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New member appointed to the Stony Brook University Council

Pastor Michael Smith, stands inside the Presbyterian Church

Pastor Michael Smith, stands inside the Presbyterian Church on the Shinnecock reservation in Southampton, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Rev. Michael Smith, a Presbyterian pastor on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation in Southampton, is among the newest appointees to a committee of prominent Long Islanders advising Stony Brook University.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed Smith to the Stony Brook University Council in August, at the recommendation of state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

The committee of nine gubernatorial appointees and one student representative advises Stony Brook's administration on budgetary matters and reviews plans for the university's future.

"It's just another way of serving, giving back to a community that's given me so much," said Smith, 65, pastor of the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church.

Smith, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, grew up on the 800-acre reservation on the shores of the South Fork, just outside the Stony Brook Southampton campus.

Smith also sits on the board of Southampton Hospital, which is in negotiations to partner with Stony Brook and build a hospital on the satellite campus. LaValle said the State University of New York Board of Trustees could vote on the deal in October or November.

LaValle called Smith a great individual and said "his interest in promoting Stony Brook Southampton makes him the perfect choice" to join the council, whose members include Kevin Law, former president and chief executive of the Long Island Power Authority, and Jim Morgo, Suffolk's former chief deputy county executive.

Smith said he wants to help craft Stony Brook Southampton into an institution that meets the educational and health needs of the East End, including the Shinnecock Indian Nation, whose reservation is home to about 700 people, including Smith.

The campus is fraught with historical significance for the Shinnecock, who controlled that land for thousands of years before New York State claimed it for Southampton Town in 1859. The Shinnecock Indian Nation filed federal lawsuits in 2005 and 2012 seeking the return of the campus and thousands of surrounding acres, including palatial homes and the famous Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Judges dismissed both cases, and the tribe has appealed.

"It will never be resolved to anybody's satisfaction," Smith said. "It can't be. But how we address that and move forward together will be absolutely fascinating."

Stony Brook Southampton has weathered financial setbacks in recent years. Stony Brook transferred a fledgling sustainability curriculum off the campus and shuttered dormitories in 2010, citing budgetary constraints. The campus -- former site of the private Southampton College -- offers courses in marine sciences, health technology and the arts for about 250 students. It will serve a projected 440 students by 2016 if a speech pathology program is approved, a university spokeswoman said.

The campus can be "a vital resource to the whole East End of Long Island and in particular the reservation," Smith said, adding that it could play a role in preserving the Algonquian language.

"We're interdependent communities," he said. "We need one another, and that's a very biblical understanding."

Stony Brook Southampton

Student body: 256 (2014); 440 (2016 projection)

Campus size: 80 acres

Programs: Marine sciences; creative writing, theater, filmmaking; physical therapy, occupational therapy, applied health informatics

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