Dr Kleniewski offered the following remarks at her induction as the seventh President of SUNY Oneonta on September 12, 2008.
Chairman Hayden, Chancellor Clark, Chair Brown, Senator Seward, Assemblyman Magee, Mayor Nader, distinguished delegates, faculty, staff, students, and honored guests,
Today, with great pride and humility, I accept the mantle of leadership of the State University College at Oneonta. I appreciate the confidence that the search committee, the College Council, the SUNY officials, and the Trustees expressed during the selection process. You had the delicate task of identifying a leader who would sustain the college on its path toward ever greater success while preparing it to take on new challenges. I am delighted to be entrusted with the institution’s success and am committed to guide it into the future.
Leading a college is a little bit like building a house one story at a time. Each of the six previous principals or presidents orchestrated the construction of a new story, building on the base laid by his predecessors. Their tasks were to build and rebuild the physical plant, establish and update the curriculum, initiate new academic and co-curricular programs, strengthen college finances, hire and renew the faculty and staff, and most importantly to renew and energize the learning experience for our students. Each leader responded to the challenges of his time and worked with his on- and off-campus partners to position the college for the future.
What will the next story of the house -- the story that we will build together -- look like? Fortunately, the institution we upon which we build has a strong base. We do not have to rebuild the foundations of the house because President Donovan and his predecessors left it sound. We must strive to maintain the mission that has served the college so well. But as we were reminded by yesterday’s commemoration of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the world changed and we must change with it.
Today, I offer four enduring values that I believe will guide us well through the next phase of SUNY Oneonta’s building process. We will adapt them as we go forward to meet new needs and new challenges.
First, quality. We must continue to expect and demand of ourselves high quality in all of our activities. SUNY Oneonta has become a college of choice because students know that they can get just as good an education here as anywhere. Our recently-hired faculty and staff tell us that they want to work here because we have a strong, vibrant institution. Maintaining our reputation for high quality will demand increased attention to documenting our accomplishments, in everything from student learning and student engagement to the size of the college’s endowment and the cleanliness of our campus. We are good, and the challenge is to be even better.
Second, community partnerships. By increasing the number and strengthening the nature of campus-community partnerships, we can make the college even more of a resource to the region. Currently, many members of our campus community volunteer or work with businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations in the local area. With your help, I believe that we can broaden and deepen community participation, whether as volunteer activity, internships, or service-learning projects linked to academic courses and programs. A true partnership is not a one-way service but a reciprocal relationship -- we can offer our expertise to the community but we can also learn a great deal from our community partners.
Third, global citizenship. The college aims to develop all of our members as global citizens, heightening our awareness of social, cultural, and political responsibility. Today’s students are graduating into a global society, one that demands different sensibilities and cultural competencies than in the past. All members of the campus community need to understand the global society and be able to operate within it. We need to see how our actions impact others, how interconnected we are with other parts of the world, and how we can contribute to collective progress beyond our individual needs and wants. Only by highlighting these issues will we fulfill our responsibility as an institution of higher learning.
Fourth, sustainability. We have already begun the “greening” of the campus, and in the next few years we can strive to expand our college’s commitment to sustainability in all of our activities. Although we often think of sustainability simply as protecting the natural environment, it also encompasses principles of economic prosperity and social equity, the “triple bottom line” of environment, economy, and equity. We can extend the concept of sustainability throughout the college, touching every employee, student, and visitor. Sustainability should infuse our teaching and learning, our construction, maintenance, and landscaping, the food we eat, and the way we use resources.
These four values, quality, community partnerships, global citizenship, and sustainability, are not new to the campus nor are they radical departures from our existing practices. I want to make them the key architectural elements of the story we will add to the growing house that is SUNY Oneonta.
Our alumni tell us repeatedly how SUNY Oneonta made a difference in their lives. Today I am pleased to highlight a 1936 graduate, Dorothy Anderson Wemple, who, through her experiences at Oneonta, came to appreciate the impact that good teachers can have on young people. This week, we received the first part of her bequest to the College at Oneonta Foundation, a gift of over $2 million, to support student scholarships. This is the largest gift the college has ever received from one of our graduates.
Thank you for coming today to share this celebration of the institution. No one gets to this point in a career alone, and I am grateful for the support of many people. I would like to acknowledge my family, friends, mentors, and colleagues. I particularly want to thank my husband, Bill Davis, for his faith in me.
Let me close with the insightful words of our first principal, James Milne. He said, “Let the past go; look to the future. This institution is greater than [individuals]. Stand by it. Its foundations are laid in honor and good faith. It will shed light, give cheers, and multiply earnestness … in the years yet to come.”
I cannot wish for a better future for our college and for the next story we will build together.