From the President
Time—a topic that I have been thinking about a lot as I wrap up my long tenure as president of this wonderful institution. I have been blessed to have had time—time to plan, time to gather resources, time to really establish connections, time to fail, time to regroup when failure happened, time to make an impact. There are so few opportunities when people can actually say they have had this wide swath of time to be able to do just that. My 26 years isn’t as much an accomplishment as it was a gift.
One of our time-honored traditions here at Oswego, the Torchlight ceremonies, marks the beginning and end of a student’s years on campus. Welcoming Torchlight occurs on students’ first night on campus, and we symbolically ignite their passion for discovery and knowledge by lighting candles from the Torch of Learning. We tell them during the ceremony that the next time they will gather as a group will be on the eve of their commencement. We remind students how fast their time on campus will fly by and encourage them to make the most of every day. Often, our Commencement Eve Torchlight speakers reflect on just how quickly their time at Oswego passed but also how much they were able to grow and transform during their college years.
Time enabled our confidence to grow as an institution and among the people here. We could succeed because of our trust, loyalty and constancy, and because there was no deadline on success. There still is no deadline on success. That’s one of the big lessons I’ve learned as the leader of this college. Take your time. Think things over, set aside a problem and return to it from a fresh perspective. Often when you do, you learn new things, gain insights, get a clearer picture of the larger landscape and craft a better way forward. We have been able to accomplish a lot together, likely more than we would have been able to if we had rushed into decisions.
Because we have invested the time into caring for and learning from each other, we were better equipped to deal with emergencies when they arose. For example, no
one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic, but we were able to rise to the occasion. Yes, we were prepared technologically, but we were also prepared as a
community, who helped each other through difficult circumstances. We knew how to link arms and get ourselves through it. That speaks to the caring and compassionate culture that we have been able to develop and strengthen together.
When I first became president in the mid-1990s, I interacted with alumni from the 1930s and 1940s who provided insights into some Oswego qualities that seemed to
transcend time. In their stories of Oswego, there was the familiar strand of learning by doing and of feeling connected to their faculty and to each other. Many of
our students then and today were the first in their families to attend college. They were hard-workers who showed grit in the face of adversity and found ways around
obstacles that threatened their progress.
Our alumni span multiple generations. Yet, you share strands from the same Oswego fabric. Our alumni—more than 90,000 strong—are one of our greatest resources, and you were a tremendous help to me. You gave me reconnaissance of what the institution used to be like, and gave me an idea of what it could be. You helped the institution, time and time again, by sharing your expertise, assistance and philanthropy.
Remember your time in college stays with you throughout your entire life. Whenever people ask, “where did you go to school,” you will say, “SUNY Oswego.” It will evoke many memories. But, if you’re currently involved with the institution, it will also evoke much pride, as you will be able to talk about its current value and its current work, which will be so important to you. Please make the time to stay connected to each other and this institution.
I am profoundly grateful to have my name attached to this campus in perpetuity. The naming of the arena and convocation hall is an honor that is incredible and humbling. But I also hope that our work here on this campus—in becoming learner-centered and aligning our programs, our fundraising efforts and our physical campus to support student success—is maintained and enhanced over time.
Leaving here is much harder than I expected it to be. I have always felt that my work here at SUNY Oswego and my work in higher education have been a blessing. It’s been a preferred way of life. It’s been the most worthwhile way of leading my life that I ever could have imagined. I am truly honored and grateful to have spent 44 years of my life with my Laker community. I love this place, and will never stop. But now I begin my next era.
Deborah F. Stanley, president
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