SUNY Canton
Laura Casamento

Pioneer Spirit

Laura Casamento '83

President of Utica College Dr. Laura (Brown) Casamento ’83 embodies the school’s moniker, The Pioneers, in more ways than one.

A first-generation college student, she took a leap of faith and left her lifelong Utica home to attend SUNY Canton. Fast-forward thirty years, and she’s still trailblazing–this time as one of the few, but growing, number of women leading institutes of higher education.

Looking back on her college days, she proudly recalled excelling academically and having the second-highest GPA in her major, Data Processing. However, she said there were times when it was a struggle to stay afloat financially.

“SUNY Canton taught me a lot about resiliency and the things I needed to do to take care of myself,” she said. “I was very successful, and it was a great springboard for me.”

In fact, an accounting course with longtime Professor Daniel G. Fay sparked a love of logic and numbers that would ultimately change the trajectory of her career path.

“SUNY Canton taught me a lot about resiliency and the things I needed to do to take care of myself.”

After a brief stint in computer programming, she found her footing in the banking industry. She rose through the ranks, earned a Master of Business Administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and was named the President of Herkimer County Trust in 1998. Several years later after the bank was sold, a conversation with Utica College’s then-President Todd Hutton would once again take her career in a completely different direction.

Hutton convinced her to make the jump to academia and appointed her as Vice President for Advancement in 2004. Drawing upon her own college experience, Casamento immediately went to work as a champion of accessibility and affordability.
“I see a lot of myself in the students here,” she said. “Many are the first in their families to attend college, so it’s important to me that they aren’t burdened by debt after graduation.”

After being promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer in 2009, she led a groundbreaking effort to strengthen Utica College’s financial stability by implementing a 42 percent tuition reset and overseeing a $34 million fundraising campaign.

When Hutton announced his retirement in 2015, a national search was conducted, and Casamento was named his successor. As President, she said she’ll continue an emphasis on affordability, along with improving retention and completion. Her most enduring contribution, however, could be the impact she has on students’ lives by encouraging them to pursue what they love.

“I tell them to follow their passion,” she said. “Because with passion, both career and financial success will come.”