Though Richard P. Miller Jr.'s tenure at Hartwick was only five years, his legacy will be a financial landfall that steadied the college and allowed it to build, expand and aim higher.
His presence is what the college desperately needed. As Miller related to The Daily Star recently, when he arrived in 2003, the college wasn't in a position to borrow money, yet had many needs. But today, the endowment has risen from $47 million to $75 million and the college has undertaken numerous construction projects without having to borrow. Enrollment is also up, and Miller said the only limit is insufficient on-campus housing.
He's been met with success in most ventures during his five years, financially and otherwise.
To his credit, regarding his one major public failure "" downgrading men's soccer and women's water polo from Division I to Division III "" he took the blame rather than attack alumni and other supporters. "Presidents have to build a consensus on major issues," he said.
But a college's sole purpose, of course, is not fundraising or building. As some point, all that money and all those structures must serve an educational purpose, or rather, more of an educational purpose. This is not to say that Hartwick College is academically deficient.
But Miller's successor, Margaret L. Drugovich, has a firm background in academia, a mind-set that can taken Hartwick College on the next step as it strives for elite private-school status.
She, too, will have to build consensus, possibly on academic issues that Hartwick has not encountered before. Those situations will be a test of her political and leadership skills.
Drugovich will also have to tread carefully on any decision regarding men's soccer, a program with a national title on its resume. There is broad support among boosters and alumni for keeping D1 status, and surely a big-time program is a point of pride for such a small school. But the time may come to direct those resources elsewhere.
On that issue and others, Drugovich will likely have to strike a balance. With soccer, it will be selling the benefits of Division III without appearing to be indifferent to tradition. Construction and fundraising cannot be ignored lest Hartwick's financial footing crumble, but other focuses can be emphasized, rounding out the Hartwick experience.
But there is a sense of optimism for the college and for Oneonta. Having two strong colleges brings many benefits beyond increased attendance at the bars, and a booming Hartwick provides a private college option for those who may want to experience upstate, but not at a SUNY school.
Essentially, Drugovich enters at a time of prosperity and with high hopes for furthering such success.