By Kelly Brown and Jeffrey Javidfar
Since her instatement at Stony Brook University in 1995, President Shirley Strum Kenny has seen the University through many changes.
Over the past several years, her administration has undertaken a multitude of landscaping and building projects and has overseen SBU’#146;s entrance into Division I athletics and the America East Conference.
The coming year will bring further growth, and no one seems more excited about it than Kenny.
‘The fall is going to start out with a bang,’ she said. ‘I love the first day of school and [welcoming] the community of new kids that are coming in.’
The incoming class will witness the creation of a Center for Excellence, the completion of the Wang Center and the opening of the new 8,500-seat stadium behind the Sports Complex. This year’#146;s flock of students has already partaken of the many facilities Stony Brook currently has to offer during their opening week activities, including the newly opened SAC Phase II.
Under the leadership of Kenny, they will begin an educational journey much like the one the University President embarked upon as a young adult–a journey that Kenny has continued throughout her life.
Born in Texas, Shirley Strum Kenny, Ph.D. received her undergraduate degrees in journalism and English from the University of Texas and a Master’#146;s from the University of Minnesota. She holds a doctorate in English from the University of Chicago and has received myriad honorary degrees and awards.
Kenny has taught at colleges around the country, including the University of Texas, the University of Delaware, and the University of Maryland. She became President of Queens College CUNY in 1985, where she taught one class a semester.
Her five books are on the subject of Restoration and 18th century drama, a realm of study that is a rarity on the Stony Brook campus. But it is just this type of academic diversity that Kenny strives for, in addition to promoting an array of ethnic and cultural pursuits.
It was in her undergraduate years that Kenny met her future husband, who worked with her as an editor at the Daily Texan.
The couple is still married and has had five children. Though she values her private life, Kenny is not afraid to talk about the tragedies that have befallen her family. In 1999, her son Joseph passed away from leukemia.
Under the toughest of circumstances, Kenny did not buckle, but began campaigning so that others might have a chance at overcoming the disease that took her son. Recognizing the ever-present need to learn and better understand cancer, the President supported increasing funding for the research being conducted on this disease at SBU.
‘We named a cancer research professorship in memory of our son Joe,’ Kenny said.
Despite spending a good part of her adult life working in demanding administrative positions, including two University presidencies, Kenny does not show any signs of slowing down.
‘When I retire I plan to go back to the D.C. area, but that won’#146;t be for a while,’ Kenny said. ‘My father retired when he was 85.’