On a Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. Richard Gatteau places his cup of tea on a counter and then assumes a push-up position, asking someone to hold his feet up in the air as he demonstrates for a few members of his office the new exercise he learned at the gym earlier that morning. Richard, or Rick as he prefers to be called, stands up red-faced, laughs and jokes, then grabs his tea and walks back into his office as the director of academic advising at Stony Brook University.
Gatteau’s office is nestled on the second floor of the Melville library, overlooking the Staller steps. There are pictures of his family on every available surface, with his niece and nephew, Olivia and Michael, in most of them. Their father, Gatteau’s twin brother, Ron, said that everybody loves “Uncle Rick.”
“Rick has been great with my kids,” said Ron Gatteau. “He is very generous with gifts to the kids and spending time with them. For the past 20 years, we have remained close siblings. Although we do not see each other as often as we would like, we talk on the phone at least once per week. He talks to my wife Donna more than he talks to me.”
As the director of academic advising, Gatteau said the door to his office is always open.
“While I know I’m the supervisor of the office, we’re really close colleagues and friends,” said Gatteau. “That’s especially true because many of us have worked together for almost 10 years. I always have an open door policy and do my best to build a strong, committed, and fun team. I work best in an environment where everyone is treated like family, and that’s what we’ve tried to create in the office.”
The academic advisers he supervises have nothing but positive things to say about him.
“Rick’s the best boss ever,” said Ellen Hopkins, assistant director of the academic advising center. “I am constantly amazed by how well he relates to all of us. He knows each one of us very well and when to be firm and who to be firm with as well as the way in which he works with those of us that don’t need as much prompting.”
Gatteau has worked in advising at Stony Brook since 2002, but when he first graduated college, he was working in a completely different venue.
He graduated from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania in 1992, with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. Upon graduating, he went to work at Macy’s as a sales manager. Within a few months time, he realized retail just wasn’t for him.
“I don’t mind chaos, but I like organized chaos, and it was so disorganized,” Gatteau said. “I realized this was not fulfilling. Retail is so materialistic and I had to witness it everyday.”
After leaving Macys, he went to work for the mortgage department at Farrell Fritz PC law firm, where he had worked during summers in college. After spending a few months there, he went to graduate school at the University of Vermont and received his masters in education. He then went on to get his doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University.
Gatteau worked at Iona College from 1995 to 1999 as the assistant director and then director of residential life, overseeing residential assistants. However, he said he felt like it was just like an extension of high school, or “grade 13.”
He worked at Columbia University, in Columbia College, from 1999 to 2002 as the senior dean of the sophomore class, overseeing sophomore advising. In late 2001, he said he felt like there was no room for growth at Columbia anymore. He said he started applying places with no luck.
“I saw the Stony Brook job posted and said if that doesn’t work out I’ll move to a different place,” Gatteau said. “But, I went to my interview at Stony Brook and left that day, thinking, ‘I love it here.’”
In his spare time, Gatteau said he likes to go to the gym, go running, spend time with his family and friends and travel. In fact, he loves to travel so much, his brother, Ron, said their family always jokes about it.
“We have a running joke that he is always on the computer looking for new destinations to visit,” said Ron Gatteau.
Sitting behind his desk in his office, Rick Gatteau reflects on his time here at Stony Brook, summing it up in one sentence, “Ever since I started here it has been a thrill, ever since I came to this very desk.”