Marist College will inaugurate its fifth president on Friday. Once a first-generation college student, Kevin Weinman understands the importance of a college education.

“It meant so much for me and my professional growth and development, and it also was quite scary to be the first person in your family to go to college," Weinman said. "And so I’m aware of some of the experiences our own students have when they’re the first person in their family to go to college. So we do everything we can here at Marist to help them feel welcome.”

Now that he’s the president of Marist College, made up of 5,000 undergraduate students and 1,400 adult and graduate students, he feels personally responsible for making sure Marist is diverse, accessible and inclusive of everyone.

“Until Marist’s student body and faculty and staff mirror the diversity of the country as a whole, we still have work to do to meet our mission. So we’ve done everything we’ve can over the last few years to enroll more first-generation students, students of color, to hire more faculty of color.”

Last December, Weinman and his wife Beth personally pledged $250,000 to support programs that are more accessible and equitable for diverse students. He also appointed Dr. Edward P. Antonio, the college’s first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“That will do wonders for us in terms of recruiting and retaining talented students and faculty of color, and we also need to do more in terms of meeting the financial need," Weinman said. "College remains out of reach for too many families.”

As a cornerstone of the Poughkeepsie and Hudson Valley community, Weinman said it’s important for him to make sure Marist is part of the fabric of the region.

“Many years before my arrival, Marist made the decision to bring in adult students, commuting students and so forth, and I’m really proud to be an institution that’s done so much to make education available to residents in this area," he said. "As we become more internationally recognized and diverse in our student body, remaining rooted here in Poughkeepsie, making sure were sending our students to work for local non-for-profits.”

When he steps on the stage Friday for his inauguration, he’ll be looking forward to Marist’s future.

“It’s not an inauguration like a U.S. president inauguration, because I’ve already been in the job almost a year. It’s really a chance to celebrate Marist,” Weinman said. “I hope (students) learn from this rich learning environment that they may never experience again, students from all different backgrounds, races, religions and so forth, all living here in community for four years.”