SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher says she plans to leave the...

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher says she plans to leave the university system in June 2017. On Jan. 11, 2016, she delivers a state of the university address in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced Tuesday that she will leave the 64-campus system in June 2017 after seven years during which the system grew despite tight finances.

The SUNY board will begin a national search to replace Zimpher, who will turn 70 in October.

SUNY’s attendance grew during her tenure and she sought to make the state university centers at Stony Brook, Binghamton, Albany and Buffalo among the top tier colleges in the country.

Zimpher has worked with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to pair business startups with campuses in a move that upset some faculty.

Zimpher also pushed “rational tuition” that automatically increased tuition by about $300 annually for five years.

“During her seven-year tenure with the State University of New York, Nancy Zimpher has transformed SUNY and lifted our system up as the national model of higher education for the 21st century,” said H. Carl McCall, chairman of the SUNY board.

In 2013, The Chronicle of Higher Education said Zimpher was “never one to think small.” The influential publication credited Zimpher with unifying the system that had often acted “like a big group of warring fiefdoms competing for money and students.” She required campuses to provide uniform data for comparisons of campuses, focused on outcomes such as graduation rates and expanded online offerings.

Zimpher said she will remain on the job to ease in a transition.

“The State University of New York is the greatest, most impactful system of higher education in the country, and being chancellor of SUNY is a highlight of my career,” Zimpher said.

Before arriving in New York, Zimpher made national headlines while president of the University of Cincinnati when she forced its winning basketball coach to resign in 2005 amid claims of violations of NCAA rules. Zimpher faced another basketball scandal in 2009. Zimpher enlisted former state Chief Judge Judith Kaye to study claims of NCAA violations in recruiting and other activities. That also led to the exit of Binghamton’s popular coach.

Zimpher came to New York at a tumultuous time in state history. The recession was beginning to sap state revenue after SUNY had already been operating on fewer tax dollars dating to the administration of Gov. George Pataki.

“Nancy is innovative, thoughtful, persuasive and strong . . . a natural leader,” said Gov. David A. Paterson, who was in office when Zimpher was chosen by the SUNY board. “I’m personally very proud of all she accomplished during her years of excellent service as chancellor and I’m sure she will be hard to replace.”

The United University Professions union, which includes SUNY faculty and staff, said Zimpher “brought a level of visibility and stability to the university,” although the union clashed with Zimpher on several issues, including a lack of transparency at the well-endowed SUNY Research Institute.

Zimpher is paid $504,700 and receives a $96,000 housing allowance.

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