Chatham community share memories, critiques of Dr. Finegold’s tenure

Dr.+David+Finegold

Dr. David Finegold with students on orientation week.

Sonny Butina and Carson Gates

After six years leading the Chatham University community, President Dr. David Finegold recently announced his departure from the University, effective at the conclusion of the 2023 spring term. 

The news came as a surprise to students and staff alike, many of whom, due to his active engagement with campus events, developed connections to Dr. Finegold.  

Always a familiar face around the Shadyside Campus, it’s common to see him hosting an ice cream social for new students, encouraging students to join the pickleball club he started or walking with his wife Sue and their dog Louis.  

“He is genuinely interested, and I have had friends who have complained [to him] about certain things and he looked into them,” said Katelyn Nee ‘23.  

This degree of connection, Michael Douglas ‘23, said is what “makes him more personable to the average student.” 

Beyond spending time on campus and participating in Student Engagement events, Dr. Finegold has expressed a vested interest in student athletics. 

“I think I see him at almost every game I go to,” recalled Logan Blankenship ‘24 of the men’s lacrosse team. 

However, there remains confusion among some members of the student body surrounding the focus of Dr. Finegold’s attention during his time at Chatham. Some think the president at times sacrificed traditional Chatham values of women’s leadership for a more admissions-driven, marketable and athletically-focused mission. 

“Every school puts more of a focus on athletics because it is forward facing, but with the culture on this campus there was a weird focus on athletics,” Nee said. “Some students do benefit [from athletics], but there are problems in dorms and classrooms that have not been updated in so many years. You go to school for education.” 

“They advertise a lot for sports, but all these other departments … are kind of getting pushed aside,” Douglas added.

Many students also felt that the University’s growth has happened too quickly, with not enough time for Chatham’s infrastructure to adjust to it.

“I think he has grown the University a ton,” Douglas continued, “maybe a little too much because we are running out of dorm space and parking lots.” 

Dr. Ethan Block, who has been an instructor at Chatham for the entire duration of Dr. Finegold’s presidency, explained the need to hold strong to our roots while expanding our systems as we adapt to a changing world. 

“I think we are guided by an increased focus on student experiences and outcomes, in addition to listening to and partnering with the community, so I hope that continues,” Dr. Block said. “I also hope we continue to play to our strengths and core values, supporting the growth of the humanities, arts and Women’s Institute.”

Regardless of these adjustments, many students, faculty and staff remain committed to both school tradition and innovation in ways that ensures unity – with some expressing interest in a new president who propels these ideas. 

“Women’s leadership is such a critical part of Chatham’s history,” said the Director of Student Engagement Emily Fidago. “I think it’s really important to have a president who comes in who has this vested interest in all these different values and has ideas on how we can uphold them as a community.” 

“I definitely liked how prevalent [Dr. Finegold] was around here, and it could be good for [the next president] to come up with more activities that they can come to so everyone can mesh together,”  student-athlete Blankenship said.

Others are hoping for a return to tradition.

“I’d like a woman president back,” Douglas said.

Though Dr. Finegold’s meaningful presence will be missed, his interactive, supportive nature will live on and help carry Chatham into its next chapter. 

Read how Dr. Finegold felt about his time at Chatham here.