Dr. Gerald Lynch
Dr. Gerald W. Lynch of Bridgehampton, who served as president of John Jay College from 1976 to 2004 and was centrally responsible for saving the college from being shut down during the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, died on April 17 following a long illness. He was 76. A summer resident of Bridgehampton since 1970, he settled there full time in February 2011.
In Bridgehampton, Mr. Lynch was a member of the Bridgehampton Club and married Gay Sherry at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in 1970.
At the time of his retirement in 2004, Dr. Lynch was the senior college president in the City University, and the only president serving at the time who had been at CUNY since the days of open admissions.
Learning of Dr. Lynch’s death, his successor, Jeremy Travis, said: “We mourn the loss of our friend, colleague and former president, Dr. Gerald W. Lynch. As John Jay’s third president, he led the campaign to save the college during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. He then built John Jay into a vibrant educational institution with global reach. Tens of thousands of John Jay alumni, who every day make contributions to safety and justice around the world, stand in his debt. Today’s students, faculty and staff enjoy a spectacular new campus that will serve as his lasting legacy. We are saddened by his passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, who were members of the John Jay family. They should know that his vision continues to guide us every day.”
Dr. Lynch joined the John Jay community in 1967 as director of student activities and assistant professor of psychology. He was named dean of students in 1968 and served in that role through 1971, when he was appointed vice president of the college and acting dean of faculty.
He became acting president of John Jay in 1975 following the resignation of Dr. Donald H. Riddle, and shortly thereafter was confronted with an attempt by the City University Board of Trustees to close the college. Dr. Lynch rallied internal and external support on a broad scale that ultimately convinced university officials to back down from the threatened closure, and with the shutdown averted, Dr. Lynch was formally named as John Jay’s third president. He was sworn in on March 24, 1977, in a festive ceremony that also marked the college’s 13th anniversary.
Despite the downsizing of the college’s academic offerings as part of the price of saving the institution, Dr. Lynch took enormous pride in his steadfast refusal to fire or retrench any full-time employee for budgetary reasons. His tenure as president would be marked by a steady increase in the size of the student body, the faculty and the campus itself, including the initial stages of the expansion that culminated in 2011 in the opening of the 14-story, block-long new facility on 11th Avenue and 59th Street.
Under Dr. Lynch’s leadership, the first university distinguished professors were added to the John Jay faculty; graduate-level offerings were expanded, and Ph.D. programs in criminal justice and forensic psychology were created at the CUNY Graduate Center. He established John Jay’s reputation on an international scale with the creation of the Bramshill Scholar exchange program with the British national police college, the McCabe Fellows program in conjunction with An Garda Siochana, the national police service in his beloved Ireland, and the biennial international conference on crime, justice and public order, among other initiatives.
He helped shape a broad conception of the college’s mission of “educating for justice,” and in so doing left a legacy that continues to define John Jay. As one leading faculty member described Dr. Lynch, “He is really a liberal arts president in a criminal justice setting.”
As president, Dr. Lynch continued the commitment to public service and difficult causes that dated to the time in graduate school when he traveled to Selma, Alabama, to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent civil rights leaders.
In the late 1970s, he took up the cause of oppressed Soviet Jews with the same vigor and passion, traveling to the Soviet Union to meet with dissidents and bear witness to their plight. He served as chairman of the New York City Police Foundation; chairman of the New York Fire Safety Foundation; vice chairman of the United States Marshals Foundation; chairman of the Catholic Interracial Council, and chairman of the WNET/Channel 13 Board of Advisors.
In city and state government service, he chaired a New York State casino gambling study panel; chaired search committees for New York City police and fire commissioners under Mayor David Dinkins; served on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and was a member of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland, which played a key role in bringing an end to the sectarian strife there.
At his retirement in 2004, Dr. Lynch was praised by City University Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who said in a statement: “From the pioneering work in establishing support for the College during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s to his success in bringing about consistently higher academic program rankings, President Lynch has provided invaluable service to the people of our city and our state.”
Dr. Lynch, who earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from New York University, is survived by his wife of 42 years, Gay Sherry Lynch; a son, Timothy, who is an assistant district attorney with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office; a daughter, Elizabeth Lynch, the director of the Center for Microfinance Leadership at Women’s World Banking; a son-in-law, Bryon Korutz, and a granddaughter, Alice Georgina Lynch Korutz.
A scholarship has been created in honor and memory of Dr. Lynch. Contributions may be made to the Dr. Gerald W. Lynch Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to exemplary master’s and doctoral students who have a demonstrated interest in the areas of human dignity, human rights and the police. Checks may be mailed to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Dr. Gerald W. Lynch Scholarship Fund, 524, West 59th Street, NYC, NY 10019.