Christian Named Presidential Finalist

Kenneth Abt announced last Tuesday that Interim President Donald Christian has been invited to interview with the New Paltz campus as a presidential finalist.

Approximately 10 months after he was appointed provost of SUNY New Paltz, Donald Christian was asked to leave his post to lead the college as interim president. Now, he has asked state leaders and the Presidential Search Committee to grant him the full time position.

Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and Chair of the New Paltz College Council Kenneth Abt announced last Tuesday that Christian has been invited to interview with the New Paltz campus as a presidential finalist. Former finalist and Lehman College Provost Mary Papazian rescinded her candidacy the next day, making her the fourth and last finalist from the original group to withdraw.

Papazian said when she was told last week that there was an internal candidate who had been asked by the committee to apply, she decided to end her pursuit of the presidency.

“There was no longer any reason for me to remain a candidate,” she said. “While I was on campus, I met with Dr. Christian and found him to be a fine gentleman. I am sure things will work out for the campus.”

Christian said he had been asked by members of the campus community to consider taking on the position on a longer term basis. Because he was an interim president, he could not be a finalist until he received the written permission of SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, according to state guidelines for conducting presidential searches.

At an open session with students Monday, Christian said he wants to build upon what he has done as an interim to make the campus a better place for students.

“One of my goals as an administrator is to provide that sort of opportunity for every student at New Paltz that makes moms and dads proud and that sets the stage for a very bright future for students,” he said.

The interim said he has plans that he wants and needs to execute if chosen as president, involving campus and state budgeting issues.

Christian said that the next president of the college will need to continue to make adjustments in a “reduced economy.” The interim president said he felt the budget reduction process used to meet a $6.3 million deficit was difficult to undertake, but that it was handled thoroughly and with great care.

“Building and leading that process was a real trial, but also a real gratification and reward,” he said.

Aside from continuing to gather the campus’ input regarding reductions, Christian said he would work to advocate increases in state support for SUNY and the campus. This includes furthering a push for a rational tuition policy to be instituted on campus.

The private fundraising campaign that the interim president and other campus officials is one that Christian said he wants to rev up next semester if he was chosen to be president.

Christian said officials have been raising private funds and the amount of funding the school receives from alumni.

“We need to step up the pace of that significantly,” he said. “We’re interested in scholarship support for students.”

Abt said the committee is continuing its work and will be bringing another candidate to campus next week.

Chief of Staff Shelly Wright, who is the staff liason to the Presidential Search Committee, said it is not uncommon for finalists in a presidential search to withdraw. She said the campus community shouldn’t be alarmed that the original finalists dropped out.

“We don’t think anyone should be overly discouraged,” she said. “The committee will continue to work hard to find the best president for the campus.”

Wright said the original phase of the search cost approximately $100,000. Zimpher agreed to extend the search after Joe Gow, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, and John Schreiber, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine, decided to remain in their current positions.