December 17, 2020
Dear Pratt Community,
I write with the important news that Helen Matusow-Ayres, Pratt’s Vice President for Student Affairs, intends to retire on June 30, 2021. An integral part of Pratt’s senior administration and the life of our students for nearly 17 years, Dr. Matusow-Ayres’ leaving will be deeply felt throughout our community.
Helen has been a key partner for me and for our entire leadership team. Her social and intellectual acumen is extraordinary and we rely time and again on her insightful guidance. As these last months in particular have called on everyone to be their best selves, Helen’s specific expertise in student resilience and well-being has been central to our decision-making.
A student affairs professional for 42 years, Helen has served as the Vice President for Student Affairs at Pratt Institute since 2004. During her time at Pratt, Helen spearheaded the renovations of the Student Union on the Brooklyn campus and the Student Services Center on the Manhattan campus, as well as the addition of Emerson Place Residence—Pratt’s newest, state-of-the-art residence hall, which opened in 2019.
In 2015, Helen led the development of Pratt’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. Her efforts produced one of the five core pillars of Pratt's current strategic plan, and led to the creation of the Center for Equity and Inclusion. Helen also led the search for Pratt’s first Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Nsombi B. Ricketts.
With student flourishing and wellness at the core of her mission, Helen doubled the size of Pratt’s health and counseling services during her tenure and established the Learning/Access Center, Community Service Board, the Flourishing Studio Culture project, the First Year Experience Committee, and the Assessment and Care Team. Under her watch, the athletics and recreation program expanded to include a fully equipped Fitness Center with fitness classes and Pratt’s efforts to become full members of Division III of the NCAA.
Prior to her work at Pratt, Helen served as the Dean of Students and the Interim Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life at Montclair State University. She earned a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University, a Masters of Science in Student Personnel Administration from Indiana University, and a Bachelors of Science in Student Personnel Administration from Alfred University. Helen has taught at NYU and Montclair State University.
Helen is a member of the Governing Board of the 20X30 Learning Network and the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood. She served as the Regional Vice President for National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Region II in 2007-08 and chaired the NASPA 2014 Alice Manicur Institute. Helen has served on the NASPA Board of Directors, the NASPA Center for Women’s Advisory Board. In 2014, Helen was selected as a NASPA Pillar of the Profession. Helen has written and presented on social justice training, strategic planning, first year experience, student conduct, mental health issues, and crisis management.
A full search to replace Dr. Matusow-Ayres will be announced soon. We look forward to working closely with Helen throughout the spring semester, to see our current student body through completion of this academic year and to plan a smooth transition for the future.
Please join me at this time to express our deepest gratitude to Helen for continually and generously sharing her wealth of expertise. We thank her for her immense dedication and service to Pratt, and send our best wishes for her retirement. We will find many ways as a community to celebrate her legacy in the coming months.