Board of Trustees looks to the future of SUNY-ESF upon Murphy’s departure

Zixi Wu | Staff Photographer

SUNY-ESF President Cornelius Murphy lifts his glass in a toast to celebrate the university's 100th anniversary in August 2011.

Following SUNY-ESF President Cornelius Murphy’s announcement that he will step down within a year, the Board of Trustees has begun to reflect on Murphy’s tenure and to look to the future of the college.

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry Board of Trustees chair William McGarry said he was sad to hear Murphy would be stepping down because Murphy has done such a great job as president.

“It’s sort of like you know things are going to end at some point but you hope they go on forever,” McGarry said with a laugh. “Neil was one of those guys who was the right fit for that position and we were saddened to hear it.”

Murphy is a great leader who led the school in a variety of ways and leaves behind a long list of accomplishments, McGarry said. In particular, Murphy helped raise the stature of ESF to the point where it’s receiving more national recognition than ever before, McGarry said.

“I think a lot of us over the years really felt that ESF was a real gem but it was unknown to a lot of people and I think Neil turned that around,” he said.

In addition, Murphy has assembled a great team to lead the institution, McGarry said. The administration, staff and faculty Murphy has brought to ESF are a “can-do” team that is passionate about their jobs and have a strong relationship with the students, he said.

Both the quantity and the quality of the students at ESF have increased during Murphy’s time as well, McGarry said.

Murphy’s influence on ESF can also be seen in the building around campus. During Murphy’s tenure, the school’s first residence hall, the new Gateway Center and renovations to many other buildings were completed, McGarry said.

And Murphy accomplished it all despite the strain the state budget was experiencing and the physical limitations of the ESF campus, he said.

“You know, we were pretty much land-locked but because Neil is a can-do sort of guy he moved forward and saw that there are possibilities no matter what the obstacles,” McGarry said.

Looking to the future, the Board of Trustees has already begun assembling a search committee to find ESF’s next president and McGarry said he expects that to be done “fairly soon.”

The SUNY system has very explicit guidelines that the Board of Trustees must adhere to when finding a new president, McGarry said. The search committee must consist of 15 or more members including four Board of Trustees members as well as representatives from ESF faculty, staff, students, the alumni association, the ESF College foundation and a senior staff member or president from within the SUNY system, he said.

The Board of Trustees appoints the members but the faculty governance committee recommends the faculty representative and the student governance committee recommends the student representative, McGarry said.

As for what he’s looking for in the next ESF president, McGarry had something very specific in mind.

“A clone of Dr. Murphy?” he said jokingly.

But on a serious note, McGarry said the committee needs to “take a step back and then a step forward” and examine what ESF has in Murphy and what the college needs are going forward.

These needs include academic, management and ESF’s relationship with the SUNY system, SU and the community. All these considerations are then assembled into a profile of what qualifications ESF’s next president should have, McGarry said.

The search committee is open to both internal and external candidates, he said.

But regardless of who becomes the next president, he or she will have a hard time following Murphy’s tenure, McGarry said.

“He has been in my opinion, the finest president this institution has ever had,” he said. “It’s going to be a real challenge for us to find someone of his caliber to step into his shoes.”


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