Vincent O'Leary Forged New Directions and Instilled UAlbany with Confidence and Pride
Vincent O'Leary, who led the University at Albany as president from 1977 to 1990 at a time of major transformation, died Friday, April 22 in Gaithersburg, Maryland, following complications after a fall. He was 86.
"We have lost a great educator, colleague, supporter and friend of the University. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," said UAlbany President George M. Philip.
He instilled UAlbany with a sense of confidence and pride.
O'Leary assumed the UAlbany presidency at a time of financial constraints, but he forged new directions that continue to shape the University today.
"Through his acumen and charm, President O'Leary instilled the campus with a new sense of confidence and pride in its mission," said Philip.
Under O'Leary's guidance, Ph.D. programs were restored and other programs that gained national prominence were developed under the banner of the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. In partnership with the revered New York State Commissioner of Health, Dr. David Axelrod, O'Leary also created the School of Public Health, a unique program in the nation, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
O'Leary oversaw the University's first international exchange efforts in research and scholarship and a four-fold increase in external research funding. He approved the first expansion of residential housing on the uptown campus, the construction of the University's first athletic house - known now as the SEFCU Arena - and the Science Library.
During his tenure, he witnessed the growth of diversity on America's campuses and responded dynamically, successfully promoting increased numbers of people of color in faculty, staff, and the student body. When racial tensions grew in the late 1980s, his administration created initiatives to ease tensions and to promote understanding.
O'Leary was a nationally recognized scholar in the criminal justice fields of probation and parole when he first joined the faculty at UAlbany in 1968 as a professor in the newly organized School of Criminal Justice, the first Ph.D.-granting criminal justice program in the nation. He later served as dean of the School of Criminal Justice prior to assuming the UAlbany presidency. He returned to the faculty after completing his tenure as president.
"My father enjoyed the many friendships he made at Albany," said his daughter Beth O'Leary.
A California native, O'Leary earned degrees at San Francisco State College and the University of Washington. He served as assistant director of President Johnson's National Crime Commission, director of research and policy of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, director of parole supervision for the State of Texas and chief probation and parole officer for the State of Washington. He had extensive experience as a consultant in organizational development and published and lectured extensively in his areas of expertise.
After his retirement, he and his wife Lihua lived in San Mateo, CA, and five years ago moved to Gaithersburg where they became active members of the Asbury Methodist Village retirement community. He and several friends there formed a lively bi-weekly seminar for discussing a wide range of topics, including politics and current events.
He is survived by his wife, Lihua Yu O'Leary; two daughters, Beth O'Leary and Cathy Goldwyn; three stepchildren, Lena Sun, Eugene Sun and Anna Sun; and ten beloved grandchildren.
His family requests that, in lieu of flowers, gifts in Vincent O'Leary's memory be made to the University he loved so much through the University at Albany Foundation.
Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 58 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit http://www.albany.edu/. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.