Search starts for new SUNY chancellor; 4 more women lead presidential hires

Top higher education union calls for New York system to hire a leader from a 'historically under-represented community.'
By: | March 9, 2022
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The State University of New York officially has launched what it calls a “global search” for its next chancellor to replace former disgraced leader Jim Malatras.

“We have assembled a search committee that is inclusive and representative of our campus community and the wide range of interests needed to bring forward the best candidates to lead the largest university system in the nation,” SUNY Chairman Dr. Merryl Tisch and Vice Chairman Cesar Perales said in a joint statement.

The two leaders will be heading the search along with law firm Isaacson, Miller, which will help vet candidates. The next leader will be tasked with ensuring the health, safety and future of the system’s 64 colleges and universities and 1.3 million students, and must overcome the scars left by their former leader.

The United University Professions union made it clear whom they wanted to be in the chancellor’s chair.

“UUP believes firmly that our next chancellor should come from a historically under-represented community,” said UUP President Dr. Frederick E. Kowal, who will be a member of the Business, State and Labor Leaders Subcommittee. “I look forward to working to find the best possible leader to serve not only as a system leader, but an advocate and ally to our faculty, staff, students and patients across the state.”

Deborah Stanley has been serving as chancellor since Malatras resigned on Jan. 14 under pressure from various stakeholders over his reported involvement in a string of disparaging text messages with then Gov. Andrew Cuomo about one of Cuomo’s sexual assault accusers. SUNY’s Board of Trustees in December had shown support for Malatras, saying “he made a mistake, taken full responsibility for it, and apologized appropriately.” Kowal also endorsed Malatras but changed his stance after more details emerged, saying “the time is now for the SUNY Board of Trustees to develop a systemwide, enforceable workplace civility policy to better ensure that our members can work in environments free from toxic and bullying behavior.”

A new president at St. Bonaventure

On Christmas Eve of 2020, St. Bonaventure University President Dr. Dennis DePerro contracted COVID-19. Three months later, he succumbed to the deadly virus. Close friend Joseph Miller stepped in on an interim basis for him as the search for a successor proceeded. A year and one week after his passing, St. Bonaventure has found its next leader, a man who also had to take over for a president who died last March.

Dr. Jeff Gingerich, the provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs at the University of Scranton, officially was named to the post on Wednesday. He will start on June 20. Gingerich was the interim president at Scranton after Rev. Scott Pilarz passed away exactly one year ago from complications of ALS.

“Having to cope with a pandemic and a president’s tragic death, much like we did during this strange and dynamic time, was important and spoke to his leadership ability, but I think what made Jeff shine is the way he fits into the charism of this institution,” trustee Michael Hill said.


More from UB: President Series: Remaining relevant requires deep focus on students, employees


Gingerich, who spent 18 years at Cabrini University in Philadelphia before moving to Scranton, was impressed by St. Bonaventure’s enrollment growth and its infrastructure improvements. “The initiatives that the university has been driving to put St. Bonaventure in a place to allow it to thrive in the future are very important to me,” he said. “There is a culture of innovation here that’s so critical in higher education today.”

More women take the lead

Two hours east on I-86 from St. Bonaventure, Ithaca College officially installed La Jerne Terry Cornish as its 10th president. She takes over for Shirley Collado, who left last year to become CEO and President at College Track. Cornish is one of more than a dozen women who have been named to president positions in the past month. Cornish, the former provost, had been leading the university since Collado’s departure.

Julie Sullivan was named as president of Santa Clara University, becoming the first woman and the first non-priest to earn the position in the 171 years of the California institution. The current president of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, she will start on July 1. “This is a historic moment for Santa Clara University,” said Larry Sonsini, chair of the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees. “In Dr. Sullivan, we have found a proven leader and faithful servant ideally suited to lead Santa Clara University in our pursuit of a more humane, a more just, and a more sustainable world.”

Sue Ott Rowlands also will start her first day on July 1 as new president at Randolph College in Virginia. She was the former provost, executive vice president for academic affairs and a professor in the School of Arts at Northern Kentucky University, and also had faculty leadership stints at Virginia Tech, the University of Toledo and The Ohio State University.

Robyn Hannigan, the provost at Clarkson University, will start in July as one of the few first-generation, Native American presidents in the nation at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. She has quite the resume, including “100 peer-reviewed publications, four patents for advanced medical application technologies, and [the creation of] two start-up companies founded in partnership with students.”

After being confirmed as chancellor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha last May, Joanne Li is officially having her investiture on Friday. A first-generation student, she rose to become the dean at the world-renowned Florida International University College of Business.

A few more openings

Sonya Stephens announced last week that she was exiting her president position at Mount Holyoke College to take the same post at American University in Paris as three small private liberal arts colleges in Massachusetts are losing women presidents – Biddy Martin is leaving Amherst later this spring, and Kathleen McCartney at Smith College is departing in 2023. Another woman leaving the president position is Bethany Bullock, who said this week she is resigning at Northeast State Community College in Tennessee.

Manhattan College will begin its search for a new leader after Brennan O’Donnell said he would take a leave in July and return as professor. The University of South Florida said it is down to two finalists for its president position – interim leader Rhea Law and Lt. Gen Jeffrey Talley, who works with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Two other presidents were named: Dr. Robin Farias-Eisner at Western University of Health Sciences and Adam Morris at Azusa Pacific University.