Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: March 7, 2022 / The WBJ Hall of Fame

WBJ Hall of Fame: Cesareo is Assumption’s man of action

Photo | Matt Wright Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption University

Assumption University President Francesco Cesareo explains the structure of the university’s five schools as cogs in a wheel: all with their separate identities, but unified within the liberal arts mission of the institution, all working together to create motion and synergy.

[Related: Assumption University president to retire]

And create motion and synergy is exactly what Cesareo has done on more than one front. He is not one to stay in his comfort zone, or let the university he has led since 2007 do so either. The establishment of those five schools came about when he realized the university and the image it was communicating to the world – and to its students – were not in sync.

“Students need to know who we are today,” he said. “We knew that if we restructured, we could help students see the possibilities. If they wanted to major in management, under the singular model, they would see ‘business studies’ and might see that as a general business degree.

“But by restructuring into separate schools, if they see cohesive programs, they would better see what Assumption had to offer,” and how those schools all connected to its liberal arts core, said Cesareo.

Good things come in fives

The result was not only five separate schools, in liberal arts; nursing; business; graduate and professional studies; and health professions, respectively, but Cesareo raised enough funding to have three of the schools named by donors in the past year, too.

The separate schools sharpen students’ professional identity within their majors, as does the nursing students’ state-of-the-art technology. This year, with the backing of donors, Cesareo opened a Trading Room in the Academic Center, with a stock ticker and Bloomberg terminals, operating in real time.

“It’s access to the technology they will use upon graduation, so they understand what it will be like. We show them,” said Cesareo.

These and other strategic improvements for Assumption he’s led in the past year alone – establishing it as one of the founding partners of the Worcester Red Sox, for example – are exemplary on their own in what they offer students, faculty, and the community. He is able to strategize what is best for the institution and carry out these strategies.

When you consider how many projects Cesareo has in play simultaneously before they are completed, his value becomes richer.

Other recent goals were even exceeded, such as the $35-million goal of the university’s capital campaign, which raised $46.3 million, including $11 million of which was raised during the pandemic.

Then Cesareo oversaw the transition of Assumption's name from a college to a university, and all of the marketing changes that went along with it. The time had arrived for such a change, he said, as Assumption better positions itself within the global educational marketplace.

“It helps as we are recruiting international students,” Cesareo said.

Having more international students in Worcester will balance his efforts to get more Worcester students overseas, having led the opening of Assumption’s campus in Rome in 2013, the career project of which he says he is most proud.

Driven motivator

None of Cesareo’s success surprises Jeanine Belcastro Went, executive director of the 11-college Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts, which includes Assumption. Belcastro Went has known Cesareo for eight years, with Cesareo serving as board chair and then as a board member of HECCMA.

Not one to rush into decisions, and not a mere delegator, Cesareo is a thoughtful, driven, respected leader and team member, said Belcastro Went.

“He has always encouraged me to make my ideas heard and move them forward,” she said.

Other board members’ ideas were always factored into HECCMA’s strategic plan, she said, a tenet Cesareo practiced while chair and which continues.

It was Cesareo’s idea that the weekly virtual coffee chats with all the presidents – which began during the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020 – stay on the schedule indefinitely.

“He suggested they continue, and it has really strengthened the bonds between the presidents,” she said.

Perhaps most importantly, Belcastro Went said Cesareo is not afraid of hard work. He is able to see needs, execute, and do whatever is needed to accomplish his goals.

“I always appreciate this about President Cesareo,” she said.

Next on Cesareo’s to-do list? He said he’s preparing for the demographic decrease of high schoolers in the college pipeline; setting up more company partnerships to provide them with opportunities for their workforces; and finding ways to expand educational opportunities beyond 18- to 22-year-olds.

That rustle you hear? That’s President Cesareo, rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.

The WBJ Hall of Fame Class of 2022:

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners

Related Content


Order a PDF