More than 30,000 students have graduated since Alan B. Donovan became president at the State University College at Oneonta in 1988.
Millions of dollars have been contributed to the college's endowment in the past two decades, and for several years, administrators have boasted of attracting better students.
Donovan, 70, announced his retirement in September and leaves office officially today. He has steered the college through change, some turmoil as well as physical and programmatic improvements at the campus.
``Alan Donovan has been a visionary for the college,'' said David Brenner, retired SUCO administrator and former Oneonta mayor. He attributed Donovan's success to identifying goals and finding funding and people to support the projects.
Donovan earns $202,000 annually. On Monday, Nancy Kleniewski, most recently provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bridgewater State in Massachusetts, will start her term as SUCO's seventh president at a salary of $205,000.
SUCO is a public liberal arts college that enrolls about 5,800 undergraduate and graduate students. The college has about 250 full-time and 190 part-time faculty, according to its website.
Donovan said notable changes in 20 years have been advancements in technology, including access to the Internet; a more-competitive admissions process; and more reliance by the state on tuition to fund higher education.
During Donovan's tenure, the college also has expanded multicultural programs, responded to times of student violence in downtown Oneonta and racial tensions on campus.
SUCO also has reached into the greater Oneonta area and surrounding communities through the Center for Economic and Community Development and the Center for Social Responsibility and Community and been host to cultural programs in its theaters, Hunt College Union and Alumni Field House.
At commencement ceremonies in May, Carl T. Hayden, chairman of the State University Board of Trustees, described Donovan's tenure as transformational.
Paul J. Adamo, vice president for college advancement and executive director of the College at Oneonta Foundation, said he has gone to hundreds of appointments with Donovan to speak with alumni and organizations to seek financial support for SUCO.
The endowment was $1.9 million when Donovan joined SUCO in 1988, Adamo said, and it has grown to $30 million.
``Dr. Donovan was focused on excellence for all areas of the college, especially financial management,'' Adamo said Thursday.
With an endowment now more than twice as large as any peer institution, SUCO has a valuable recruiting tool in renewable scholarships as well as resources to support campus programs, he said.
As for retirement, Donovan and his wife, Annie, plan to continue living in a house they built in the town of Laurens. He said he plans to do a radio program and continue serving on community boards.
20 years of successes
Donovan joined SUCO on July 15, 1988, at a salary of $90,000. He previously was an administrator at three large state systems and started his career as a professor. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Williams College, and he earned a doctoral degree in American studies at Yale University. SUCO search committee members who recommended hiring him described him as decision-maker who built a sense of community, even in trying circumstances.
SUCO colleagues described Donovan in a similar light.
``He continually emphasized that he is a `team player,''' Brenner said Thursday. ``What he doesn't say is that he built that team over the last two decades and staffed it with dedicated people. The results have been a better and stronger college.''
Donovan lead the college through episodes that could have been disastrous for the institution, said Edward R. Wesnofske, a retired professor and faculty representative.
For example, reaction to the ``black list'' incident could have resulted in more upheaval than it did, Wesnofske said, but Donovan was ``fairly successful'' in resolving issues, though ``nobody was satisfied completely.''
Years of controversy and litigation were sparked in 1992 when an administrator, acting as president while Donovan was absent due to health reasons, released the names of black male students to police investigating a burglary near the campus.
Donovan said the "black list" was a learning experience that added impetus to on-going efforts to increase diversity on campus and to open the multicultural center.
Wesnofske said Donovan also addressed neighbors' concerns about construction of Alumni Field House, tempering those upset about it. ``He had a fair amount of savvy getting through some difficult situations,'' Wesnofske said this week.
Since joining SUCO as a sociology professor in 1966, Wesnofske worked under three presidents and an acting president. At times during Donovan's tenure, Wesnofske served as chairman of the College Senate and president of United University Professions.
Donovan has great social skills, Wesnofske said, remembers names and can schmooze with any almost any audience. Donovan dealt fairly well with the union and acknowledged issues about course load, Wesnofske said, and elevated the academic bar of the college.
``Overall, he's done a very good job to meet the challenges of the time,'' Wesnofske added. ``He was good for Oneonta,''
Academic gains made
Donovan said SUCO has become a more-academically attractive college because as the application pool grew, the admissions office could be more selective in offering acceptance. Of about 12,600 freshman applications this year, about 38 percent were accepted, he said.
In 1990, SUCO received about 11,500 applications, then an all-time high, and offered freshman admission to about 4,400 candidates, officials said that year, when tuition was $1,350.
Students today pay $4,350 in tuition, Donovan said.
Donovan would go out of his way to talk to students, who found him charismatic, said Dean McGowan, Student Association president and a senior majoring in communications. Students recognize and talk about the improvements at the college, he said.
``Dr. Donovan definitely did a great job,'' McGowan said Thursday. ``Students loved him.''
Adam K. Ryburn, presiding officer of the faculty and chairman of the College Senate, said he considers SUCO a large family and Donovan as the patriarch and wishes him ``all the best'' on behalf of the faculty.
``Like any family, we occasionally have our differences, and like any good head of family, Dr. Donovan has always done what he thinks is best for the college,'' Ryburn, a biology professor, said. ``Because of this, Dr. Donovan's tenure at SUNY Oneonta has been as successful as any SUNY president in recent memory and thus has garnered the respect of the college and the university community.''
Brenner said Donovan has been a team player in the local community, recently completing three terms on the A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta board and continuing service on the Opportunities For Otsego board of directors.
``He is truly an outstanding person who not only `talks the talk, he walks the walk' _ and he does it with great cheer and optimism,'' Brenner said. ``The college and the Oneonta community have been fortunate to have Alan Donovan among us.''