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At first meeting, President Hefner reports on new initiatives and promotions are announced
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

President Dennis L. Hefner
Dennis L. Hefner at General Campus Meeting opening the Fall 2011 semester.  

Faculty awardees, from left to right: Ted Schwalbe, Distinguished Service Professor; and Chancellor's Awardees for Excellence Steve Kershner, Kathleen Gradel, and Lt. Clifton Wheeler.

Standing ovation for President Dennis L. Hefner

New initiatives include plans for Jewett Hall

School of Music Director Karl Boelter, right, congratulates President Hefner at the reception folowing the meeting.   

General Campus Meeting
Remarks by President Dennis L. Hefner
Friday, August 19, 2011

Welcome back for the start of an academic year, that 20 years from now, will likely be viewed as the beginning of a new positive era for SUNY Fredonia. Governor Cuomo was true to his word in signing a SUNY 2020 bill that included a 5-year tuition plan, and Chancellor Zimpher worked diligently to get this bill passed through the state legislature and onto the Governor’s desk. After 15 years and 30 general campus meetings, I can finally say, SUNY has a rational approach to tuition.

I hope all of you had a chance to visit with family during the summer break. Jan and I visited our grandchildren in Austin, Texas. Granddaughter Jillian is now 12 years old, grandson Callahan turns 8 tomorrow, and, unbelievably, 5-year-old Caitlin enters kindergarten this fall. Of course, Jan and I think they are adorable, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

Summer Activities

This summer saw another successful May Term, two summer sessions, numerous youth camps, and six summer Orientation sessions in which pre-loaded student schedules were used for the very first time and were a real hit with both students and advisors. Residence halls saw new windows, as did Fenton; new roofs grace Reed Library and Fenton Hall; renovation of the first and second floors of the Williams Center is well underway, and two windmills erected at the College Lodge resulted in SUNY Fredonia being named the “spotlight” campus in the August 9 Bulletin of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. On October 22, we will be dedicating the newly-renovated Cathy and Jesse Marion Art Gallery, named in honor of an alumna and her husband who have generously created an endowment to support the gallery.

Construction news

The most exciting facilities news involves the beginning of construction on the new $60 million Science Center. For the next two years, this project admittedly will disrupt foot and traffic patterns and make parking a little tighter. To provide some relief, Park and Ride hours have been extended to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and to 5:30 p.m. on Friday. However, this new facility will be well worth any inconvenience. I want to congratulate and thank Project Shepherd Holly Lawson, the science department chairs, and all the science faculty and staff for the effort they put into ensuring this new major academic building will truly meet our needs. The official ground-breaking ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, September 9, but if you want the best view of the current hole, where the basement will be, visit Professor Mike Milligan’s office on the second floor of Houghton Hall (Mike has become the most popular person on campus!).

Three projects currently in design will see major activity during the summer of 2012: (1) construction design for a new $40 million classroom addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center, (2) construction for a new Townhouse/Apartment style residence complex that will accommodate up to 208 students and will be located near the softball field, and (3) construction of a new fitness center to be located in the olds Dods Hall swimming pool area.

This past year also saw completion of a new campus-wide Facilities Master Plan, which will guide SUNY Fredonia construction and renovation projects over the next 12 years. The plan is hundreds of pages long, but three proposed construction projects deserve special mention: (1) a new academic classroom building to be located between Fenton and Thompson Halls, (2) a new replacement building for Jewett Hall to accommodate Student Services and better support our Communication and Music programs, and (3) a replacement project within Dods Hall to provide for a 1,500 seat, wooden-floor basketball and volleyball venue.

Unfortunately, we have experienced further delays in completing the Maytum Hall renovation. I want to thank the nearly 100 displaced employees for their patience and understanding, and also express appreciation for those who have accommodated them in nooks, crannies, closets, and modular units. I’ve been assured that we will be back in Maytum no later than next summer, and regret the many inconveniences associated with the delays.


Our enrollment continues to be strong for both freshmen and transfers, as we again made our enrollment target. However, the most gratifying enrollment statistic is the diversity of our incoming students. Last year we surpassed our goal of “210 by 2010,” reaching 216 new incoming students of color. This year, despite a state-imposed reduction in the size of our Educational Development Program and a reduction in the SUNY application fee waiver program, we are currently on target to set a new record, and will likely exceed 225 by the census date.


Last year’s Convocation theme, “Faces and Phases of Creativity,” featured a wonderful keynote address by Howard Gardner. This year’s theme, “Risk Taking: Rewards and Repercussions,” brings Karthik Bala, the creator of the “Guitar Hero” video game series, to campus to give the Maytum Convocation Lecture on September 15.

Yo-Yo Ma

Also coming to campus is renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who will be here on December 7 to 8 as a Williams Distinguished Artist to teach several master classes and perform as a soloist with our University Symphony. When tickets for his concert were released this spring, we were totally unprepared to see every single seat sold within a few hours. We have never experienced such a response, and actually had developed a marketing plan for the Buffalo and Rochester areas that was to be used this September to guarantee a sellout. Obviously, that plan was scrapped.

Budget and Staffing

Here’s a quick Budget Summary for this year:

Inflationary Adjustments
$563,200; 10% Reduction in “Tax on Tuition” 366,100;  $300 Tuition Increase 1,595,800;
Total Revenue $2,525,100

TAP Adjustment (25%) $ 398,950; Cuts from Executive Budget 1,728,300; Transfers to Other SUNY Campuses 971,500; Total Expenses $3,098,750

Net Reduction $573,650

Earlier this week, CSEA members ratified a new statewide collective-bargaining contract, and I suspect the negotiations for the other statewide union contracts will be completed in the very near future.

This year I don’t need the help of the SUNY Fredonia cheerleaders to distract you with an “Empowerment” cheer prior to addressing the state budget. Even though this year’s budget represents a major challenge, thanks to the rational tuition policy, we can now use a multi-year planning approach to address critical needs.

For this year, we suffered a net cut of nearly $600,000, which on top of a $6.5 million structural deficit, is very painful. However, the next four years should see positive budget numbers that will allow us to begin the process of “rebalancing” the budget. 

We have permanently eliminated 41 positions and are holding approximately 35 other positions vacant this year. Additionally, all of last year’s on-going budgetary reductions remain in place, including the minimum 6-month delay prior to advertising for vacancies. Residence Hall and FSA auxiliaries will be contributing more than $800,000 annually to support our class offerings.

Rational Tuition 

Having a rational approach to tuition allows the campus to engage in better planning, and this is especially noticeable in our approach to addressing position needs. For this current year, using state dollars, we hired 6 tenure-track faculty, 12 full-time temporary faculty, a number of janitor/cleaner positions needed to replace existing vacancies, and only 6 other staff replacement positions.

During the coming year, we are developing a plan that expands our hiring of tenure-track faculty, allows for a limited number of staff positions and for the filling of the Vice President for Administration position. In consultation with Vice President Horvath and the Cabinet, it has been decided to focus next year’s hiring especially on tenure-track faculty positions, and to delay the creation of the College of Performing and Visual Arts by one year.

We have survived a 50 percent reduction in state funding over the past four years, while managing to achieve our two primary goals: providing students with access to classes, and avoiding formal layoffs. It’s been a difficult 4 years, but we have finally reached the bottom of the budget cycle, and should see a steady upward trajectory for, at least, the next four budget years.

Highlights of 2010-11

Before discussing several priorities for the coming year, I’d like to reflect briefly on a few of the many highlights from this past year:

  • Faculty scholarly and creative accomplishments: presented and displayed in 39 states and 21 countries, included 9 published books; 178 professional articles/book chapters/other publications and recordings; 403 presentations at professional conferences; 62 exhibitions/screenings; 63 musical, theatrical, and creative performances; and 65 other creative contributions. These data are now readily available thanks to the faculty use of the new Digital Measures software.
  • Jon Titus (Biology) spent a year at the University of Botswana on a Fulbright Fellowship.
  • Senior Nick Guarino successfully repeated as the NCAA Division III national champion in both the indoor and outdoor mile, plus was national champion in the outdoor 800 meter, making him the most successful Fredonia athlete in our 185-year history.
  • A master’s degree in Music Therapy; certificates of advanced study in TESOL/Bilingual Education and TESOL/Special Education; and Interdisciplinary Minors in Statistics; Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies; Dance Studio Administration; and Web Programming were added.
  • Migration of campus e-mail to Google was completed with surprisingly few problems.
  • The beautiful new Robert and Marilyn Maytum Musical Rehearsal Halls were dedicated in the fall.
  • The hills on Marvel stage were alive with the Sound of Music.
  • Three faculty (Tom Loughlin, Samantha Kenney, and Ted Schwalbe) travelled to Pune, India during J-Term to teach classes at our newest partner university, FLAME.
  • The campus was awarded a SUNY Diversity grant for, “Reaching OUT to SUNY,” a year-long program and summer institute to integrate LGBTQ issues into our academic culture.
  • Fredonia’s Technology Incubator accounted for an astounding 46 percent of all the new start-up businesses created by all SUNY incubators state-wide, and 40 Fredonia students had internships at the incubator.
  • Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we reached the “Doors to Success” $15 million campaign goal more than 6 months before the campaign ended.
  • International student teaching opportunities now include the University of Sunshine Coast in Australia and the University of Puebla in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Fredonia Radio Systems students won three awards at the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System National Conference: Best On-Air Personality; Best Event Promotion, and Most Creative Show.
  • The first group of students to enter our English Language Immersion Academy came to Fredonia from LuWan High School in Shanghai, China.
  • The fourth consecutive Big Read grant will feature the short stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Our Women’s Swimming and Diving team was awarded Scholar All-American status, and the Women’s Volleyball team received the Team Academic Award from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
  • Through the Fredonia Academy, the campus participated in the Chautauqua Visitor Bureau’s “Chautauqua County—The World’s Learning Center” campaign.
  • Fredonia’s website homepage was redesigned to improve its visual impact, as the number of home page views jumped from 7 million to more than 9 million annually.
  • We signed our first-ever transfer agreement with a medical school, which means we will now be shown in the SUNY Viewbook as offering a pre-med program.
  • Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea is sending us 8 students for the fall, and more than 40 for the spring semester.
  • Our campus hosted Envision Day for Native American high school students.
  • Four interest houses in Honors, Sustainability, Wellness, and Cross-Cultural were designed this past year, and are open to students this fall.
  • Tom Wilson (Track) and Lori Corsi (Softball) were named SUNYAC “Coach of the Year.”
  • The “Colleges Against Cancer” Relay for Life set another new campus record by raising more than $40,000, plus the Up ‘til Dawn fund-raiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital won a national competition, resulting in 10 new Apple computers for our campus.
  • The campus was nearly 400 percent above New York State’s 3 percent purchasing target for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses—our best showing ever.
  • Annual fund-raising receipts exceeded $3.4 million, surpassing the $3 million mark for the first time ever, and included $312,000 toward endowments associated with the naming of rooms in the new Science Center.
  • Several individuals filled, assumed, or returned to administrative leadership positions:

Ann Aldrich, Interim Director of Budget
Tracy Collingwood, Director of Career Development
Lisa Eikenburg, Associate Director for Public Relations
Michael Jabot, Co-coordinator of FACE Service Learning Center
Michelle Kowalski, Director of Human Resources, FSA
Judy Langworthy, Interim Associate Vice President for Administration
Marybeth Muldowney, Co-coordinator of FACE Service Learning Center
Karen Porpiglia, Interim Vice President for Administration
Scott Sanders, Registrar

Department Chairs:
Gordon Baird, Geosciences
Mira Berkley, Curriculum & Instruction
Mary Carney, Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice
Penny Hite, Sport Management and Exercise Science
Mary Beth Sievens, History

Faculty promotions include:
Distinguished Service Professor:
Theodore Schwalbe, Communication
David Rankin, Political Science
Nancy Gee, Psychology
Kathleen Gradel, Language, Learning and Leadership
Andrea Zevenbergen, Psychology
Junaid Zubari, Computer and Information Sciences
Associate Professor:
Kenneth Plucinski, Business Administration
Paul Blanchett, Communication Disorders and Sciences
Lan Cheng, Mathematical Sciences
Nefin Dinc, Communication
Natasha Farny, Music
Jennifer Hildebrand, History
David Kinkela, History
Iclal Vanwesenbeck, English
Ivani Vassoler-Froelich, Political Science

Other promotions include
Secretary 1
Cheryl Bak
Katharine Bixby
Lori Johnson
Rebecca Krzyanowicz
Ruby Nosek
Veronica Siragusa
Tracy Wysong
Library Clerk 3
Mary Lou DeWolf
Assistant College Registrar
Kristin Dobmeier
Production Team Leader
Kevin Lane
Multi-Media Team Leader
Thomas John McCune
Help Desk Technician/Consultant
Alexander Moon
Amy Muscato
Windows Lab Systems Administrator
Christopher Taverna
Programmer Analyst
Darin Yohe
Motor Equipment Mechanic
Paul Siebert
Julia Baughman
Hector Figueroa
James Foringer
Richard Logan
Natalio Martias
Charles Miller
Robert Miller
Wayne Seabolt
David Tarnowski
Daniel Thompson
Supervising Janitor
Timothy Lillie
Supervising Carpenter
Ray Bogue
Highway Equipment Operator
John Cole
Steven Gromala
General Mechanic
Wayne Dorler
Supervising Electrician
Joseph Fabritius
Assistant Director of Facilities Capital Projects
Robert Lawson
Robert Lawton
Plant Utilities Engineer 2
Thomas Lillie
Plant Utilities Engineer 1
Laurence Pelz
George Tucker
Plumber and Steamfitter
Jeffery Peterson
Police Officer—Lieutenant
Brian Studley
Assistant Director of Admissions
Cory Bezek
Judicial Affairs Coordinator
Lisa Newell
Financial Aid Counselor
Sarah Miller
Residence Hall Director
Kristin Beck
Erika Reiss
Eric Hotchkiss
FSA Assistant Manager
Dorothy Russo
FSA Human Resources Manager
Terri Helwig
FSA Supervisor
Heike Peck

Congratulations to each of you!

Fredonia Plan

The five-year Fredonia Plan, with its 21 action items, was completed this past spring. The Fredonia Plan helped improve our campus’ performance in 5 critical areas: student learning, scholarship and creative activities, diversity, technology, and campus image. With completion of this plan, it’s now time to look towards our next 5-year campus-wide strategic plan.

A steering committee, led by Professor Keary Howard and Vice President Virginia Horvath, created a toolbox of 9 exercises, which could be completed by any campus or community group or individual. The exercises included focused discussions, creative activities, thoughts on integrating the Power of SUNY Strategic Plan, and even a campus walkabout. Participation in these toolbox activities last February and March was outstanding:

79 different groups engaged in exercises and reported their ideas and suggestions;
2 individuals also submitted reports.
In addition to the steering committee, 728 people participated in the planning process, including 294 faculty, 185 staff, 53 administrators, 151 students, 25 alumni, and 20 others.

The Steering Committee has been working to identify common themes emerging from the submitted reports, and expects to have a draft to share by early October that at a minimum will address how we can improve on and contribute to each of the 6 state-wide SUNY Strategic Plan themes: entrepreneurship, a seamless education pipeline, a healthier New York, an energy-smart New York, vibrant communities, and the world. Additionally, the SUNY plan wove diversity issues into each of these 6 areas, and we expect to do the same. There will be open meetings to discuss the draft prior to its submission to the University Senate.


This past spring some concerns were brought to my attention about incidents involving intolerance towards students based on race or sexual orientation/gender identity. Universities should be places where differences are accepted and respected. Intolerance and hostility have no place on a college campus. As a result, on August 30, I will be meeting with a large group of faculty, staff, administrators, and student leaders to begin the task of assessing the steps that need to be taken to ensure the entire campus is seen as a “safe zone” for everyone. In the meantime, Resident Assistants and our incoming students are being asked personally by me to fully follow our campus student conduct code, which encourages students to “speak up” whenever they witness words or actions of intolerance. I would ask each of you to help with and reinforce this “speak up” initiative.

Help for Japan

And finally, I want to share a letter received in July from Dr. Yuta Sasaki, President of Aichi Prefectural University in Japan, and Dr. Yayoi Kamakura, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health following the devastating earthquake and tsunami: “Thank you for the 1,000 origami cranes and your donation... We are deeply grateful to you for your ‘Flight of Hope’ project. Your sympathetic letter and thoughts cheered us up… Enclosed are pictures of the origami cranes we displayed and our students putting up their message to request the support for the disaster area on the day of the School Festival… We also would like to send you a handiwork as a token of our gratitude. It is called “Matsumoto Temari,” which literally means a ball, a specialty in the region of Matsumoto, the city in Nagano Prefecture. A 92-year-old mother of a Professor from the School of Nursing made it…..(letter went on) Of course, there is no need to worry about the radioactive contamination. It would be our pleasure if you enjoy it. Thank you again for your concern.” Again, thank you Cheryl Drout, Joyce Smith, Amy Beers, and Robert Siedentop for coordinating the “Flight of Hope” project, and for everyone who was involved in the making of the 3,000 origami cranes we sent to our three sister campuses in Japan. The genuine concern showed towards others in need is another example of the caring spirit that exists here at Fredonia.

Thank you for what all of you do on a daily basis to make this university exceptional. Have a great semester!


Announcement of Retirement:

As I enter the 16th academic year serving as President of SUNY Fredonia, Jan and I have decided that this will be my last year. Chancellor Zimpher has agreed to begin searching for my replacement, with an expectation of my retiring from the President’s position sometime next summer.

It’s been a pleasure and an honor serving as president of this wonderful university. It’s been comforting to know that I could always count on the strength and resilience of the faculty and staff to help weather any storm, keeping the focus on meeting our important educational mission. Your willingness to go above and beyond has been a primary reason why I have become the longest serving contemporary president in Fredonia’s history.

Looking back over the past 15 years, I am proud of our many accomplishments, such as:

  • the “Fredonia in 4” program that helped us reach 7th in the nation for 4-year graduation rates;
  • growth in enrollment that included a 25% increase in undergraduates, a doubling of graduate students, a tripling of international students, and a 600% increase in the diversity of our incoming student body;
  • the seamless way this campus handled the retirement of more than 70% of the faculty and 60% of the staff;
    the creation of the College of Education, the School of Business, the Multi-Cultural Affairs Center, and what so far has been the most successful new Business Incubator in SUNY’s history;
  • acquisition and opening of the Alumni and Foundation Houses;
  • completion of two major fund-raising campaigns, which helped us grow the endowment by more than 400%;
  • the special plantings, benches and banners that enriched the beauty of this campus;
  • and, of course, the securing of $360 million from both state and non-state sources for construction and renovation projects, beginning with $8.8 million for the Natatorium and concluding with $100 million for two new major academic buildings: the Science Center and the Classroom Addition to Rockefeller Arts Center.

Special visitors to campus have included the likes of David Halberstam and Maya Angelou, and when it comes to musicians, I can honestly say I came in with Isaac Stern and am going out with Yo-Yo Ma.

However, over and above these and many other accomplishments, my greatest joy has been working with the faculty, staff, and administrators of this campus. We’ve shared both triumphs and tragedies. You are what make Fredonia such a special campus, and it will be you and the students, who Jan and I will miss the most.

But enough with this nostalgia! I’m still president until next summer, and we have a number of tasks to complete, including putting the finishing touches on the “Doors to Success” campaign, finalizing our next 5-year strategic plan, ensuring there will be a smooth transition to a new president, and, if the opportunity arises, snagging one or two more buildings during the upcoming legislative session.

Thank you for what will be 16 wonderful academic years!



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