Stony Brook University president Maurie McInnis applauds the class of 2024...

Stony Brook University president Maurie McInnis applauds the class of 2024 on May 17. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Nearly five years ago, when former Stony Brook University president Samuel Stanley stepped down after 10 years, the Newsday editorial board said he left the school “better and stronger than he found it.”

His successor, Maurie McInnis, took the helm in 2020, and despite her relatively short four-year term as president, she, too, leaves the university better and stronger than she found it.

McInnis is departing Stony Brook to become president of Yale University. The move reflects just as much on Stony Brook’s strengthening reputation as it does on McInnis herself. And while it will mark a time of transition for Stony Brook, it represents a chance for the institution to seek new leadership at a time for a university growing in stature and relevance.

McInnis came to Long Island from the University of Texas at Austin and now another national search should uncover top academic leaders to take Stony Brook even further.

McInnis began her tenure here at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and navigated difficult challenges from the start. The school has since become officially recognized as one of the state’s two flagship universities and was chosen as the critical anchor institution to lead the $700 million New York Climate Exchange on Governors Island, a climate-focused complex of classrooms, research facilities and housing, which McInnis called “a living laboratory.”

Last June, McInnis secured a stunning $500 million unrestricted donation from its generous benefactors, Jim and Marilyn Simons. And most recently, she handled campus unrest and uncertainty with care and professionalism.

Stony Brook’s next leader must maintain the values the university holds dear, particularly when it comes to recruiting a diverse student body, encouraging those who are first in their families to attend college and helping those who are economically disadvantaged and need additional assistance. SUNY Chancellor John King’s emphasis on social mobility — and how Stony Brook can lift up students who otherwise wouldn’t have such opportunities — is key.

Stony Brook University’s next president also must have a wider mission and vision. The university’s work in quantum information science, renewable energy and artificial intelligence puts it on the forefront of growing research and industry. Its relationships with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory are key. Its hospital provides critical health care to area residents. And its incubators harness the potential to turn research and development into commercial success stories, potentially growing Long Island’s economy in new ways.

In many of those areas, Stony Brook’s next president can do more than those who have come before. While the university already is the largest single-site employer in Suffolk County and represents billions of dollars in economic activity, Stony Brook could become a far more massive engine that drives Long Island’s future success educationally and economically. The next Stony Brook president should be willing to serve as a regional leader and significant voice for Long Island.

Stony Brook University’s next leader should be someone who can take this premier institution to greater heights.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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