SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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February 3, 2014

Taking the time to listen

DANVERS — Patricia Gentile’s first act as North Shore Community College’s new president was to close the school when a snowstorm hit the region Jan. 1.

Since then, Gentile has been on a 100-day listening tour, meeting with local lawmakers, school superintendents, college faculty, students and business leaders. She has been learning about the North Shore and the college, which has campuses in Danvers, Beverly and Lynn.

Gentile came to the North Shore from Atlantic Cape Community College in New Jersey, where she worked in a variety of leadership roles. She lives in Swampscott now and spoke recently with The Salem News.

Tell me about your background.

I haven’t had the usual journey to become a college president. When I first started out after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I taught for a year in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Catholic school system — grade 5, in a very distressed neighborhood — and quickly found out that I was very ill-equipped to teach fifth-graders.

How long did you do that?

I only did it for a year. I knew it wasn’t for me ... (She later taught in a Catholic high school for five years, but declining enrollments led her to switch careers.)

That’s when I got, because of my volunteer activities, involved in the nonprofit community. Worked as an executive director, chief operating officer or chief executive officer for a number of charities — local, regional and then national. And I realized after my first charity ... I need some more business tools in my tool chest, and that’s when I decided to go back and get my MBA.

Where did you get your MBA?

At the Wharton School (at the University of Pennsylvania) ... While I was there, I learned I really love finance, too. So, that’s how I got my joint finance and public policy and management degree at Wharton. I came out of there right into the financial recession of the 1990s.

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