University at Albany Inaugurates Robert J. Jones as its 19th President
New Chief Executive Declares Four Priorities for UAlbany
President Robert J. Jones chats with UAlbany students last Februrary, one month after assuming the leadership of the University.
ALBANY, N.Y. (September 28, 2013) — For the 19th time since its founding in 1844, the University at Albany has inaugurated a new president. Today, Robert J. Jones, Ph.D., was formally installed as president at a ceremony in the University's Performing Arts Center. In his inaugural address before a packed theater of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community and business leaders, President Jones outlined his vision for UAlbany.
"My goal is for UAlbany to become the university of choice for high school juniors and seniors. And not just those thinking about SUNY, but also major research universities across the country and around the world," Jones said.
He explained UAlbany would achieve this goal by focusing on four key priorities:
Expand degree-granting programs to include areas such as engineering, big data analytics, and allied health sciences to meet demands in high-growth, high-needs areas.
Increase recruitment of out-of-state and international students to ensure the diversity of perspectives that equips students to succeed in today’s global society.
Deepen the University’s engagement with the Capital Region, New York State and the world, forging partnerships to solve society’s most pressing issues.
Strengthen the University’s financial resources, tripling external funding for cutting-edge research, and doubling the University at Albany Foundation’s endowment through gifts from alumni, parents, and friends that support students, faculty, and academic programs.
During his address, Jones lauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for advancing two key initiatives, NYSUNY 2020 and START-UP NY. The University’s NYSUNY 2020 plan, approved by the Governor in December 2012, represents the largest expansion of UAlbany’s capacity in decades. The plan adds 187 new faculty members over the next five years—a 30 percent increase in educators and researchers in cutting-edge fields. START-UP NY will attract businesses from across the nation and around the globe by offering opportunities to operate tax-free while collaborating with world-class researchers at SUNY institutions.
Jones called UAlbany “the best kept secret in all of higher education” and asked students, parents, alumni and friends to help tell the University’s story. He emphasized the institution’s momentum, citing recent milestones such as:
A new $64 million School of Business building that provides students with a state-of-the-art learning environment;
A new four-year undergraduate degree program in digital forensics—the first of its kind in New York and only the third in the nation—that will leverage the expertise of several of the University’s colleges to create the nation’s cyber-security leaders;
A new home for The RNA Institute, an open-source biomedical technology facility that makes UAlbany an international leader in the design of RNA technologies and drug therapies for the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and HIV/AIDS; and
A long-awaited multi-sports complex featuring a stadium, track & field facility, and Bob Ford Field, which drew more than 10,000 fans to its opening football game.
In honor of President Jones and his wife, Dr. Lynn Hassan Jones, the Board of Directors of The University at Albany Foundation has created the Robert J. Jones and Lynn Hassan Jones Inaugural Scholarship Fund, with the goal of building the fund to $1 million. At a pre-inauguration dinner that served as a fundraiser for student scholarships, President Jones announced that he and Dr. Hassan Jones would donate $100,000 to the fund.
The pledge pays tribute to the long road that brought Jones from a boyhood on a sharecroppers’ farm in Georgia to his new calling as the 19th president of the University at Albany. The same road took Jones from a Ph.D. in plant physiology, to a life as a faculty member and researcher, to a role as a facilitator in Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s South African Education Program, and to key leadership positions at the University of Minnesota. President and Dr. Jones hope their donation will spark additional gifts to provide critical scholarship support for deserving students.
The inauguration of President Jones capped off Celebrate & Advance, a week-long series of events designed to honor the University’s past while advancing plans for its future. The diverse roster included a presentation by the activist daughters of Desmond Tutu, a performance by Broadway star Carolee Carmello '83, a reading by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Gilbert King, a panel discussion with key Obama campaign advisors David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Jon Favreau, plus events highlighting research and scholarship, academic and campus life, diversity, and community engagement and humanitarianism.
Robert J. Jones, who was appointed UAlbany’s 19th president in November 2012 after a nationwide search, took office in January 2013. He previously served as senior vice president for academic administration at the University of Minnesota System. Prior to that, President Jones spent more than 15 years in key administrative leadership positions at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, including vice president and executive vice provost for faculty and academic programs; vice provost for faculty and academic personnel; and president of the University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Park Development, LLC.
A native of Dawson, Georgia, President Jones has more than three decades of higher education leadership experience as well as academic expertise spanning plant physiology and urban and international development. He earned his graduate degree in crop physiology from the University of Georgia, and a doctorate from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is an internationally recognized authority on plant physiology and has published numerous scientific papers, manuscripts and abstracts. During the course of his career, he has trained and mentored many students who have gone on to leading careers in higher education and the private and not-for-profit sectors.
President Jones currently serves as Regional Council Co-Chair for the Capital Region Economic Development Council (CREDC). He has been a visiting professor and featured speaker in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, and from 1984 to 1994 served as an academic and scientific consultant for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s South African Education Program. In 2010, he was awarded a University of Minnesota endowed chair in urban and international development; he was also named a recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).