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NCC board approves Farmingdale State’s Keen as new president

Farmingdale State College President W. Hubert Keen at

Farmingdale State College President W. Hubert Keen at Farmingdale State College in East Farmingdale on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Keen's appointment as president of Nassau Community College is expected to be approved Wednesday night by NCC trustees. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Overcoming last minute objections from one member, Nassau Community College trustees on Wednesday approved a resolution appointing W. Hubert Keen president of the 22,000-student school beginning Aug. 1.

“We now have a president,” board chairman Jorge Gardyn said after the six trustees present — the minimum number required to fill the vacancy — finally all voted in favor.

Keen, 71, outgoing president of Farmingdale State College, was selected by trustees last month upon the recommendation of State University of New York officials to lead NCC, the largest single-campus community college in the public 64-campus system.

He would be paid a salary of $225,000 annually, according to state officials.

“We look forward with great anticipation to starting our new relationship with our president and moving the college forward,” Gardyn said before Wednesday night’s meeting.

Approving Keen’s employment contract is the last move required to secure a permanent president at NCC. It occurs in the same week that Nassau County legislators unanimously approved the college’s $211-million budget and the Philadelphia-based Middle States Commission on Higher Education is expected to decide on the status of NCC’s accreditation.

Gardyn thanked interim president Thomas P. Dolan for “his service to the college — let’s just say over a tumultuous year.”

The board also approved an amendment to Dolan’s contract allowing him to assist Keen in his transition and an accord permitting Keen to immediately move into the president’s house.

Trustee Anthony W. Cornachio initially refused to vote in favor of Keen’s contract because his cataracts prevented him from reading it and he wanted more time to study it. After his questions were answered by counsel in another executive session, Gardyn said, Cornachio joined his colleagues in approving the resolution.

Unlike other public boards, the college’s bylaws do not allow trustees to participate by telephone or video conference, and with four trustees absent the resolution would have failed without Cornachio’s turnaround.

Keen’s contract runs two years and can be renewed for a third year, Gardyn said.

He will be the first permanent president to take the helm at the school since the departure of Donald Astrab in 2012. Astrab was NCC president for 30 months and received two votes of no confidence by the Academic Senate.

John S. Nader, 60, the provost of upstate SUNY Delhi and a former mayor of Oneonta, will replace Keen at Farmingdale State College.

In an interview with Newsday earlier on Wednesday, Keen said he is looking forward to his appointment at NCC.

“Nassau Community College has a very strong educational foundation, dedicated faculty and staff,” Keen said. “They hold the mission to serve students as a very high priority and I look forward to working with them to advance the college’s interests. Their primary mission is to serve students who come to them for education and help them to develop in ways to advance their careers.”

The budget, which Dolan presented to county legislators on Monday, projects a 5 percent decline in enrollment, raises student tuition by $334 for the 2016-17 academic year and cuts eight temporary, full-time faculty members.

Over the last few months, Dolan has worked on addressing a report by the Middle States Commission, released in March, that found the college to be noncompliant with seven of 14 standards it uses to grant accreditation.

The decision on NCC’s accreditation status probably will not be available until after June 30, according to the group’s website. Losing accreditation would mean students might not be eligible for federal and state financial aid.

Dolan said a 15-member task force of volunteers from the faculty and administrators this month will hold its first meeting to work on bringing the college back into good standing with Middle States.

“I assume that things are going to get better and we will make progress,” said Cornachio, a longtime member of NCC’s board. “The faculty is working with the administration and it will turn out better and eventually we will be OK on Middle States.”

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