Three-Time Rockefeller Alum Named 14th SUNY Chancellor 

Jim Malatras

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras visits the University at Albany on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. (photo by Patrick Dodson/UAlbany)

UAlbany News Release

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 26, 2020) — UAlbany-educated Jim Malatras, the president of SUNY Empire, was named the 14th chancellor of the State University of New York on Friday, leading the largest system of universities, colleges and community colleges in the United States.

Malatras, who received his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in political science from UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, is the first SUNY grad to lead the 64-campus institution. He succeeds Kristina Johnston, who was named president of Ohio State University in September.

“Jim Malatras exemplifies the heights to which an education at the University at Albany can take you,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “From Dr. Malatras’ time here on campus, to his key role as an advisor to the governor and a past SUNY chancellor, to his tenure as president of SUNY Empire State College, we’ve had a front-row seat as he has worked to strengthen public education in New York."

The SUNY Board of Trustees, foregoing its traditional national search for a chancellor, cited Malatras’ “decades of experience solving complex fiscal, operational and societal issues at the highest levels of government and academia.” The board called him the right person for these trying times, which include serious fiscal challenges, a worldwide health crisis and deep racial justice and societal issues.

“Higher education is facing a critical moment in our history, amplified by a pandemic that has nearly paralyzed our nation and now, more than ever, we need a visionary leader and one with deep financial and operational expertise to face our challenges head on, and that is exactly what we have with Dr. Malatras,” SUNY Chairman Merryl H. Tisch and SUNY Vice Chairman Cesar Perales said in a joint statement. “With his proven experience, deep connection with our campuses as a SUNY graduate, and a strong relationship with Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature, Dr. Malatras is ready and well positioned to tackle a wide range of issues impacting our campuses now, while implementing a vision of affordability, accessibility for all, and expanding SUNY’s prominence as a world-renowned institution.”

Rockefeller College Dean R. Karl Rethemeyer called it exciting to have an alum at the helm of SUNY, and said he looks forward to the kinds of partnership-building that Malatras is known for.

“During his time as president of Rockefeller Institute of Government, Dr. Malatras created the Center for Law and Policy Solutions, a multi-institutional initiative that gave UAlbany students opportunities to work on pressing policy problems and then present their analysis to leading policymakers from state and local government,” Rethemeyer said. “I expect we will see similar efforts to build partnerships between SUNY institutions, government and the community under Dr. Malatras’ leadership. We are very proud to call him a three-time alum of the Rockefeller College.”

Malatras called it “an incredible honor” to lead the SUNY system.

“I can say confidently that I know the value of a public higher education because I’m a product of the SUNY system. I wouldn’t be where I am today without UAlbany and the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy,” Malatras said. “I was given opportunities to not only learn about government, but to work in government to make change — be it the state legislature, attorney general’s office, governor’s office, or even internationally working for the Hungarian Ministry of Justice. Those doors of opportunity were unlocked because of my SUNY experience, allowing a kid from a working class family to enter into the highest levels of public service. I’m grateful to the incredible faculty who taught me and served as role models along the way — and I look forward to working with them and others like them across the SUNY system to unlock more doors for more students throughout New York State and beyond.”

Since May 2019, Malatras has been president of SUNY Empire State College, where he worked to strengthen partnerships with community colleges and directed the college’s efforts to be more inclusive. That led to the establishment of The Center for Autism Inclusivity, The Shirley Chisholm Center for Equity Studies and the Empire Opportunity Program, a statewide program offering financial aid and academic support for students from historically underserved backgrounds.

Prior to that, he was president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government, where he led a modernization effort to offer policymakers evidence-based policy analysis and recommendations on timely topics.

Malatras also served as a SUNY vice chancellor and senior advisor to Chancellor Emeritus Nancy L. Zimpher during her tenure as SUNY rebounded from the 2008-2009 financial crisis. He helped oversee a cost-reduction strategy to return $100 million in administrative costs toward academic programming and student services.

He has held high-ranking positions in Governor Cuomo’s administration, including director of state operations and deputy secretary for policy management. Most recently, he has held a highly visible role on Cuomo’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Malatras’ wife, Jennifer Weil Malatras, is the associate director for child services at UAlbany’s Psychological Services Center and a clinical psychologist who received her PhD from UAlbany. The couple has two children.

While Jim Malatras’ appointment as chancellor officially begins on Aug. 31, he has begun touring campuses and examining COVID protocols. 

Malatras will be paid $450,000 a year as chancellor, which reflects his request for a 25 percent pay cut. The remaining $170,000 will go each year to the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program for underrepresented students and PRODiG program to increase faculty diversity across SUNY campuses. Malatras also gets a $60,000 annual housing stipend.