Duffy appointed to coordinate post-pandemic reopening in Finger Lakes region

Robert J. Duffy
Robert J. Duffy

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed Bob Duffy, head of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and a former lieutenant governor under Cuomo, to coordinate public health and reopening of the economy in the Finger Lakes Region. 

Cuomo said during his daily briefing on the pandemic Tuesday morning,  “We’re going to make reopening decisions on a regional basis, based on that region’s facts and circumstances about the COVID.” He also appointed Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to a similar volunteer position for her home region of Western New York. 

Cuomo said decisions on reopening normal activities after the pandemic would follow the regional approach the state has taken in its economic development activities. He also hoped the state would learn the lessons gained from the pandemic, just as it has learned from previous events, from the Great Depression to world wars to 9-11 and Hurricane Sandy. 

“Some of the most tragic situations actually forged the character and the resolve of this nation,” Cuomo said. “New York state, the same thing.  We’re New York tough, but not just tough.  It’s easy to be tough. It’s hard to be smart and disciplined and unified and loving.”

Duffy said later in the day that he expected the job to begin immediately, reflecting the one speed Cuomo operates on: full speed. Duffy suggested he would start by talking with the regional director for Empire State Development, Vincent Esposito, and Duffy’s new co-chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battles. He expected to schedule many, many video conferences with a wide range of business people, health care officials and others. 

“This is about gathering facts and data and coming back to the governor with the best information possible,” Duffy said.  

In a video conference call about the appointment, and in another conference earlier with members of the chamber and Monroe County Health Director Dr. Michael Mendoza, both Duffy and Mendoza said the local economy will not open full force on May 15, the date to which the state has extended closures. They described a careful consideration of how individual businesses operate, including their cleaning capabilities and whether they continue social distancing to some extent. 

Mendoza said he expected schools would open before stadiums do, as they are a more controlled environment. And sit-down restaurants may open before bars, where people crowd together and move around more. 

“We’re in a whole different landscape moving forward,” Duffy said. “There is no way the entire economy can open in a week or even a month.”

If everything did open at once, there would be a surge of new cases of COVID-19, Mendoza said. Public health officials are trying to avoid a surge and control the rate of infection, using it to develop community immunity.    

“We’re going to have to have natural infection be the way we develop immunity in the absence of a vaccine,” Mendoza said. 

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SUNY Geneseo president named co-chair of regional economic development council

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has tapped SUNY College at Geneseo president Denise Battles as its next co-chair. Battles succeeds former Monroe Community College president Anne Kress, who served in the role from 2016 until December 2019.

Denise Battles
Denise Battles

Battles shares the chairperson role with Robert Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. The agency works to grow the economy in the nine-county Finger Lakes region.

“The statewide Regional Economic Development Councils have brought together local stakeholders in academia, business, education and nonprofits to spearhead economic development projects in their communities,” said state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairwoman of the statewide REDCs. “The Finger Lakes REDC has worked to transform the region with new and expanded businesses, increased tourism opportunities and good-paying jobs.”

Hochul said Battles’ experience and knowledge will help to accelerate the Finger Lakes Forward development strategy and continue its growth momentum.

“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to serve and advance the economic development and vitality of the Finger Lakes region,” Battles said in a statement. “It is humbling to follow Anne Kress’ exemplary record of leadership and join Bob Duffy in the role of co-chair. I look forward to partnering with Bob, whose contributions to our state are unparalleled, as well as other FLREDC team members, to grow the capacity of our region and beyond.”

Battles was named SUNY Geneseo president in 2015 and is the second woman to lead the college as permanent president since its opening in 1871. During her 25-year career, Battles has been a geologist, professor and higher education administrator and is a Colgate University alumna.

Prior to her arrival at SUNY Geneseo, she was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and previously served as dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences and professor of geology at the University of Northern Colorado.

“I can think of no one better to take over for Anne than Denise Battles, who will bring a new set of ideas to the table that will no doubt further our focused mission,” Duffy said. “Anne Kress’ leadership on the regional council was simply transformative for the Finger Lakes region. I am incredibly grateful for her tireless commitment to the council.”

Other members recently appointed to the council include Grant Malone, president, Rochester Building & Construction Trades; Steve Mowers, Claims Recovery Financial Services; and Lisa Burns, president, Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council.

Ex-officio changes to the regional council include Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Wayne County Board of Supervisors chairman Kenneth Miller and Seneca County Board of Supervisors chairman Robert Hayssen.

“In these unprecedented times it is more important than ever that the community continues to work together to support the council’s transformative efforts to move the regional economy forward,” Bello said. “I am proud to have the opportunity to serve on the council as it continues that important mission.”

REDCs were established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011 as a centerpiece of his strategy to jump-start the economy and create jobs. Through nine rounds of the REDC competition, FLREDC has delivered some $721 million for 950 projects.

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Geneseo, UR named top Fulbright grant schools

Two local colleges have made the annual list of top producers of Fulbright grants – SUNY Geneseo and the University of Rochester.

The annual list is broken down in groups of schools designated by their terminal degrees. Hence, UR is among other schools that give doctorates, and Geneseo is on a separate list for schools that grant master’s degrees.

The 2019 list was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Fulbright grants allow for students to take time after graduation to conduct research or teach English abroad.

With 10 students winning Fulbright grants, UR was actually near the bottom of the top doctoral schools, tying with others such as Pennsylvania State University, American University and Northeastern University. The 10 winners were among 37 UR students who applied for Fulbright grants, indicating a success rate of 27 percent.  By comparison, Harvard University’s 125 applicants had a success rate of 21.6 percent.

Geneseo, meanwhile, was near the top of its list, placing at third for master’s degree schools. Seven Geneseo students won the grants for study abroad after they graduated. The success rate there was nearly 37 percent.

This is the third year in a row Geneseo has been on the Top Producer list.

Geneseo President Denise A. Battles said, “The Fulbright competition pits our talented and accomplished students and alumni against those of the country’s finest colleges and universities. Our ongoing success is a testament to the high-quality education our students receive and evidences Geneseo’s status as one of the nation’s premier public liberal arts colleges.”

For the coming year, when winners are announced beginning in March, a record 36 Geneseo students applied, with 17 already having been selected as semi-finalists, the college said. UR reported that 21 of its students have been named semi-finalists.

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Two local colleges hire leadership executives

Two Rochester-area colleges have made new administrative appointments, with two hires migrating from one school to another.

State University College at Geneseo has hired a new vice president for college advancement and executive director of the Geneseo Foundation. Ellen Leverich, a 1990 graduate of Geneseo, most recently in development at the Bloomsburg University Foundation in Pennsylvania, will start work at Geneseo on Feb. 20.

Ellen Leverich
Ellen Leverich

According to the college, Leverich comes to Geneseo with a major fundraising track record, including raising $10 million in the last fiscal year — a 69 percent increase over the previous year — for the Bloomsburg University Foundation. Her other work experience includes 17 years as director of development for Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy in Richmond, Va.

“I’m delighted that Ellen is returning to her alma mater to lead this vitally important function of the College,” said Geneseo President Denise A. Battles. “Her distinguished record of accomplishments in advancement will benefit our students, faculty, and staff along with other college stakeholders as we foster Geneseo’s continued success.”

Justin Johnston
Justin Johnston

The Geneseo position has been in transition for much of the last year, with the last permanent appointee, K. Johnson Bowles, leaving in March.  Justin Johnston, an assistant vice president, took the position Bowles had held on an interim basis but earlier this month started a job at Genesee Community College Dec. 3.

Johnston is now the vice president of development and external affairs at Genesee Community College, while working on his doctorate in philanthropy at Canisus College in Buffalo. He lives in Williamsville, Erie County.
Miguel Baique
Miguel Baique

GCC also recently appointed Miguel Baique, a native of Queens, to the new position of director of student engagement and inclusion. Baique had worked for nearly two years at the McNair Scholars program at Geneseo, and previously as an area director for residential life at Nazareth College. He’s pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration at the University of Rochester.

“With strong teams in both of these important areas of Genesee Community College, I believe these two new leaders will be a huge asset and are in a great position to further support student success which is the core of our mission,” said GCC President James M. Sunser. “We are excited about the Spring 2020 semester with these new faces who bring great experience and enthusiasm.”

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Three women poised to take first-ever higher-ed leadership roles

On Monday, three women will create history in the Rochester area as each one officially becomes the first woman to preside over her respective college or university.

Angela Sims
Angela D. Sims

As University of Rochester, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School all welcome their new presidents, seven out of 12 colleges in Monroe County and its bordering counties will be led by women and six will be first-female presidents.

The percentage of female presidents locally will be nearly double the national average of 30.1 percent.

“My first thought is Susan B. Anthony must be smiling down on Rochester right now!” wrote Anne M. Kress, president of MCC.

RBJ interviewed by email the Rochester area’s four current female presidents about advice they might have for the new presidents and their thoughts on the wave of women in higher education. They are:

  • Kress, president of MCC since 2009;
  • Deana L. Porterfield, president of Roberts Wesleyan College since 2014;
  • Heidi Macpherson, president of SUNY Brockport since 2015;
  • and Denise Battles, president of SUNY Geneseo since 2015.

The first three were breakers of glass ceilings at their institutions. Battles is the second permanent female president at Geneseo. (A female interim president immediately preceded her.)

The three new presidents reporting to duty Monday are:

  • Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, who is coming to UR from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she has been provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
  • Joyce P. Jacobsen, who has already introduced herself at Hobart and William Smith Colleges through podcast interviews, comes from Wesleyan University, where she served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
  • Angela D. Sims will lead Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School in its new location on North Goodman Street. She was dean and vice president of institutional advancement at Saint Paul School of Theology in Leawood, Kan., and Oklahoma City, Okla. Sims has the distinction of being the first African-American woman to head a local college, as noted by Rochester City Mayor Lovely Warren when Sims’ appointment was announced.
Incoming University of Rochester president Sarah C. Mangelsdorf is pictured during a visit to the River Campus December 17th, 2018. Mangelsdorf will assume duties at the University in July 2019. // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester
Sarah C. Mangelsdorf

“The fact that these three campuses represent vastly different institutional types – a research university, theological institution and liberal arts college – is particularly noteworthy,” Battles said. “For example, national data show that women are far less likely to lead research universities than, say community colleges.”

Being on the leading edge of a national trend may not be the first thing Mangelsdorf, Jacobsen and Sims deal with Monday morning. Besides familiarizing themselves with the lay of the land, the location of the presidential restroom, and the names of their staff, all three will be in some uncharted territory; none have been presidents before. That’s not unusual for top academic administrators in the Rochester area, regardless of gender. Candidates for these jobs often have their first presidential-level job at colleges and universities here before either moving on or retiring.

Joyce P. Jacobsen
Joyce P. Jacobsen

Those who’ve gained experience on the job locally suggested the three be true to themselves.

“Be yourself; your authentic voice and vision of leadership was central to your selection as president,” Kress said.

“Lead from your strengths,” offered Porterfield.

Another common suggestion was to start off by learning the institution and its culture.

“It is important to value what was done before and also create new strategic pathways for the institution using your gifts and abilities,” Porterfield said.

Kress added, “Honor the past while preparing for the future: As you learn more about the history and culture of the extraordinary institution you lead, you will learn how your unique experiences will help it advance and thrive in the years ahead.”

Macpherson also stressed transparency.

“A successful presidency is about communications, transparency and clarity,” she said. “People don’t have to agree with all of your decisions, but if they understand why you’ve made them, they will accept them. It’s important to establish early on how you work with others, and how you want others to work with you.’

Macpherson also brought up the invisibility that women – even at the presidential level – sometimes experience.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” she said. “There will be times when you enter a room and people won’t realize you are the president. They may even address someone else standing next to you. How you handle those moments will be remembered.”

Kress, the most experienced female college president in the area, also suggested the newbies reach out to their colleagues. “The depth and diversity of leadership within the Rochester region is powerful, and your new community stands ready to support your success.”

According to a study by the American Council on Education, though the percentage of female presidents across the country is growing, the rate was slower between 2001 and 2016 than it was in the previous 14 years. And upon closer examination of the 2016 statistics, when 30.1 percent of colleges and universities had female presidents, the study found that women are more likely to be presidents at community colleges and limited-scope institutions than universities with greater resources, as Battles pointed out.

Private nonprofit colleges had a female presidential rate of 27.3 percent while public institutions were at almost 33 percent and community colleges hit 36 percent, according to the June 20 edition of Inside Higher Ed.   

The article also reported that public colleges and universities are about twice as likely to hire minority presidents as are private ones. Perhaps surprisingly, while many African American administrators are trained at historically black colleges and universities, the percentage of those institutions that have black presidents is declining.

But with seven out of 12 –  58.33 percent – colleges in Monroe County and its bordering counties now having women at the helm, Rochester is certainly ahead of the curve.

“It is extremely exciting to think that the Rochester area is leading the way across the country in female presidents of higher education institutions,” Porterfield said. “It is fitting that in the birthplace of women’s rights that we would be a model for women leaders.”

Several of the current presidents said the wave of female presidents can only inspire other women to do the same. “If she can see it, she can be it,” Macpherson said, echoing the motto of the Geena Davis Institution on Gender in Media. “I like to think that motto works for higher education, too.”

Women now in presidential seats owe a debt of gratitude to their female forebears, Kress said. “Their success in the face of great odds opened the door for us. We need to do the same.”

Macpherson said concerted efforts to mentor women, along with the American Council on Education’s “Moving the Needle” campaign, have helped move the percentages in the direction of parity, even though they haven’t reach the goal yet.  Moving the Needle has set a goal of parity by 2030.

“Women in positions of influence can and should help with this; we recognize the barriers that women might face (both internally and externally,) since we faced them ourselves. And we can purposefully offer women opportunities to demonstrate their ability to success,” Macpherson said.

Battles added demographic shifts are playing a role, too.

“Part of that increase is no doubt attributable to greater numbers of women in the higher education pipeline,” she said. “As more women enter academia, those qualified for the role of president also increases.”

Indeed, “women make up the majority of students pursuing undergraduate degrees in the U.S., and the same is true in our region. Yet, only about a third of college presidencies are held by women, so it is powerful and empowering that women studying in the Rochester area can look to the leadership of their college or university and see themselves,” Kress said. “In turn, the women leading these institutions will undoubtedly reflect back on the challenges they experienced in reaching these positions and work to remove them for the next generation of leaders.”

Last week, as outgoing UR President Richard Feldman bid farewell to many of his colleagues, he took pains to note that he has faith that Mangelsdorf will be a great president and said she was hired because she was the best candidate.

But two local female presidents said woman also bring unique gifts and challenges to the presidential suite, too.

“Research shows that women lead using different gifts and skills in building teams, creating vision and moving communities forward,” Porterfield said. They create “robust community engagement and communication,” she said.

And they disproportionately face family responsibilities that conflict with career progression, Battles noted.

“Data show that women presidents are twice as likely as men to have altered their career progression to care for others. Those life choices can influence a person’s desire or opportunities to pursue, assume or continue a presidency,” Battles said.

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Other women have served at area colleges

It should be noted that the MCC, Roberts, Brockport and Geneseo presidents are not the only female presidents who have served in the Rochester area. Nazareth College, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph as a college for women, has had six female presidents, starting with Mother Sylvester Tindell in 1924.

Three of the last four presidents at Nazareth have been men and all of them came after that school went coeducational in 1971. President Daan Braveman plans to step down in 2020, so it’s possible Nazareth could return to female leadership then.

St. John Fisher, which started as a college for men, also went co-ed in the early 1970s and more than two decades later was led by Katherine Keough from 1996 until her death in 2006.

And Finger Lakes Community College was the first community college in the area to hire a female president: Barbara Risser, who served from 2007 to 2016.

The first woman to be president at Geneseo was Carol C. Harter, who served from 1989 to 1995, when she left to become president at University of Nevada, Los Vegas. There she became that institution’s longest-serving president.

Of 12 local schools, only Rochester Institute of Technology and Genesee Community College have never had a female president.

Diana Louise Carter

Alumna to take finance administration job at SUNY Geneseo

An alumna of SUNY Geneseo is returning to the college to become vice president for finance and administration.

Julie L. Buehler, who graduated from Geneseo in 1989 and later earned an MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, will begin her new job at Geneseo July 25.

Julie L. Buehler
Julie L. Buehler

Buehler has spent most of her career in higher education. She has been a consultant for the last few months, but was a vice chancellor for information services and strategy, and chief information officer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for nearly five years. Previously she worked at the University of Rochester in information technology for 24 years, rising to the position of deputy chief information officer. She is also a certified public accountant.

“I am very pleased to have Julie join SUNY Geneseo’s senior leadership team,” said Geneseo President Denise A. Battles. “She brings a unique breadth and depth of higher education experience as well as the ability to build relationships across campus, all of which will help us enhance our shared vision for the future. I look forward to working with her as she assumes this key leadership role.”

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Advancement chief at SUNY Geneseo leaves suddenly

K. Johnson Bowles has suddenly left her position as chief of advancement and the director of the Geneseo Foundation at the State University College at Geneseo.

College President Denise Battles announced the departure Friday morning in a campus community email, saying it was effective immediately. Bowles apparently left Thursday.

“I appreciate Ms. Bowles’ service to the College and wish her the best in her future endeavors,” Battles said.

By Friday afternoon, the college’s web site had been edited to remove several mentions of Bowles’ employment there, including listings on the pages for president’s cabinet and for the board of the foundation.

K. Johnson Bowles
K. Johnson Bowles

Gail Glover, chief communications and marketing office for the college said, “It was a leadership decision. But out of respect for a former colleague, I’m not going to discuss a personnel issue.”

Battles announced that Bowles’ interim successor will be Justin Johnston, assistant vice president for the department.

Bowles was hired as vice president of College Advancement in July 2016, about a year after Battles became president of the college. Bowles came to Geneseo from a job in advancement she held for a little less than two years at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C. With an education including master’s and bachelor’s degrees in fine arts, Bowles was director of the Longwood Center for Art and an assistant professor of art for 12 years at Longwood Univiersty in Farmville, Va.

She moved into administration and advancement after a year-long fellowship with the American Council for Education, serving for a little more than a year as an associate vice president at Longwood.

Battles had also been a fellow of the American Council for Education, but some years earlier than Bowles was in the program in 2012-2013.

Bowles is the sixth vice president or dean to leave in Battles’ tenure, with five of those departures happening in the last 16 months.

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Geneseo president announces dean shift

More than a week after many faculty members at the State College of New York at Geneseo and some students learned that the dean of business had been removed during winter break, the president has announced the change in leadership.

Geneseo President Denise A. Battles issued an announcement today (Friday, Jan. 12) saying that “Dr. Denise Rotondo is no longer serving as dean of the School of Business and has assumed the role of professor in that school.”

Battles announced that two other administrators will take over leadership, with Dr. Ken Kallio, interim association provost for personnel and diversity, taking on day-to-day operation of the School of Business, and Provost Stacey Robertson working with faculty and staff to appoint an interim dean and plan for long-term leadership of the school.

“I appreciate the three-and-a-half-years of service by Dr. Rotondo,” Battles said.

Rotondo was not immediately available for comment.

Business dean dismissed at SUNY Geneseo

According to faculty and alumni sources, the dean of the business school at the State University College at Geneseo has been removed from her administrative position by college President Denise A. Battles.

Rotondo (Credit: SUNY Geneseo)
Rotondo (Credit: SUNY Geneseo)

Neither Denise Rotondo, who has been dean at the business school since 2014, nor Battles, who came to Geneseo in 2015, were immediately available for comment. Apparently Rotondo is continuing on as a member of the faculty, but the specifics of that position were unavailable. A college spokesman said the administration plans to announce the change soon to the business school’s faculty and staff.

News has been circulating by email among faculty and alumni for several days, though, and that was met by shock.

“Two words: Surprise and disappointment,” said John Olert, an alumnus who lives in Somers, Westchester County, and has been a member of the school’s Business Advisory Council since 2010.  “I don’t understand how this was a good decision for the university or the business school.”

“This was a serious mistake on the part of our president,” said Harry Howe, an accounting professor who has been at SUNY Geneseo for 23 years. Howe said he believed the decision was based upon a misunderstanding on the part of the president that he wouldn’t detail. He ruled out, however, any financial and moral wrongdoing.

Rotondo “has been an enormous force for good in the school of business,” Howe said. “She has been absolutely galvanizing in terms of motivating faculty. She has been a real leader in developing our finance program.”

Olert said as a member of the college’s Business Advisory Council, he has met with Rotondo several times, most recently in October when he visited to offer career advice to current students.

“I think Denise was a breath of fresh air,” Olert said of the dean. She introduced a lot of initiatives, acted with transparency, and engaged alumni more than previous deans, he said.

Olert said his “having been somebody who worked for a company for a long time, who has actually hired undergraduates, that connection is really important.” He said he intends to withhold financial support for the college until he hears a rationale for the dismissal.

Howe said in comparable personnel shifts on campus “an awful lot of care was given to consultation with stakeholders.” In this case, he said, the action taken on Jan. 3 “has come as a complete shock for virtually anybody.”

“We are right in the middle of the calendar. We are days away from a thousand students showing up for spring classes. We are in the middle of many initiatives and plans for the school year and suddenly are leaderless,” Howe said.

During Rotondo’s tenure at Geneseo, she oversaw re-accreditation of the business school and the creation of a trading room for finance students.

Before coming to Geneseo, Rotondo worked as dean of business at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., where she also held the academic title of professor of management.

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