President Dennis L. Hefner, who is entering his 16th year as leader of the SUNY Fredonia campus, this morning announced his intentions to retire following the close of the 2011-12 academic year.
Dr. Hefner, who joined the campus in 1996 and is the longest-serving president in the history of the modern Fredonia campus, made his intentions known this morning at his annual All-Campus Address, with his wife, Jan, in attendance.
The 65-year-old president said he will retire at the end of the 2011-12 academic year, but added that he will remain on until a replacement has been named. A search for his successor will be commencing promptly.
Currently the second-longest-serving president among SUNY’s four-year institutions, Dr. Hefner directed a period of tremendous growth at SUNY Fredonia, highlighted by undergraduate enrollment growth of more than 1,000 students, or 25 percent; a doubling of its graduate students; a tripling of its international students; and a 600 percent increase in the diversity of its student body.
Additionally, he has in aggregate secured $360 million, from both state and non-state sources, for capital construction and renovation projects, including the campus’ Natatorium, University Commons, Rosch Recital Hall, University Stadium, Campus and Community Children's Center, Business Technology Incubator, and the Robert and Marilyn Maytum Music Rehearsal Halls, as well as the new, $60 million Science Center, whose groundbreaking ceremony will be held in early September. Notable renovations include the campus’ iconic Maytum Hall, Williams Center, and the planned $40 million expansion of the Rockefeller Arts Center.
“It’s been a pleasure and an honor serving as president of this wonderful university,” Dr. Hefner said to a room full of 450 employees in Rosch Recital Hall. “My greatest joy has been working with the faculty, staff and administrators of this campus, as we collectively created opportunities for Fredonia’s students to learn, mature and succeed. We’ve shared both triumphs and tragedies. You make Fredonia such a special campus, and it will be you and the students who Jan and I will miss the most.”
President Hefner’s tenure also includes the creation of SUNY Fredonia’s College of Education, School of Business, and Center for Multicultural Affairs. Its business incubator, though open for less than two years, is already impacting the region’s economic development and playing a key role in the revitalization of the Dunkirk Business District. The economist educated at California State University at Chico and Washington State University also oversaw the completion of two major capital campaigns, which helped grow the endowment value of the Fredonia College Foundation by more than 400 percent.
“The new buildings and student growth are physical, visible changes that will be remembered long after President Hefner has retired,” added Fredonia College Council Chair Frank Pagano. “But, what I hope is never lost on future generations of students and campus administrators, is how seemingly ever-present Dennis has been in our community. Whether the functions were academic, artistic, athletic, governmental, service-oriented or social in nature, he always made it a point, whenever possible, to be there to lend his expertise, resources, counsel and morale support. That dedication was undoubtedly exhausting for him at times, but it has made more of a difference than he will ever know.”
President Hefner has been well-respected across the state and in the SUNY Central offices in Albany throughout his tenure. In particular, he has been recognized as one of the SUNY system’s most tireless leaders in the advocacy for a rational tuition plan, which finally became a reality when Governor Cuomo signed it into law last week. It is an accomplishment that, for Dr. Hefner, has literally been 15 years in the making.
“Dennis Hefner will leave Fredonia, and the SUNY system as a whole, much better than he found it,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “He can be proud, as we are, of his staunch advocacy over the years for a rational tuition policy, his emphasis on blending the lines between research and teaching, and his dynamic ability to bring the local community together with the campus. Throughout his 15-year tenure, he has transformed the college into an economic powerhouse for the region and an academic jewel for the state. When President Hefner steps down, SUNY will lose a great leader but keep a valuable advocate and great friend. On behalf of all of SUNY, I offer congratulations and extend sincere thanks to Dennis for his years of impeccable service to the State University.”
Chancellor Zimpher will promptly engage with the College Council in beginning the search for a new president, with an expectation that Dr. Hefner will retire from the President’s position sometime next summer. Following his retirement, he will be named a University Professor, working as a part-time, special consultant on various assignments for the SUNY System over the next two years.