Teacher and student


“There is no question in my mind that our faculty is the core strength of this institution.”

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When John Toll came to Stony Brook University as its second President in 1965, only three years after the campus opened here, he came with an unreserved vision for change that would forever alter the course of this institution to create a state and national leader in higher education. At the time, we had only 2,800 students, nine graduate programs and 18 buildings. It was not only a period of great growth but also of the beginning of our commitment to excellence, as our fledging campus began to attract the likes of world renowned biologist Bentley Glass as the University’s first distinguished professor and Academic Vice President; C.N. Yang as the Einstein Professor of Physics; and a 30-year-old Jim Simons to create a world-class mathematics department (photos).

The University that you see today has come a long way and continues to flourish on some of the same fundamental principles of excellence that were established under President Toll and the other outstanding leaders of this young but vibrant institution. I am extremely proud to carry the torch of this esteemed University as its President because I believe, like others before me, that we are destined for a level of academic prominence and student success beyond where we are today.

All hype aside, we are a world-class institution, with world-class students, faculty, and staff, and we will continue along a pathway that may sometimes seem as if it is a series of never-ending periods of transition. But, we will, and we must, keep moving forward. Our destiny demands it.

Student Profile
I know that you expect to hear this every year, and I never get tired of saying it, because it’s true: Stony Brook University continues to attract better and better and better students each year.

Once again, our freshman class ranks among the best in our institutional history. Almost 27,000 first-year students applied for a class of approximately 2,500 freshmen, and this year, we accepted only 39% of those who applied. As one indicator of the increasing quality of our students, the SAT scores of regular admitted Stony Brook freshmen have continued to improve over the past decade. Preliminary data show that the scores of this year’s class are 16 points higher than those of last year’s students, and we have witnessed an increase of nearly 100 points in our freshmen SAT scores since the year 2000.

The ethnic and geographical diversity of our incoming class of students is outstanding. According to admission records, 32% of our freshmen are Asian, which equals our population of white students; 9% percent are Hispanic, 9% are of other international origin, and 5% are black. The remaining percentages include students of two or more ethnicities or are unknown. Additionally, the number of out-of-state freshmen increased to 21% from 18% last year.

While our performance in this area has been outstanding, we will be facing new challenges in continuing to attract the best and the brightest students to Stony Brook University.  The number of high school seniors in New York State and the nation will be declining significantly over the coming decade, so competition will increase for the best students.   I will be working with our new Provost, Dennis Assanis, the Vice President for Student Affairs, Peter Baigent, Matt Whelan, our Associate Provost for Admissions and Financial Aid, and Bill Arens, Dean of International Studies, as we make a significant investment in new recruitment initiatives, designed to target outstanding high school students in selected regions in the U.S. and abroad.  

Faculty Accomplishments
Along with taking pride in the quality of our students, we are also extremely proud of our faculty and the distinction that they bring to this institution. I am proud to take a few moments to share with you some of their noteworthy accomplishments since our last Convocation. If any of these individuals are present, I ask that you stand when I call your name:

  • Dr. John Milnor, Professor of Mathematics and Co-director of the Institute for Mathematical Sciences, was awarded the $1 million Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters “for pioneering discoveries in topology, geometry and algebra.”

  • Drs. Agnes Weiyun He, Sachiko Murata, and Jeffrey A. Segal were chosen from among a group of almost 3,000 candidates as 2011 Guggenheim Fellows. Currently Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, Dr. He is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies; Dr. Murata is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Program in Japanese Studies; And Dr. Segal is a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science.
  • Stony Brook professors Jorge L. Benach, Jessica Gurevitch, and Dmitri E. Kharzeev were recognized early in the spring as 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows. Dr. Benach is Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases; Dr. Gurevitch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolution; and Dr. Kharzeev is Professor of Physics and Astronomy and a prominent scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
  • Dr. Alfredo Fontanini, an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, was named by President Obama as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the U.S. government to science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
  • Dr. Danny Bluestein, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, was awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant by the National Institutes of Health. The award marks the first time a Stony Brook professor received a Phase II Quantum Grant, given by The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), a division of the NIH.
  • Dr. Balaji Sitharaman, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, was a 2010 recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. Only a select group of early-career biomedical researchers nationwide receive this award, which includes a 5-year $1.5 million grant.

There is no question in my mind that our faculty is the core strength of this institution. A challenge going forward is our need to recruit and retain outstanding faculty members, even when our resources are limited. I will address that issue in more detail in just a minute.  


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