Robert T. Kreiling, Suffolk County Community College's second president, who helped the school develop into a three-campus institution that is now the largest in the state system, has died in Florida after a long illness. He was 85.
Kreiling, a longtime Westhampton Beach resident who moved south in retirement, died Aug. 12 at the Treasure Coast Hospice House in Port St. Lucie.
Kreiling led the college from 1983 to 1991, overseeing the expansion of new campuses in Riverhead and Brentwood. He established the honors program and campus day care programs, as well as remedial programs that helped more than 2,000 students. Kreiling Hall, a classroom building on the Selden campus, is named after him.
"His contribution to the college was enormous, and during his tenure the college grew exponentially," said John C. Gallagher, a former college dean and chief deputy county executive who once vied with Kreiling for SCCC's top job. SCCC now has 26,000 students.
Kreiling took the helm after serving as executive vice president, succeeding founding President Albert Ammerman, who opened the school's first campus in Selden in 1960. Kreiling joined the college staff in 1964 as a faculty member and held several administrative posts.
"To replace a founding president is not easy to do," said Kevin Peterman, faculty union president. "But he moved the institution forward and was one of its best presidents."
Friends recalled Kreiling as goal-oriented in expanding the college. But they also said he had the personality and finesse to persuade county lawmakers to fund expansion in an era when the county executive and legislature had the power to overhaul the college budget. Now, county officials can only decide the county's level of funding for the college, not how money is spent.
"He had a great credibility with lawmakers because he was a professional, competent and independent president who put education ahead of politics and resisted overt attempts to politicize the college," said Paul Sabatino, county legislative counsel when Kreiling led the school.
Born in Brooklyn, Kreiling grew up in Westhampton Beach. He married the former Marly Lucas in 1951 and they raised four children there. He also served lengthy stints as a village trustee and a Westhampton Beach school board member, including as board president.
Kreiling earned a bachelor's degree from the University at Albany and a master's degree from Columbia University. Before joining SCCC, Kreiling held faculty and administrative posts at Orange County Community College and Dutchess Community College, which he helped found in 1957.
Kreiling also was a skilled amateur woodworker and photographer. In retirement, he was involved in his neighborhood owners' association in Port St. Lucie. An avid golfer, he was also a longtime member of Westhampton Country Club, and later the Legacy Golf Club in Port St. Lucie.
Survivors include his wife; daughters Jean Kreiling of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and Nancy Kreiling Kingston of Nyack; a son, William Kreiling of Spotsylvania, Virginia; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughter, Susan Lawless.
Interment was private. The family requests donations be sent to Treasure Coast Hospice, 1201 SE Indian St., Stuart, FL 34997.