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Campus News

Hitchcock Tapped to Lead Queen’s University

by Greta Petry

Effective July 1, outgoing President Karen R. Hitchcock will become the first female and first American principal (the equivalent of president) of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, one of the most respected institutions of higher education in Canada.

Hitchcock, who has a Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Rochester, will become the university’s 18th principal and vice chancellor. She will also have the title of professor in cell biology and anatomy.

“I have been privileged to serve as president of such an exceptional University,” Hitchcock said at a farewell reception given in her honor May 7.

At the reception in the Campus Center Ballroom, the deans and vice presidents presented Hitchcock with a custom-designed version of the traditional commencement pin surrounded by 16 stones signifying her term of office as the University’s 16th president. The amethyst stones, which are purple, are set in 14-karat yellow gold. Her name and the years of her presidency are engraved on the back, and the box reads,

“Wear this close to your heart to remind you that you will always be close to ours.”

During the ceremony that preceded the presentation of gifts, Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology Richard Hall said that marks of Hitchcock’s “unforgettable legacy” are everywhere one looks on campus.

“Under her tenure the campus has changed,” he said. “We have new buildings, a new attitude, a new logo. She energized our new identity.”

Hall noted, “We did not have new buildings until Karen began to get the money in.” These new buildings “are here, they are ours, and they can’t be taken away,” he said.

He also said that Hitchcock demonstrated her sense of collegiality and consensus-building when she asked him to go out and talk to faculty, students, and trustees as part of the move to Division I athletics. “She wanted confirmation from all of us that it was the right decision,” Hall said, adding that she always wanted “what was good for the campus. She has been simply a marvelous president.”

Leonard A. Slade, Jr., professor and chair of the Department of Africana Studies, said, “Karen Hitchcock was the best president among all the presidents in my 40 years with the University.”

Slade went on to say that she is “a builder, a mover, and a shaker, a visionary who is not threatened by faculty who shine. She believes there is enough glory to go around.”

Adding that she is “down to earth” and “unpretentious,” he said that she “always stood her ground” in defending the faculty.

Collins Fellow Lynn Videka, chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Alcohol & Drug Prevention and a professor in the School of Social Welfare, said that by championing the work of the council, Hitchcock “embodied connected leadership.”

Winsome Foderingham Williams, instructional developer at the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, read a poem that she had written in Hitchcock’s honor, titled Visionary Pioneer. She was joined at the podium by Shai Brown, chair of the UAlbany Commission for Diversity and Affirmative Action, who said Hitchcock’s “door was always open,” and noted that she was a supporter of and a champion for justice and diversity.

Distinguished Service Professor of English Ronald Bosco said, “Today is a mixture of celebration and sadness.” He called Hitchcock a “woman of integrity, seriousness of purpose, and good sense.”

Collins Fellow and Associate Professor of Public Administration and Policy and Africana Studies Helen Desfosses noted that before Hitchcock took office, “the only [SUNY] campus that was doing worse” than UAlbany in terms of acquiring new buildings was Empire State College. She noted Hitchcock was one of the few university presidents in the nation to have served as president of a Chamber of Commerce.

“You have been our leader, our partner, and champion, and we will miss you,” Desfosses said.

Dean of Undergraduate Studies Sue Faerman announced the formation of the Karen R. Hitchcock New Frontiers Fund through the Initiatives For Women program. The new fund “is most decidedly a tribute to our 16th president,” Faerman said, adding, “This fund is an ongoing means of commemorating Karen’s enormous contributions to this institution, to our community, and to academe by providing scholarship awards to doctoral-level women whose work shows great promise for making a positive, transformational difference in our society.”

Dean Frank Thompson of Rockefeller College recalled interviews with candidates held when he was chairing the search committee that hired Hitchcock as vice president for academic affairs. Thompson said there was one faculty member in particular who would nod off “during less captivating performances” by candidates. Every now and then Thompson looked over to see if the faculty member was awake, because if he was, that meant a good candidate was on. When Karen Hitchcock walked in the room, “he looked like he had had a triple espresso,” Thompson said. “I knew at that point, we had a keeper.”

For the complete text of President Hitchcock's remarks, go to http://www.albany.edu/news/campus_news/2004/jun2004/khr_remarks.htm.