Students will miss Dr. G’s warmth, sharp memory


Outgoing President Antoine Garibaldi is known on campus for remembering students’ names and forming connections even after brief encounters.

Senior pre-law student Matt Hutnick, a Psychology major, experienced this firsthand.

Hutnick, who also serves as president of the Student Government Association, first met Garibaldi when he was an 11-year-old visiting his sister, who was attending Detroit Mercy at the time. About five years later, when Hutnick was back on campus for Accepted Students Day, Garibaldi stunned him by approaching him and remembering his name.

This left a significant impact on Hutnick.

“Garibaldi used his title as president to uplift and support the UDM community,” he said in an interview. “He uses his supportive characteristics to his full advantage; he is always eager to get to know people on a personal level. He has a way of matching the environment’s energy around him very well, as he is an empathetic individual.”

His impending retirement this June has affected faculty, students and staff who have strong memories of the man known as Dr. G who they say left a major footprint on the university and surrounding community.

“Garibaldi did an outstanding job showing up to events and winning over admiration from students,” said Raymond Barber III, a senior pre-law student studying political science. “He communicated with every person in a way to make them feel special and I could always feel his belief in me and my dreams. I am genuinely incredibly sad that he is leaving.”

Hutnick said he appreciated that Garibaldi never failed to take time out of his day for students. Early on in his tenure he instituted a weekly practice of meeting with students for an hour to discuss their plans or ideas.

“I hope that the next president meets the standard that Garibaldi has set,” Hutnick said. “It would be phenomenal if the upcoming president could live up to these expectations, although this may be a challenge.”

Despite his admiration, Barber says he and others are concerned with the recent decision in 2020 to expand the university with the purchase of a 40,000-square-foot satellite campus in Novi. 

“The president’s office could consider ways to work on uplifting student voices in decision-making processes that deal with spending,” he said. “This includes spending on things such as buying buildings, or smaller things such as modern furniture, books, etc.”

Beyond the addition of the Novi campus, Garlbaldi oversaw a $55 million renovation project on the McNichols campus that includes major facility upgrades and the expansion of the school’s 66-year-old student union.

Under Garbardi’s leadership, the university focused on increasing enrollment, retention and graduation rates by improving financial and academic support. Additionally, the university focused on supporting students in finding employment and attend graduate school at high rates.

In 2011, the year Garibaldi was hired, Detroit Mercy welcomed a first-year class of 465 students. This fall, it welcomed more than 570 first-year students, the largest class in 12 years.

But it’s the personal connections Garibaldi made that students say they’ll remember most.

Korzell Coe, a graduate student in the Architecture program, said he was impressed at how visible Garibaldi was on campus and was happy to have met him in the past.

“So many of my friends who attend other schools did not even know who the president of their school was,” he said. “President Garbardi actually talked to students, ate lunch with us and really showed us that he cares about who we are.”