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Drolette steps down as CFO

By Tate Herbert
On December 4, 2012

  • Drolette

At the end of this calendar year, Frances Drolette will leave her position as senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer, announced Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steven Manos last Tuesday. Marianne Cwalina, the current associate vice president of finance, will take over the role on Jan. 1.

Drolette wrote in an email to the Justice that the decision was not sudden, as she began speaking with University President Frederick Lawrence early this summer about reducing her hours and beginning to step down. When Manos joined Lawrence's administration in August, "it provided an opportunity for Steve to manage some of the activities and initiatives of the senior finance staff, and I reduced my schedule in earnest."

Drolette will leave her post "to pursue new professional and educational opportunities," according to Manos' email, which also lauded Drolette for having "made customer service a hallmark of Finance" and being "an island of stability during a period of great economic challenge."

Drolette wrote that she will pursue opportunities similar to Brandeis, working in college or university administration "in a not-for-profit environment." She also said that she is exploring the option of attending law school, which "would satisfy a '0life-long-learning' goal rather than a career objective."

"I respect Fran's decision," said Mark Collins, senior vice president of administration, in an interview with the Justice. Collins added that Drolette, whom he has known for 20 years, is a "great colleague, mother, friend and just a great human being who I will miss greatly at Brandeis."

The shift in administration was broadcast through emails sent to Brandeis faculty and staff over the course of a week. On Tuesday night, Manos announced that Drolette would be leaving the University. In a similar email sent yesterday, he announced that Cwalina would take over the position next year.

As for her legacy at Brandeis, Drolette wrote that she was "very proud of the silos that I have broken down both withn the Finance area, as well as across the University," pointing to her collaboration with Collins on team-building programs among administrators and staff.

Drolette first joined Brandeis in 1976, becoming the associate director of budget and planning before she left the University for a position at Babson College in 1991, according to her biography on the Brandeis website. She also received her masters in business administration from Northeastern University in 1991, and eventually became Babson's director of financial planning and budgeting, and later its director of collaborative strategies as part of the president's cabinet.

After a stint as associate dean for administration and finance at the Boston University School of Public Health, she returned to Brandeis in 2006. In 2010, following the resignation of Executive Vice President and COO Peter French, she became senior vice president of finance and CFO and reported directly to University President Frederick Lawrence.

In Manos' words, she "stepped up" into a leadership position at a time when "major changes in ... administrative leadership" were occurring. During the 2009-2010 academic year, departures of key administrators included French and Vice President of Financial Affairs Maureen Murphy. Lawrence took office in January 2011.

In August of this year, the University hired Manos as SVP and COO, altering the chain of command so that Drolette and Collins report directly to Manos.

Cwalina began work at Brandeis just over a year ago, according to Manos. Cwalina was formerly the director of financial operations at Bentley University, where she worked on the University's five-year strategic plan. "I expect this background to benefit the entire university as we begin an effort to identify more effective and efficient ways of doing business," wrote Manos.

Cwalina did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 

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