asked if I wanted to teach a course in corporate finance.” Dean Gerstner is confident that had anyone else been sitting in the office, they would have been asked the same question.
From that chance moment, a distinguished academic career of more than 30 years was born. Within two weeks, Dean Gerstner knew this was how he would spend the rest of his life. “I liked having the answers. I knew I could help these kids.”
After teaching at Hofstra and the New York Institute of Technology, Dean Gerstner learned of an opening for an economics professor in then-St. Vincent’s College at St. John’s and decided to apply. Again, happenstance played a role in Dean Gerstner joining the faculty. “A professor who taught me recognized my name and told the chair to call me.”
Dean Gerstner taught Economics and Finance at St. John’s until the mid-nineties, when an emerging discipline known as sports economics caught his attention. Here, his passions for sports and teaching would converge in a way he never imagined.
“All of a sudden a group of economists starting looking at sports as a laboratory for economics,” he said. “The reason sports is so great for economists to cover is that for most jobs, it’s really hard to observe output. How do you quantify whether people are doing a good job?” In sports, Dean Gerstner stressed, there is “great output data,” in the form of a wealth of statistics, which have exploded over the years with the concept of analytics.
“We also know how much the players make,” Dean Gerstner noted. “That was always the other problem in labor economics—we have to know how much people make. It’s very simple to figure out if the players are being paid what they are worth.”
This new discipline immediately piqued his interest. Dean Gerstner suggested a course, which was initially turned down. A few years later, his suggestion was met with enthusiasm, and a course in sports economics was created. From that point, he divided his course load between economics and finance and sport management, until, in 2006, Kathleen Vouté MacDonald, Ed.D., former Dean of the College, gave Dean Gerstner the opportunity to move full time into the arena of sport management.
In 2009 he became Chair of the Division of Sport Management. “File that one under no good deed goes unpunished,” he laughed. From 2009 to 2017, Dean Gerstner served as the Chair of the Division and at various times also served as Director of the graduate and undergraduate Sport Management programs. From 2017 to 2020, he was Senior Associate Dean of Faculty in CCPS.
As he accepted more administrative responsibilities. Dean Gerstner made it a priority to teach at least one class per semester. “I have to do it, because I miss the students,” he explained. “I got into this because I enjoy being in the classroom.”
Dean Gerstner has mentored hundreds of students, helping them obtain internships and supervising their masters theses. He noted that the immediate sense of fulfillment he receives from helping them is intensely gratifying and energizing.
“Many of them stay in touch with me on LinkedIn and will share happy news with me, like when they get a job or get promoted, and it’s very rewarding. I understand that as Dean I can do a lot for the College, but that micropart—doing good for one person—means so much to me.”