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 Yang, who came here in 1965 and became the first director of Stony Brook’s Institute for Theoretical Physics, as 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 the traditional welcome, delivered by Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation. 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. “Congratulations to the entire Stony Brook University community, it truly is a great day for all of us.”
New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie ’90 offered greetings to the president, along with: Larson; Cary Staller of the SUNY Board of Trustees; and Kimberly Joy Dixon, SBU director of employer engagement and diversity recruitment, representing the SBU staff. Richard Gelfond ’76, chair of the Stony Brook Foundation, provided video congratulations as well. The Stony Brook Gospel Choir provided a musical interlude, singing “Lift Up Your Voices.”
Manjot Singh, president of the Undergraduate Student Organization, spoke on behalf of the student body, and remarks were provided by Edward Ayers, president emeritus of the University of Richmond and a longtime friend of the president. Staller then joined State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras in officially installing McInnis as president of the university. Alumni Association president Ahmed Belazi presented McInnis with the university mace.
Also in attendance — along with Provost and Executive Vice President Paul Goldbart, Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Harold Paz and several other university officers — 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; and state assembly members and alumni Sarah Clark ’99 and Steve Englebright ’75.
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.”