STONY BROOK, NY–November 2, 2021–Providing her vision for what she described as a “luminous, ambitious future,” Maurie McInnis was officially inaugurated as the sixth president of Stony Brook University on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Island Federal Arena, before an enthusiastic crowd of faculty, staff, students, alumni, family and friends, along with local officials and representatives from colleges and universities from across the country.
In her much anticipated inaugural address, McInnis asked the audience to think back nearly sixty years to October, 1962, when a handful of buildings built upon old potato fields and less than 800 students constituted the campus of what would eventually become “an educational powerhouse.”
McInnis referenced Nobel Prize-winning physicist Chen-Ning (CN) Yang, who came to Stony Brook in 1965 and became the first director of Stony Brook’s Institute for Theoretical Physics. Yang was one of the many scholars and students who came to the university in the early days, “who wanted to join us and do something great. Who wanted to meet the future with creativity and collaboration. Who wanted to be united, for the next century, by curiosity and ambition.”
“Looking around the arena here today, I see that same, bold spirit that attracted Yang and legions of other distinguished faculty,” she said.
McInnis spoke of the importance of education in her family: From her great-grandparents who were teachers in a two-room schoolhouse in rural Florida; her grandfather, a teacher and a high school principal; her parents, both college professors; her husband, Dean a first-generation college graduate; and her children, Ian and Fiona, currently navigating the college process themselves.
“There have been scant few days in the last four decades when I have not thought about my role in amplifying the transformative power of higher education,” she said. “I have dedicated my life’s work to this enterprise and I am thrilled and honored to apply my knowledge, experience, and energy to Stony Brook University.”
McInnis referred to how Stony Brook grew among the ambitions of 1960s America, how President John F. Kennedy asked Americans to reach for the moon and accept challenges that we are unwilling to postpone, and asked, in 2021, what those goals are today. She noted that “we are standing in the doorway of another momentous decade,” and how the pandemic era, “has revealed to us just how much we have and will continue to rely on the curiosity-driven research of public universities to answer society’s call in a time of crisis.”
She then identified numerous people at Stony Brook, faculty and alumni, who have taken great risks and achieved bold, ambitious goals. “They, and so many faculty, alumni, and students at Stony Brook, are answering the call in their curiosity-driven research and beneficial, new knowledge,” McInnis said.
The inaugural procession was led by Grand Marshal Richard Larson, president of the University Senate, with bagpipe accompaniment provided by the Amityville American Legion Pipe Band. Rose Martinelli, vice president for strategic initiatives, sang the national anthem, accompanied on the piano by Christina Dahl, chair of the Department of Music.
Kevin Law ’82, chair of the Stony Brook Council, welcomed the assembled to the ceremony, followed by a traditional welcome, delivered by Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation, representing all of Long Island’s tribal nations. Governor Kathy Hochul supplied a video message of congratulations, followed on the stage by United States Senator Chuck Schumer.
“She is going to do a great, great job, and we are all excited about her being here,” Schumer said of McInnis. “Congratulations to the entire Stony Brook University community, it truly is a great day for all of us.”
During his remarks, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie ’90, said, “I never would have thought years ago that I would be in the position that I am, being the Speaker of the New York State Assembly… Stony Brook really helped shape my life. So I just want to say to our wonderful new president, you will always have an ally and a friend in the New York State Assembly.”
Richard Gelfond, chair of the Stony Brook Foundation, who has been involved with Stony Brook the better part of his life since he graduated in 1976, and who was a representative on the presidential search committee, said they met some amazing candidates and, “it was so clear that Maurie was the most dynamic individual with the intellectual backbone, and the vision that was so sorely needed at Stony Brook, to move us to the next level.”
Cary Staller of the SUNY Board of Trustees reaffirmed his support to President McInnis for the work that lay ahead, “to elevate this University to an entirely new level. She’s world-renowned in her own right, as a cultural historian and an extraordinary collaborator, bringing people together to solve the most complex issues across society today. She’s an excellent communicator, an active listener, and [we] are fortunate to have her leadership.”
Also offering congratulatory remarks were faculty representative Richard Larsen; staff representative Kimberly Joy Dixon, who is SBU director of employer engagement and diversity recruitment; and, Manjot Singh, president of the Undergraduate Student Organization, who spoke as a representative of undergraduate and graduate students. This was followed by a musical interlude performed by the Stony Brook Gospel Choir singing “Lift Up Your Voices.” Remarks were then provided by Edward Ayers, president emeritus of the University of Richmond and a longtime friend of the president, who provided insights about McInnis’ trajectory through academia, scholarship as an art historian, and administration in public higher education which led her to Stony Brook University, calling her “a teacher who has grown into a leader.”
SUNY Chancellor James Malatras was then called onto the stage, to begin the official installation of McInnis as President of Stony Brook University. Inviting Staller to join him, he placed around her neck the University Seal, presenting McInnis to the audience as the sixth president of Stony Brook University, which resulted in a standing ovation in response.
SUNY Chancellor Malatras said, “Students from New York and around the globe have come to Stony Brook University for a world-class education that has been built up for nearly 65 years. It has facilitated groundbreaking research, launched successful careers in a wide variety of fields, and propelled students to greater social mobility, and Dr. Maurie McInnis is the right leader at the right time who is well positioned to take this university to new levels of excellence. Today, the entire SUNY family celebrates the inauguration of President McInnis and under her focused and steadfast leadership we look forward to the future of this university community.”
Alumni Association president Ahmed Belazi then spoke to round out the ceremony, which was concluded with another performance by the Amityville American Legion Pipe Band.
Also in attendance were Jim and Marilyn Simons, co-chairs of the Simons Foundation; Brad Walker, commissioner of the America East Conference; Bruce Stillman, president and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; SUNY Board of Trustees member Keith Landa. University executive leadership on the platform party included Provost and Executive Vice President Paul Goldbart; Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Harold Paz and Chief Deputy to the President and Sr. Vice President for Government and Community Relations, Judy Greiman as well as several other university officers.
McInnis concluded her address by promising that the faculty, staff and students at Stony Brook will define the next generation of discovery.
“That is my goal, and my honor as the President of one of the most innovative public research universities in the world: to ensure that Stony Brook University is leading the way, serving our community, and tackling the global challenges that face us in the coming century,” she said.
“This is the work that we’ll set out to do, together, in the next decade. And, I look forward to seeing all we can achieve. The moment is upon us, Seawolves. Let’s answer the call to greatness.”
During the week-long Inauguration celebration, symposia were offered in which President McInnis took part or was a featured speaker, including:
- Health Education and Healthcare Disparities — A Critical Look at an Interdisciplinary Approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “In 2021, we must continue to adapt and enhance our medical enterprise for a new era,” she said.
- “The Shadow of Slavery in American Public Life” — President McInnis’ University Senate Inaugural Presidential Lecture. “Humanists like myself have been resistant to change, yet we have an opportunity to engage far beyond the walls of academia in a moment when our voices and our interventions are more needed than ever,” she said. The lecture was brought to life in an exhibit curated by McInnis in the Wang Center entitled, “To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade” — a series of illustrations and paintings that examines the American slave trade before the Civil War through the works of British artist Eyre Crowe — is based on her book, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
- Tackling Inequality in Higher Education: Past & Present — This symposium was curated to illuminate the historical context and lasting impacts of inequities in students’ preparedness, resources, and access to college and graduate school. “The need for systemic change and a renewed commitment to racial equality is abundantly clear,” said McInnis.” This challenge is ours to meet, and to do that we will need to both rely on and support the dedicated, interdisciplinary scholarship that can lead the way toward equality on the university campus.
Activities that took place to round out Inauguration Day included Stony Brook’s Homecoming football game and barbecue; an Art Crawl in the Charles B. Wang Center and the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery; a ribbon cutting to commemorate the newly relocated UNITICultural Center (United Nationalities in Transcending Ideologies); and the premiere of “Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age” at the Staller Center.
Multimedia assets courtesy of Stony Brook University.
High-resolution photos available upon request.
Additional, exclusive quotes are available by request.
The full text of President Maurie McInnis’ remarks can be found here.
About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. With more than 26,000 students, 2,700 faculty members, nearly 200,000 alumni, an academic medical center and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, it is one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The University embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate, and professional education of the highest quality, and has been ranked among the top 35 public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Fostering a commitment to academic research and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places it among the top 65 research institutions in North America. The University’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Stony Brook is one of only eight universities that has a role in running a national laboratory. Providing economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the University totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/stonybrooku/) and Twitter(@stonybrooku).