“We just admitted our best class ever, in terms of GPA and SAT scores. I have had the privilege of saying that every year for the past three years, and hope I can say it again next year.”
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One of the Most Distinguished Faculties in the World
I want to say one more thing about faculty before I turn to our amazing students. I said before that we have the most distinguished faculty in SUNY and one of the most distinguished faculties in the world. This past year we recruited two members of the National Academy of Engineering, Dennis Assanis and Esther Takeuchi, to Stony Brook. Also, one of the world’s leading virologists, Eckard Wimmer, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dennis Choi, a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), joined our faculty; Ben Hsiao, Lorna Role, Peter Stephens and George Sterman were elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); and Jeff Segal was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Ken Dill, Eugene Feinberg and Sanjay Sampath were elected SUNY Distinguished Professors.
This is part of a tradition of faculty excellence that includes three Nobel laureates and an Abel Prize winner. It’s a small thing, but I want to do something to honor the faculty who have done so much and brought such renown to the University. We will create a faculty wall of honor in the Melville Library that acknowledges our Nobel laureates; Abel Prize winner; all our National Academy members; AAAS, AAA and IOM members; and SUNY Distinguished Professors. I hope this will serve as an inspiration to all of us and remind everyone of what a special place Stony Brook University is.
Our Commitment to Students
Three years ago I spoke about our students and how unique they were. We just admitted our best class ever, in terms of GPA and SAT scores. I have had the privilege of saying that every year for the past three years, and hope I can say it again next year. The competition to get into Stony Brook University is intense, and we are the sixth most selective school among public universities in the Association of American Universities (AAU). Only Berkeley, UCLA, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Virginia and UC San Diego are more selective than Stony Brook University. That is good company.
But what sets us apart from almost all of our AAU peers is our commitment to economically disadvantaged students. Only one school among the 61 AAU members has a higher proportion of Pell Grant-eligible students than Stony Brook University. Many of the students are the first generation to go to college, and many are the children of recent immigrants or new arrivals to the United States themselves. And they have amazing stories.
Three years ago at the time of my inauguration, I did not know the personal stories of our students nor the incredible obstacles many have overcome to get to Stony Brook and graduate. But since then I have learned some of their stories, and they are inspiring — students like Jataya McCray, one of our Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students, who was raised by her grandmother and was the first in her family to attend college. She was not admitted to EOP at first, but continued to apply until a space was open. She graduated from Stony Brook in May 2010 with honors and a 3.7 GPA and continued on to receive her Master of Social Work degree here in spring 2011.
Students like Charles Rico from Woodside, Queens, who also was the first of his family to attend college. He was part of a close-knit group of 11 friends growing up, but as they progressed through high school many lost their way to gang activity, crime and drugs, and only Charles and one friend chose to pursue higher education. Charles became an outstanding campus leader, involved in multiple service organizations. I crowned him Homecoming King in 2010, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology in May 2011.
Or Stephen Healy, a New York City Fire Department lieutenant, who was badly injured in the fall of the first tower at the World Trade Center on September 11. After retiring from the Fire Department, and a prolonged recovery, Stephen Healy decided to commit himself to furthering his education — he enrolled first at Suffolk Community College, then transferred to Stony Brook. He graduated in December 2010 with a BA in economics. Or Kadeem Hylton, one of our EOP students, the first in his family to pursue a degree who became a campus leader. He interned with Assemblyman Carl Heastie (a Stony Brook alum) and graduated in December 2011 to pursue a career in education.
These are only four of the many stories I have heard, and I must say these students inspire me every day. And when it was time for Stony Brook University to submit its NYSUNY 2020 plan, it was those students and their stories that made us take the extra step to preserve access to Stony Brook. We chose to meet the dollar gap between the increased tuition and New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program for all students with family incomes less than $75,000 per year. No other SUNY school is doing this — but it is the right thing to do, and we are proud to do it.