Stony Brook University is the largest single-site employer in the region...

Stony Brook University is the largest single-site employer in the region

  Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Officials with the SUNY system are expected to appoint an interim leader for Stony Brook University in a timely manner, but the search for a permanent new president will probably take months.

Maurie McInnis, 58, who has served as Stony Brook’s president for the past four years, announced she is stepping down to become president of Yale University on July 1. McInnis served as executive vice president and provost of the University of Texas at Austin before coming to Stony Brook, replacing Samuel L. Stanley, who stepped down in May 2019 to become the president of Michigan State University.

Kevin Law, chairman of the Stony Brook Council, who chaired the search committee when McInnis was selected, will again serve as chairman in the search for her replacement, he said Thursday. SUNY's leadership will make the final decision among candidates that the search committee and council have vetted. Details of the search process and candidates will remain confidential. 

“I expect we're going to have a very robust pool of candidates,” Law said. “We're not going to rush things for the sake of expedience. We want to get things done right — not necessarily quick.”

Stony Brook's president oversees not only the school with more than 25,000 students, but also Stony Brook Medicine, which includes five health sciences schools, four hospitals and more than 200 community-based health care settings.

Under McInnis’s leadership, Stony Brook was named the anchor institution of The New York Climate Exchange research center on Governors Island, awarded one of the largest gifts to a university in American history with a $500 million unrestricted endowment from the Simons Foundation, and achieved its highest rankings in U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges listings.

“We know Stony Brook is deeply committed to The Exchange and will continue to push the project forward under new leadership,” said Stephen Hammer, Climate Exchange chief executive.

SUNY Chancellor John King is expected to make a recommendation on an interim president to the Board of Trustees in a timely manner while the search process gets underway.

United University Professions president Frederick E. Kowal said it is important the search committee brings in candidates who have had experience working with unionized staff. He also said the recruitment process should be open and include representatives from all areas of the university — not just academics but professionals from the hospitals as well.

“I hold for the idea of an open process and one that is transparent and let's make sure we get the best possible person through an open process,” Kowal said.

University leaders nationwide have faced increasing scrutiny over the handling of Gaza-related protests and a host of other issues. They have been grilled by congressional leaders, some have been forced to step down and several have faced the wrath of angry donors.

McInnis faced mounting criticism for the arrests of 29 pro-Palestinian protesters on campus earlier this month. The Stony Brook University Faculty Senate narrowly defeated a motion to censure McInnis for her handling of the arrests.

Leading a university “is not easy now. All of the demonstrations and protests and strife on campuses — that adds a dimension that is relatively new,” said Stuart Rabinowitz, who led Hofstra University for nearly two decades and retired in 2021. “But I don't think that's insurmountable. it depends on the school … The Stony Brook position is very attractive and will be very attractive to the kind of people that Stony Brook wants.”

Stony Brook is the largest single site employer in the region and “it's absolutely pivotal that the search committee gets it right,” said Matt Cohen, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association.

The school's reputation has grown worldwide and the next leader should exemplify similar characteristics of McInnis — to be innovative and not afraid to take big swings, he said. 

“The expectation is the next person will take the baton and continue to put Stony Brook on the map,” Cohen said.

Rabinowitz believes there will be no problem finding a successful candidate given the upward trajectory of Stony Brook. 

“The job of the new president is to take it from a very high level to an even a higher level,” he said. “It's not to start over or to rescue a school in trouble or anything like that. I really think they should be pretty successful in recruiting.”

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