Stony Brook University hosted a farewell reception for President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. on Tuesday, June 25.
Stanley, who announced his departure from the university on Tuesday, May 28, will be assuming the position of President at Michigan State University in August.
Stanley said at the reception that in the decade he’s spent at Stony Brook, he’s managed to accomplish a number of the things he set out to do for the school and was ready to move on. He also said the university had much to gain from a new face.
“I thought, maybe it was time for a different set of eyes for the University as well,” Stanley said. “After 10 years, my approach to solving problems has had some successes, and there’s some other things that haven’t worked as much. Sometimes, an institution benefits from having a new leader come in.”
During Stanley’s 10 year tenure, he has worked to help economically disadvantaged students by guiding Stony Brook to becoming one of the top schools for social mobility and raise graduation rates to an all-time high of 62%. Stanley also sought to improve the school’s overall national ranking, where it now stands at #80, and construct the cancer research centered Medical and Research Transition building.
Stanley’s tenure has also seen a debt crisis, where Stony Brook faced a deficit of $35 million. As a result, under Stanley, a hiring freeze was put into place, and funding allocated towards the humanities was cut. These consequences prompted university professors to hire an independent auditor to look into the school’s finances. The conclusions of the report, the Bunsis Report, found that Stony Brook was in good financial standing, despite claims made by the administration. The university said the Bunsis Report incorrectly analyzed Stony Brook’s finances, which resulted in a misrepresentation of the school’s finances.
The reception drew a crowd of around 130 people. They congregated in the Wang Center main lobby, where a buffet was set up and flutes of champagne were passed around. Notable attendees and speakers included New York State Senators Kenneth LaValle and John Flanagan, and New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright.
LaValle commended Stanley on his tenure at Stony Brook. He cited the research park and the expansion of the health sciences as some of Stanley’s accomplishments, as well as the tasks that aren’t public.
“There are a lot of things about being President that people don’t know,” LaValle said. “There are a lot of things that we’ve kept in here, and you have done an excellent, excellent job.”
Flanagan echoed LaValle’s sentiments. He highlighted Stanley’s commitment to Stony Brook’s students.
“I’m impressed with you greatly because we have talked about a lot of different things, but he talked about the students before anything else,” he said. “You can have all the great programs, you can have all the great professions, but at the end of the day, it’s about the students. I don’t believe that President Stanley ever lost sight of that.”
Kevin Law, President and CEO of the Long Island Association, was also in attendance. He spoke about the difficulties of making tough decisions. Stony Brook is a large community, so being its president is not easy, he said.
“You can’t possibly make everybody happy all of the time, but what Sam did do for ten years, he put Stony Brook first, in every decision he made. He did what he always thought was best for Stony Brook,” Law said. “You may not have agreed with what the did, but he did it because he thought it was best for the University, best for the students, best for the staff, and best for bringing up and raising the stature of Stony Brook.”
Many guests from the university came to say goodbye to Stanley, like chemistry professor Amy Marschilok, who was thankful for what he has done for the university, like supporting research on energy storage. She expects the next president to have similar characteristics, she said.
“I hope we see a president that is inclusive, that really embraces diversity, that recognizes opportunities that the research environment could provide, and that really helps support interactions between the national lab and the university,” Marschilok said.
According to her, Stanley is the embodiment of those qualifications. Madeline Del Toro Cherney, an adjunct professor in anthropology, agreed but said that she hopes the school’s next president will focus on humanities.
“I am in the anthropology department, and I am an adjunct, so it would be nice to get a more holistic picture and be more inclusive on what’s going on with the broader faculty,” she said. “Maybe a little bit more emphasis on the humanities to balance out the sciences and medicine as well.”
Stanley gave the closing remarks at the reception. He thanked the faculty, students, and his staff for the last 10 years. Stanley said he never envisioned himself becoming a University President, but found the job to be extremely rewarding.
“I’m always going to maintain extraordinary affection for Stony Brook University,” Stanley said. “I will never forget that I was a Seawolf.”