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April 14, 2012

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Day of celebration marks inauguration of SUNY New Paltz president


NEW PALTZ – Academic and public officials attended an invitation-only installation ceremony for SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian on Friday afternoon, at the Julian Studley Theater on campus.

Among the dignitaries participating were SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall, and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.

“I congratulate the eighth president of SUNY New Paltz,” said McCall. “Today, he has formally accepted the mantle of leadership of this fine institution. We pledge to him our support and our trust.”

Christian has served as interim college president since July 2010, following President Steven Poskanzer, who took over from Roger Bowen in 2001. He formerly served as provost and vice president of academic affairs during the 2009-10 academic year.

“We will advance by building on the vision points that have served us so well for the past seven years,” Dr. Christian said during his investiture speech. “But, we also must recognize that public higher education lives in a world that has changed dramatically, will continue to change, and almost certainly will not return to the way it was – even recently.”

Citing basic tenets of biology, Dr. Christian compared education to a species facing environmental shifts. “Organisms can move, change, or die,” he said. “We must evolve to fulfill the promise entrusted to us, in the face of economic, political, social, demographic, and global forces shaping the nation and world.”

Christian, who was raised in an agricultural family, referred to his job as “tending the farm.” He said the work will demand good ideas, patience, and community. “Much of it will not be glorious, and some of it will feel like shoveling manure,” he said.

A doctor of biology, Christian previously worked at the universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Assemblyman Cahill made a joke at the expense of himself and Congressman Maurice Hinchey – both New Paltz Alumni. Noting Dr. Christian's advanced degrees in biology and zoology, “which I believe makes you uniquely qualified to lead this institution,” Cahill quipped.

“It is the most important university on planet Earth,” Cahill said of the SUNY system, pledging his loyalty and support.


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