SUNY Plattsburgh Part of New Chancellor’s Whirlwind Tour
Chancellor John King Jr. walks to Hudson Hall with SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi during the chancellor's March 24 visit to campus.
The chancellor of the State University of New York visited SUNY Plattsburgh Friday on his 64-campus whistle stop tour where he met with a number of campus and community members from a variety of constituencies.
John King Jr., the 15th chancellor of the university system, began his half day on campus March 24 meeting members of the Plattsburgh College Council and students and staff in the Center for Cybersecurity and Technology in Au Sable Hall. He visited the newly refurbished Damianos Nursing Skills Lab in Hawkins Hall where he talked about the importance of increasing enrollment and making sure every high school senior knows there’s a place for them at the table within the SUNY system
Visiting the Center for Earth and Environmental Science, King met with faculty and students, who told him how they ended up at Plattsburgh generally and CEES specifically. Several went the community college route and “hated it,” as environmental science major Devin DeSantis said.
“I just hated it. But I followed a girl up to Plattsburgh and loved it. We’re no longer together, but I have no regrets about coming up here,” he said.
After a misstart in business, he found his passion in environmental science. Parker LeClair echoed that sentiment.
LeClair, an Elizabethtown, N.Y., native, crisscrossed the country, going out West for a while before eventually returning East and enrolling in environmental science at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“I’d run out of money, and SUNY Plattsburgh was an affordable option,” he said. “It was the best thing to have happened to me. I love the program and the faculty here.”
“You found your passion,” King said.
King’s visit took him across campus for a visit with Educational Opportunity Program students, a tour of the Student Health and Counseling Center and University Police, and a meeting with members of faculty and staff leadership.
In the Kyla Relaford Room in Macomb Hall, faculty and staff sat with King and told him their concerns and insights into being members of the SUNY Plattsburgh community, including adequate funding and resources, the deactivation of Online SUNY and the struggles felt by the humanities programs. For his part, King said he became an educator because of the role of education in his life.
Public School ‘Saved Me’
The former U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama administration told those faculty and staff gathered there that “school saved me. Teachers in the New York City public school system saved me.”
By the time King was 12, both his parents had passed away: his mother when he was 8, and his father when he was 12. Teachers at P.S. 276 and Mark Twain Junior High School saw something in him that gave him hope for the future, he said. He made it his goal to be an educator who made that kind of an impact on students’ lives.
The trajectory of his life proves he has succeeded. Before being appointed chancellor in early December 2022, King served as president of The Education Trust, a national civil rights nonprofit which seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps for students from preschool through college.
State Commissioner of Education
In addition to his post as education secretary, King has served as New York’s first African American and Puerto Rican education commissioner, overseeing all elementary and secondary schools, public, independent and proprietary colleges and universities, professional licensure, libraries, museums and numerous other educational institutions across the state.
He began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher and middle school principal. The 48-year-old earned his bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University, a master’s and doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
To Visit All 64 Campuses
“This is visit 30 of 64 campuses toured so far this semester,” King told the group of leaders. “I will get to all 64 by the first of May; these visits are an opportunity to learn as I visit classrooms, meet students and faculty and get a sense of the diversity of students and offerings.
“It is my belief that SUNY is the best higher education system in the country. We’ve got to do a better job getting that message out,” King said.
One way will be through a new initiative King discussed during his visit that will open admissions to other SUNY campuses if a student didn’t get into the University of Buffalo or Stony Brook, for instance.
“So if a student applies but doesn’t get in, we’ll admit them elsewhere,” he said. “We’ll reach out to these students to say, ‘You didn’t get into UB? We have a program that matches at SUNY Plattsburgh. Why don’t you come here. There’s a place for you here.’”
By Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs