LAURINBURG — A new era is about to begin at St. Andrews University with the retirement of President Paul Baldasare on Friday. Baldasare has served as president since 2006.

For Baldasare, his last semester has been much different than any other with classes moving online and many events being canceled — including commencement.

“It’s been disappointing, it’s the first year in campus history we’re not able to have a baccalaureate and commencement,” Baldasare said. “I know a lot of the seniors were looking forward to walking across the stage to end their academic career and we’re going to try and reschedule. But I’ll miss being able to do my last commencement.”

The school decided to go to online schooling when COVID-19 hit and allowed students to make the decision to continue the semester from home or remain in the dorms on campus.

“We have students from all different countries and from across the country,” Baldasare said. “Some came from hotspots, so we didn’t feel comfortable sending them back there — and there were some from other countries who weren’t even allowed to go back home at the time.”

Baldasare said that as far as he was aware no faculty or student has had COVID-19, but there was a quarantine area on campus if a student had caught the virus. Now, as Baldasare is leaving, he is leaving behind a plan for what’s next.

“Almost immediately we began working on a plan for the fall semester,” Baldasare said. “We came up with an initial plan that would open the campus up and have students back in classrooms but we also have three to four contingency plans just in case.”

For the plan, the university has been working with the CDC, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human resources as well as the Scotland County Health Department on advice for which plan to continue with.

Even though COVID-19 threw his last semester as president on a different path than expected, Baldasare spoke on one of the things he’s most proud of during his career — the faculty and staff.

“We have been able to recruit some amazing faculty and staff during my time,” Baldasare said. “The staff is deeply connected to the university and care so much about the students. We’ve always had a great staff, but to be able to continue recruiting who have become part of the Laurinburg-Scotland County area has meant a lot.”

While he might be retiring, Baldasare doesn’t plan to sit idly. Instead, he wants to use his experience to help in the community as well as volunteering with the university.

“A lot of times when a president leaves they leave but I’m an alumnus so I’m going to volunteer and help out as any alumnus would want to help their alma mater,” Baldasare said. “But the other thing I want to do is look into ways to use the knowledge and experience I have to help in some way … I want to use my experience to help others like a nonprofit.”

Baldasare added that he is extremely grateful for the community in Laurinburg and Scotland County for all the support that has been given throughout the years.

“Laurinburg and Scotland County have been so important to the foundation of St. Andrews since we opened,” Baldasare said. “When I speak to my colleagues at other universities they’re always blown away by the amount of support we receive from the community without fail … and the community had made me feel like I’m a member of the Laurinburg community.”

Reach Katelin Gandee at [email protected].

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W. Curt Vincent | The Laurinburg Exchange St. Andrews University President Paul Baldasare spoke to the Laurinburg Rotary Club about the challenges facing the college from the recent hurricanes.
https://www.laurinburgexchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/web1_Baldasare-2.jpgW. Curt Vincent | The Laurinburg Exchange St. Andrews University President Paul Baldasare spoke to the Laurinburg Rotary Club about the challenges facing the college from the recent hurricanes.
Baldasare leaving St. Andrews after 15 years as president

Katelin Gandee

Staff writer