Joe Petrock, new board of trustees chairman, gives an exclusive interview to the Daytona Times on his vision for the university.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Dr. Joe Petrock, a community pillar and philanthropist, officially took the helm on July 1 as chairman of Bethune-Cookman University’s board of trustees. The longtime local leader has served on the board since 2004 and is committed to a brand of leadership that is based on strong ethics, integrity, and always doing what’s right.
In partnership with President Edison O. Jackson, he is poised to advance the university as not just an HBCU but a top-ranked small university in America.
Petrock’s appointment is preceded by his own generosity and a host of accolades.
Last year, he and his wife bequeathed a $1 million commitment to a campus namesake program the Joe and Barbara Petrock College of Health Sciences.
The lifetime gift complements 30 years of service to Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) where he has worked alongside four past presidents and served as five-time chair of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) campaign to raise $2 million. He also garnered an additional $5 million as chair and co-founder of the annual Mary McLeod Bethune Legacy Awards Gala.
Establishing robust fiscal health for B-CU is balanced by Petrock’s litany of community service posts, including three-time chairman of Daytona State College’s board of trustees and chairman of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce. He’s currently president of the Civic League of the Halifax Area, which includes 110 community leaders dedicated to the overall health and wellness of Volusia County residents.
Still, he has a streamlined vision to do more.
“As B-CU chair, I look forward to the tasks that are set before us – to raise the academic profile of the institution, to transform the lives of our students, and to impart in them a spirit of wisdom and knowledge that will allow them to enter to learn and depart to serve,” Petrock told the Daytona Times this week. “I want to help the community grow and prosper. In my role as chairman, I get to lead the agenda for the board meeting, but view myself as just one member of a prestigious team.”
Petrock will be leading a board that has been faced with a number of controversies this year.
Team leadership approach
An inclusive and team-centered approach sets the tone for Petrock’s leadership.
He is quick to point out there is no “I” in the word team and stands on a popular Winston Churchill quote as a guide: “You make a living from what you do, you make a life from what you give.”
And what Petrock does is galvanize people to support those causes he believes in most. B-CU is fortunate to be on that list.
“We are so very proud to have Joe Petrock as our chair. He brings a level of caliber and strength that is instrumental to B-CU and has the power to transform lives. We ask that the community help us to congratulate Chairman Petrock,” Dr. Edison Jackson, B-CU’s president, said in a statement.
A better B-CU
Jackson and Petrock are looking forward to building new partnerships and working to improve the quality of life in Daytona Beach’s Midtown area. The leadership team is encouraging professors to more aggressively publish research and new degree programs will be added – seven at the master’s level and one doctoral.
“Jackson has been recruiting some of the finest and we have some of the brightest coming into the area to teach. We challenge them to be the best they can be,” said Petrock. “ The goal is not just that our students enter to learn, and depart to serve, but graduate with the knowledge skills and values to be successful citizens in our democratic society. Our professors are their bloodline,” he added.
B-CU students majoring in tourism and hospitality management will benefit when the new Westin and Hard Rock hotels join the Daytona landscape. Petrock plans to partner with both entities to place students in intern/extern programs and also enhance the five-star hotelier’s infrastructure by preparing graduates to meet future employment needs in excellent paying jobs.
Legacy and leadership
Petrock also is proud to have the unwavering support of Daytona and Volusia County’s business community. For the past two years, the area’s coveted “Who’s Who” in small and corporate business has helped him sell out the Legacy Awards Gala.
“We’re going to continue to grow that list,” said Petrock. “I’m pumped and we’re real excited to have 36 board members from across the country and so much progress has already been made at B-CU. Record enrollment, graduation rates are increasing, everything is moving in the right direction.”
The newly elected chairman offers special thanks to the United Methodist Church and Bishop Kenneth Carter Jr. for their support and is ready to lead in an honest and ethical manner by “always doing the right thing.”
His vision is clear, his support system is strong, and Petrock is already thinking about how his team’s success will be measured.
“Hopefully, we give back,” Petrock added. “We want to help the university grow and prosper and leave it better than when we found it. Each year we’ll be a little better. That’s our goal.”
Homegrown and local
Being appointed B-CU’s board chairman and serving as executive director of Halifax Health’s Foundation/Government Relations is not a quantum leap for Petrock, who grew up in Daytona Beach and graduated from Mainland High School.
He then earned an Associate of Science degree in Business/Computer Science in 1973 and in 2008 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Daytona State College, where he has served as chairman of the board of trustees there for the past three years. Petrock was bestowed an honorary doctorate by B-CU in 2014.
He has traditionally looked “local” for leadership influences who have taught him how to get involved in community activities, raise money, and most important, how to give back.
Groomed to lead
Among his revered leaders are some of the community’s strongest stalwarts, including two former B-CU presidents: Dr. Richard V. Moore, Sr. (1947-1975) and Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, (1975-2003).
“Dr. Richard V. Moore, Sr. taught me about Bethune,” stated Petrock. “Moore was passionate and talented. I learned from the way he treated people. He had high ethical standards, and I also learned fund-raising and how to sell a product from him.”
Moore served as the third president of B-CU and during his tenure, the college was accredited by the Southeastern Association of College and Schools, joined the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and erected the Carl S. Swisher Library in addition to other construction that led to expansion.
Petrock met Bronson through Daytona Beach’s Rotary Club and also credits him for fundraising tutelage. Under Bronson’s leadership, the institution’s annual budget grew from $6.2 million in 1975 to $51.4 million in 2003.
Doubled UNCF funding
As five-time chairman of the UNCF campaign, Petrock sought to make a difference and maintained Bronson’s legacy by increasing the university’s “financial match” each HBCU member school is required to raise in order to receive assistance. Petrock negotiated with the non-profit organization and ultimately “doubled” B-CU’s funding.
“I think when you had the role models that I had early in my career and you chair the things they encouraged me to chair like arts, education, economics and manufacturing, you just meet a magnitude of people,” added Petrock. “When you share what you’re trying to do, those same persons will support your dream.”