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The Statesman

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    SUNY Chancellor’s Departure Leaves Questions for Future

    John R. Ryan, chancellor of the State University of New York, announced his decision to step down from his office in favor of becoming president of the Center for Creative Leadership. His decision, first announced in early March this year, came as a surprise to many professors, administrators and legislators.’

    Ryan, 61, will officially step down at the end of May where he will become the president and chief executive of the Center for Creative Leadership, a nonprofit group that focuses on running training programs dedicated to leadership research and education.

    Ryan’s departure leaves many SUNY officials questioning who would replace him at a time when the panel is getting organized.

    At the time of Ryan’s announcement to resign, President Shirley Strum Kenny stated, ‘I was surprised. He has done an outstanding job. He listens. He moved ahead in areas that are very important – the budget and faculty lines.’

    The resignation came after two years of serving as the Chancellor of SUNY.’ A retired vice admiral of the US Navy, Ryan entered college administration as the superintendent of the US Naval Academy. After leaving this position in 2002, he was the 32nd president of SUNY Maritime College.

    During his time as president, he nearly doubled the student enrollment, resulting in the highest enrollment in Maritime’s history. In addition, he also created the National Institute for Leadership and Ethics, a leadership training program for undergraduate Maritime students that included a summer session for high school juniors and seniors.

    In 2004, Ryan was voted in a unanimous decision to serve as the interim president of the University at Albany, a doctoral institution with an enrollment number of 17,000 and an annual budget of $426 million. As interim president, he made a decision to live in the student dormitory, as opposed to the President’s Office, and contributed the first three months of his share for student scholarships at Maritime and Albany.

    By 2005, Ryan was named chancellor of the SUNY system. As chancellor, Ryan worked with the governor, the legislature, and the campus presidents to secure a strong operating budget that included funding for programs garnered for graduates in engineering, information technology and health care fields, such as nursing, construction projects for campus living and increasing faculty salaries and energy.

    Ryan garnered much support among many at SUNY for his straightforward style and political dexterity in working with both the Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature.’ He earned praise in 2006 from advocates for the successful system lobbying the Legislature for SUNY’s best budget in years.

    According to a press release, SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman, Thomas F. Egan said, ‘John Ryan has served the State University of New York with integrity and distinction.’ A true leader and public servant, he has moved the University forward, gaining the confidence of students, faculty and elected officials of all political persuasions.’

    The decision to resign may have stemmed in part due to the fact that Ryan was not able to obtain a four to five year contract when the change of administration came around as a new governor was elected. George Pataki was leaving office when Ryan was hired, and incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer was prepared to reshape the SUNY board.

    ‘Several sources said that Spitzer is anxious to get his own people on the board,’ as quoted from an article by Inside Higher Education.

    When Spitzer proposed his first budget this year, he said he would create a Commission on Public Higher Education to examine both SUNY and CUNY policies focusing on promoting a ‘rational’ tuition policy. Officials in the governor’s office have also questioned the decision to have a single board oversee 64 campuses, and that having common policies across SUNY may possibly hinder the development of research universities.

    However, according to an article by the Albany Business Review, SUNY trustee, Candace de Russy of Westchester County, said she would oppose any attempt by the next governors attempt on the operation of the system. ‘The question is whether the new governor should have the right to set his own agenda for higher education,’ she said.

    Spitzer’s press secretary told the Associated Press that the governor’s office would ‘work closely’ with the SUNY board of Trustees on the search.

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