Stony Brook University Logo and Title
Photo: Stony Brook banners in front of trees
News Page Title Bar
 Top News
 General University News
 SB Medicine News
 Children's Hospital
 Faculty/Student Awards
 Conferences & Events
 Media Advisories
 Press Clips
 Student Media Briefings

General University News
Press Release

Shirley Strum Kenny, Who Transformed Stony Brook University Into a Flagship Of SUNY And National Leader In Public Higher Education, Announces Retirement At End Of 2008-9 Academic Year

Jun 19, 2008 - 1:54:41 AM

Email this article
 Printer friendly page
STONY BROOK, N.Y., June 19, 2008 — Stony Brook University President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, who, during a tenure of 14 years, has guided the institution to national and international acclaim as one of the top public institutions and who has similarly helped transform undergraduate education across the country as chairman of the landmark Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, has announced that she will retire from Stony Brook at the end of the 2008-9 academic year.

Shirley Strum Kenny
“Shirley has been a creative and visionary leader who has brought Stony Brook to the highest levels of public universities in the nation,” said Richard L. Gelfond, chair of the Stony Brook Foundation Board, co-chair and co-CEO of IMAX Corp., and an alumnus. “Indeed, the changes that have occurred on campus and in the classrooms during her tenure are nothing short of astonishing. They could not have happened without Shirley’s passion, energy, and commitment.

“At the same time, I know she has been thinking about this for awhile,” Mr. Gelfond said. “In fact, she came to me last fall and told me that she was planning on stepping down at the end of this past academic year in May, but I and others persuaded her to reconsider. We tried again this time, but her mind is set. I understand and respect that, even though Stony Brook will be losing a leader of prodigious talent and foresight.”

Indeed, through Dr. Kenny’s leadership the University earned designation as one of only two “flagship” institutions of the 64-school State University of New York system. It also developed into one of the top public research universities in the country, as evidenced by its selection for admission into the Association of American Universities, the invitation-only organization comprising just such institutions, and its ranking among the top two percent of universities worldwide by both The London Times and the Shanghai Higher Education Institute.

Befitting such lofty status, the University was chosen as co-manager of Brookhaven National Laboratory, joining Princeton, Cornell, U. of Chicago, Stanford and UC-Berkeley in managing a Department of Energy Laboratory. And most recently, Dr. Kenny initiated a unique research alliance between Stony Brook, Brookhaven, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, bringing together world-class federal, state, and private research campuses to work together on cutting-edge programs in genetics, cancer, neuroscience and other areas of mutual but individual strengths.

These are quite remarkable achievements, made even more so considering that when Dr. Kenny was elected Stony Brook’s president in 1994, the institution was mired in significant debt and maintained a structural deficit. With her steady hand and a far-reaching vision, the University quickly righted its ship and, since that time, it has undergone a remarkable physical, academic, intellectual, and cultural makeover.

“These have been the most amazing and satisfying 14 years of my professional career,” said Dr. Kenny, a literary scholar, teacher and academic administrator who became the first woman, and first non-scientist, to be elected Stony Brook’s President. “The University has come very far, and I take great pride in what has been accomplished with the outstanding teamwork and commitment of every member of the Stony Brook family, from students, faculty, and staff to Board members, alumni, donors, community residents, and elected officials.”

With Stony Brook solidly entrenched as an academic and research leader in the State and nationally and continuing to move forward to fulfill the late Governor Rockefeller’s vision for it to stand “among the finest in the land,” Dr. Kenny said “this is the right time for me to step down. It will be 15 years at the end of my tenure, and that is quite a lengthy term for a university president. I look forward to spending more time with my family, and becoming more engaged in the national debate on the future of education in America.”

There is no debating what Dr. Kenny has meant to Stony Brook. Under her direction, the University has undertaken unprecedented expansion. The campus has been physically transformed, with an extensive building and landscaping program. Two new campuses have opened – Stony Brook Southampton, the 82-acre former home of LIU’s Southampton College that is now dedicated to issues of sustainability, and Stony Brook Manhattan – as has a 246-acre research park. A new student center, dormitories, and athletic stadium are among other state-of-the-art facilities that have been constructed.

Stony Brook has experienced an impressive surge in applications and enrollment, with major increases in SAT scores and grade-point-averages. There have been significant academic programs added, including the opening of the only journalism school in SUNY. Faculty enhancements have been similarly substantial, including the appointments of such world-renowned scholars as paleo-anthropologist Richard Leakey; former Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Donny George; Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the U.S., and the award-winning Emerson String Quartet.

Further, the University has developed important business and community linkages, including the Stony Brook/Brookhaven/Cold Spring Harbor alliance. Moreover, Stony Brook has become the largest employer on Long Island, generating nearly 60,000 jobs. The University maintains a $1.8 billion budget and an economic impact of over $4.7 billion on the region or nearly four percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The University’s fundraising has realized similar achievements. It is completing a $300 million capital campaign, highlighted by a $60 million gift earlier this year from prominent financier and former mathematics department chairman Dr. Jim Simons and his wife Marilyn, a Ph.D. alumna. It was both the largest gift in Stony Brook’s history and the largest gift ever given to any one of the 64 SUNY institutions. The second largest gift to any SUNY institution -- $50 million – was also to Stony Brook, from computer software executive Charles B. Wang.

“Years ago, Stony Brook provided me with a faculty position and the opportunity to both pursue my research and build one of the best math departments in the country,” said Jim Simons. “Although I have since gone on to other endeavors, Shirley Kenny has always made sure that Marilyn and I feel at home here at Stony Brook. And because of the pieces that Shirley has put into place and her unflagging commitment to academic excellence, Marilyn and I knew that making this gift would provide an excellent opportunity for mathematics and physics at Stony Brook to reach the very highest level.”

On the national level, Dr. Kenny launched and chaired the Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University. Its landmark study, “Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities,” has resulted in a sea change in undergraduate education at research universities in America.

Dr. Kenny was formally recognized last year for her “extraordinary leadership and civic and cultural contributions,” receiving the prestigious Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal. Joining her as honorees were Craig R. Barrett, chairman of Intel Corporation, and John Hope Franklin, the eminent historian, author, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

To view President Shirley Strum Kenny’s bio, please go to:


Shirley Strum Kenny has a great deal of satisfaction looking back at accomplishments of Stony Brook University in the years she has served as President. “This is a world-class university; I consider it a privilege to serve such superb students, faculty, and staff.”

Among Stony Brook’s many accomplishments during Dr. Kenny’s tenure:

• Admission to AAU, the invitation-only association of the top 62 private and public research universities in North America;

• Winning the contract and co-managing Brookhaven National Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy, a responsibility given to only a few great research universities;

• A successful Capital Campaign including achieving the largest gift ever received by any of the 64 SUNY campuses – not once, but twice;

• Expanding the University from Manhattan to the East End, through developing Stony Brook Manhattan, Stony Brook Southampton, the Research and Development Park, and the Calverton Incubator;

• Initiating the unique Research Alliance of Brookhaven, Stony Brook, and Cold Spring Harbor, with support from the State;

• Creating the School of Journalism, the College of Business, the Public Health program, the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, the Southampton Writers Program, the Turkana Basin Institute, etc.;

• Being named a flagship campus of SUNY;

• Achieving medical miracles and winning recognition for safety initiatives in the Hospital;

• Providing an average of 95 per cent of the royalties in SUNY for the past ten years;

• Improving undergraduate education through research opportunities, undergraduate colleges, freshmen seminars, and many other innovations;

• Moving from Division III Athletics to Division I;

• Increasing enrollment by 33 per cent;

• Increasing SAT scores from 1093 to 1221;

• Increasing applications by 94 percent to the largest number of any campus in SUNY;

• Improving selectivity from 58 per cent to 43 per cent;

• Increasing the number of faculty lines by 72 and hiring many internationally renown faculty;

• Construction of the Ambulatory Surgery Center, Cancer and Imaging Center, Humanities Building, Heavy Engineering Building, Student Activities Center I and II, football stadium, and continuing the major modifications to the Hospital and the construction of the new Rec Center;

• Rehabbing all the residence halls and building the new apartments, thereby greatly increasing the number of residential students;

• Improving the physical appearance of the campus;

• Ranking among the top 2 percent of universities worldwide, according to The London Times Higher Education Supplement and the Shanghai Higher Education Institute, and placing in the top 50 public institutions in various rankings.


© Stony Brook University 2013

Top of Page