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Setting Our Sights on the Future as We Celebrate the Present With Chancellor Johnson

Chancellor Johnson in academic regalia speaks at her Inauguration ceremony.

In case you missed it, last week was a major cause for celebration for SUNY. Dr. Kristina Johnson was officially inaugurated as SUNY’s 13th Chancellor last week at the Morris W. & Fannie B. Haft Theater at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The inauguration was the first we’ve hosted in quite some time, and there were many great announcements and proceedings that took place!

Wolf Blitzer speaks at a podium at the SUNY Impact Foundation Chancellor inauguration gala.

Wolf Blitzer, a University at Buffalo alum, speaks at the SUNY Impact Foundation inauguration gala in New York City.

On Thursday, September 13th, the SUNY Impact Foundation hosted an inauguration celebration dinner in honor of Chancellor Johnson at The New York Public Library in Manhattan. Master of Ceremonies and University of Buffalo alumnus, Wolf Blitzer, and SUNY student performers from all over the SUNY system, graciously entertained 400 guests in attendance. Attendees included government officials, presidents of leading academic institutions, SUNY faculty, staff, system administration, the New York State business and philanthropic communities, and SUNY friends from around the world.

The dinner raised over $1 million for the SUNY Impact Foundation, will be used to fund two initiatives: a Chancellor’s Fellowship Fund for doctoral students doing research and a Near Degree Completion Grant Fund that will help low-income students finish their degrees.

The next day was the main event, the inauguration ceremony, with a processional led by the SUNY Board of Trustees, presidents, and delegates from our 64 campuses. Roughly 600 people were in attendance, including students, campus leaders, and representatives from 116 U.S. and international higher education institutions. The audience also included people from the government, business, and community sectors, as well as friends and family of Chancellor Johnson.

In her inauguration address, Chancellor Johnson pledged “to do all I can to make SUNY more than the sum of its many remarkable parts, and the individual campuses better for being a part of the whole.” Chancellor Johnson reiterated her commitment to advancing sustainability, partnerships, innovation and entrepreneurship, and individualized learning – themes she outlined in her State of the University System speech last January.

For instance, Chancellor Johnson reflected on SUNY’s recent partnership with the University of California System to form the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3, to accelerate climate action by lending SUNY’s expertise to local businesses and governments.

Following the inauguration, the Washington Post featured an article penned by Chancellor Johnson and President Janet Napolitano regarding how universities should lead efforts to slow climate change if the federal government won’t.

In addition, Chancellor Johnson noted how 700 SUNY volunteers were in Puerto Rico this past summer to ease the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria by way of reconstructing homes. This opportunity for SUNY was made possible through partnerships with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, UNICEF, and a number of not-for-profit organizations.

Chancellor Johnson also announced a new program called PRODI-G – Promoting Retention, and Opportunity for Diversity, Inclusion, and Growth – to assist campuses in hiring outstanding faculty from diverse backgrounds. The program will be a partnership between the SUNY System, individual campuses, and donors, with the goal of hiring 1,000 PRODI-G faculty within the next decade.

To that end, Chancellor Johnson said she plans to double research and innovation on our campuses, which will “increase the number of products, processes, and companies spun out of SUNY. As she stated, “… one of the best ways for SUNY to serve the state and the world is by encouraging entrepreneurship. SUNY will do that by giving our entrepreneurs the tools, connections, and knowledge they need to succeed.” That work is already taking place.

Full stage of participants at Chancellor Johnson's inauguration ceremony.In terms of individualized education and making education more accessible for all of our students, Chancellor Johnson spoke about SUNY’s investment in putting textbooks online, ultimately saving students millions of dollars. She also shared that SUNY System will offer all New Yorkers the right mix of online and on-campus learning, which will provide all students with the opportunity to fit education into their lives. To make this goal a success, Chancellor Johnson noted, “we have to be efficient and avoid duplication, and harness the cooperative spirit among our campuses to produce the very best courses system-wide.”

To kick off the ceremony, President Calvin O. Butts III of SUNY Old Westbury delivered the invocation, SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall provided the welcome address, and President Joseph M. McShane of Fordham University gave the benediction.

Additional speakers at the inauguration included:

  • Anthony Domestico, Purchase College, Associate Professor of Literature, speaking on behalf of the faculty of the university
  • Kyle Richard, Senior, SUNY Cortland, Biden Courage Award Recipient, speaking on behalf of the students of the university
  • Nana Banerjee, President and Chief Executive Officer, McGraw-Hill Education, Alumnus, Binghamton University, speaking on behalf of the alumni from the university
  • Joyce F. Brown, President, Fashion Institute of Technology, speaking on behalf of the presidents of the university
  • Karla FC Holloway, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of English, Duke University, speaking on behalf of academia
  • Paul D. Tonko, Congressman, United States House of Representatives, speaking on behalf of government
  • Robert Freelen, former director of public affairs at Stanford University

SUNY Potsdam senior Ivan Ukich, of The Crane School of Music, sang the National Anthem. The color guard was provided by SUNY Maritime, and the music was performed by The Purchase Symphony Orchestra.

If you missed the the day’s events live, don’t worry. We have an archive of the event and Chancellor Johnson’s speech available on our website. And a full gallery of both the SUNY Impact Foundation dinner and the inauguration ceremony is available below.

    Written by Julie Maio

    Julie is a Communications Assistant at SUNY System Administration.

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