Edward Bonahue will be inaugurated Friday as the seventh president...

Edward Bonahue will be inaugurated Friday as the seventh president of Suffolk County Community College. Credit: Suffolk County Community College

Suffolk County Community College will officially inaugurate Edward Bonahue as its seventh president Friday, 10 months after he stepped into the role.

More than 500 local officials, college presidents, business and community leaders, and members of the school community will attend the ceremony in the Brentwood campus’ arena.

A native of Setauket and a graduate of Ward Melville High School, Bonahue, 56, already has become enmeshed in strategic planning for the SUNY system’s largest community college. His tenure must contend with a steady and steep decline in enrollment and two years of operating amid a pandemic.

Bonahue, who has a PhD in English Literature and was previously provost and vice president for academic affairs at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, said he is leading “a collegewide ‘Call to Conversation’ …. to engage all college personnel in a strategic planning process for priority action.”

In his first months, he said he has been in discussions with local four-year universities to streamline the process by which community college students can transfer to get a bachelor’s degree. And he said he is engaging with local business groups to strengthen workforce training programs and advisory committees of regional employers.

“We cannot successfully prepare students for careers without the guidance and support of the business community,” said Bonahue, who has been named to the board of the Hauppauge Industrial Association-Long Island. 

He replaced interim president Louis Petrizzo last June after being named president last April. Petrizzo, previously the college counsel, filled the post after the school’s board of trustees terminated the contract of the previous president, Shaun McKay, 15 months before his contract was due to expire.

 So far, Bonahue has earned the praise of the faculty association, which represents more than 1,500 teachers, of which 410 are full-time faculty and the rest adjuncts. 

“He currently has what we think is an excellent draft for a vision for the institution that will put Suffolk Community College in a good place for the future,” said Dante Morelli, union president and a professor of communication studies, noting it would address issues of enrollment and student retention “to make sure students can stay and finish their coursework.”

Student enrollment at the college's Brentwood, Selden and Riverhead campuses continued its decline this 2021-2022 academic year, when 20,570 students enrolled in the fall semester and 14,021 in the spring. In 2020-2021, enrollment fell from 22,579 in fall to 15,717 in spring, while in pre-COVID 2018-19, enrollment fell from 26,089 in fall to 19,730 in spring.

Morelli said Bonahue has sought input and been visible and engaged. “Dr. Bonahue has spent a great deal of time getting to know students and faculty on the three campuses,” he said.

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