After a decade as president of Stony Brook University, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. is leaving the Long Island institution better and stronger than he found it. Stanley’s departure to become president of Michigan State University brings a fresh opportunity to find a successor who can propel the university to a greater role on the national stage.
Stony Brook is a popular choice for students from the five boroughs. Nearly 5,000 of the university’s 17,500 undergraduates are from NYC. City residents are also among its 16,000 full- and part-time employees.
Importantly, Stony Brook is a member of the Association of American Universities, an organization of 62 top institutions that often get more grant money and federal funding. The university’s four-year graduation rate is 62.7 percent, up from 47.5 percent in 2014. Its endowment tripled under Stanley’s watch, now more than $300 million.
Stanley added programs, increased diversity and helped students gain skills to rise from low-income households to more prosperous futures. Yet, the university also had difficulties, from fiscal challenges to tensions between Stanley and the faculty.
SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson has big goals for the next president, setting a target for Stony Brook’s endowment to reach $1 billion in 10 years. Inside the classrooms, the university must offer the classes students need while keeping class sizes down. The new president also must improve communication with faculty, students and staff; address the school’s role in the region; and expand relationships with local, state and federal elected officials.
Stony Brook isn’t the only SUNY institution looking for new leadership. SUNY Old Westbury will lose its longtime president, Calvin O. Butts III, in 2020. That school, which also hosts many students from NYC, will require a passionate, dedicated new leader, too.
For Stony Brook, in particular, this is a pivotal moment. With a new leader who’s willing to communicate while managing a bureaucracy and controlling costs, Stony Brook will be poised to reach new heights.