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Presidential Speeches

Spring 2008 All College Meeting

All College Meeting
Jan. 28, 2008
2 p.m., McDonough Sports Complex

2 p.m. President Matonak speaks

Good afternoon and welcome to the Spring 2008 All College Meeting.

As each semester begins, I believe it is important for all of us, faculty and staff, to come together and rededicate ourselves to our mission and to changing the lives of our students. This is why we are here in McDonough, so that we have enough room for everyone.

This is my sixth All College Meeting, and in April I will have been a part of the Hudson Valley community family for three years. I consider it a privilege to be working with all of you. You are the very best, and you are the reason Hudson Valley is the great institution it is.

The college’s 2006-2007 Report to the Community will be distributed to all of you at the conclusion of today’s meeting. In addition to supplying budgetary and statistical information regarding the most recent academic year, the report includes profiles of four students who are illustrative of how Hudson Valley Community College changes lives. Please pick up a copy and take one for any colleague who may not have been able to make it here today.

Hudson Valley’s stellar academic reputation is due in large part to the hard work of our faculty. As is our practice, I’d like to invite Terri Pennisi, president of the Faculty Association, to address you.

2:03 p.m. Terri Pennisi speaks

Thank you, Terri. The Academic Senate plays an important role in the development of a collaborative and collegial environment at Hudson Valley.

2:08 p.m. President Matonak introduces Joan Shack

I now invite Joan Shack, chair of the Academic Senate, to say a few words.

2:09 p.m. Joan Shack speaks

2:14 p.m. President Matonak returns to the podium

Thank you, Joan. And thank you both for being here today.

This afternoon, I want to recognize all who have recently retired and recognize their contribution to the excellence of Hudson Valley. Second, I will introduce you to our new employees. I will review with you our spring enrollment numbers. I am going to update you on initiatives and projects the college has undertaken and I will inform you of matters that may have an impact on us.

But then, I am going to spend most of my time asking for your help -- a call to action to all employees. We will conclude with a real treat, a very inspirational video which illustrates the importance of all that you do.

So let’s get started with those folks who have retired since our last All College Meeting.

  • Daniel C. Ashley
  • Carol J. Burke
  • William J. Cocco
  • Eleanor Fleming
  • Deborah Halacy
  • John E. Murray
  • Shirley A. Neiss

I want to thank them for all that they have done throughout their careers at Hudson Valley. Each of these individual’s respective length of service is outlined in today’s program.

Next, I’ll recognize those faculty members, non-teaching professionals and classified staff members who have joined the college community since our last All College Meeting in September, and those current employees who are working in new positions. Please stand when I call your name.

  • Jason Acker
  • Kimberly Albert
  • Howard R. Bancroft, III
  • Michael Bender
  • Matthew Breen
  • Paul Brown
  • Keith Bussing
  • Brian Canam
  • Joseph Catalina
  • Glenn DePuy
  • Giorgia Dinegar
  • Carla Guzy
  • Ronald Hall
  • Elisabeth Halpin
  • Graham Heaslip
  • Itasha Hilton
  • Nicole Hoyt
  • Kenneth Ivey
  • Christine Jenkins
  • Monica Kaminski
  • Polly Karis
  • Stacy Kennedy
  • Kimberly Kuster-Smith
  • Cheryl Labshere
  • Stephen Lackey
  • Daniel Lanka
  • Christine Lasch
  • Marlene LaTerra
  • Mara Lefebvre
  • Richard Lucas
  • Sean McMahon
  • Nicole Martin
  • Dr. Jose Melendez
  • Sandy Meyers
  • Paula Monaco
  • Alicia Phelan
  • Jonathan Plunkett
  • Sally Robataille
  • Carol Salvador
  • David Skidmore
  • Misty Spriggs
  • Dayna Stever
  • Susan Student
  • Todd Suriano
  • Keesha Sykes
  • Mario Tedesco
  • Brooke Teiper
  • Jessica Valchik
  • Michele L. Wiltsie

Good luck to each of you in your new positions. Remember, you are joining the best faculty and staff in New York and you have a strong network of support among your new colleagues.

I am pleased to update on what, institutionally, we’ve been up to since last we met.


I’d like to start my remarks this afternoon by giving you an update on our enrollment for Spring. As you recall, last spring semester was our highest spring enrollment in the history of the college. As of January 25th, we are at 9,557 total students and 7,015 full-time equivalents. That’s -1.2 percent lower than the total number of students at this point in 2007. In FTEs, we are down just -0.3%. With the College in the High School students added to those enrollment numbers, I fully expect that we will be even with last Spring Semester.


At the last All College Meeting I talked about our strategic priorities, one of which was to enhance our efforts in Southern Saratoga County. Just days after we met, we made an announcement that supports just that initiative – TEC-SMART.

TEC-SMART, which stands for “Training and Education Center for Semiconductor Manufacturing and Alternative Renewable Technologies,” will be a state-of-the-art educational facility located in Malta. Starting in the Fall of 2009, we will be able to train the 500 to 600 technicians needed for Tech Valley.

The facility will cost $13 million to construct and Senator Bruno has committed to funding the entire amount.

Once established, TEC-SMART will feature classrooms and labs that will be used to train the area’s workforce in emerging technologies, including semiconductor manufacturing, alternative fuels, photovoltaic and other renewable energy programs. The facility will also provide energy efficiency training for the building trades.

Under the direction of Joe Sarubbi, TEC-SMART will work with NYSERDA to coordinate and develop all educational and training programs at the facility.

TEC-SMART builds on Hudson Valley’s longstanding commitment to technology education.

Fundraising Campaign

Last fall we also introduced the concept of a comprehensive fund raising campaign to bring increased private financial support to our college in an effort to ensure our continued excellence in academic programs for future generations.

Today we have reached a milestone in the campaign process, and are now ready to transition to the public phase, at which time we invite our friends and supporters to join us in making commitments to targeted program initiatives.

I’m pleased to announce that the college’s Board of Trustees has recorded gifts to the campaign from 100% of our members! A big reason for this success was the fine efforts of our co-chairs, trustees Rich Amadon and Don Fane.

I’m pleased to also announce that every member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors has contributed to the campaign. Special thanks goes out to Foundation board members Doug Baldrey, Bill Fagan, and Gordon Zuckerman, who served as co-chairs of the board division.

Under Judy Romano’s, Michael Such’s, and Clem Campana’s leadership of the employee division of the campaign, many of you have stepped to the plate showing your dedication and passion for Hudson Valley.

As you would expect, they have led us to record levels of participation. I’m pleased to report that the faculty, administrators, and support staff members have already surpassed the 50% participation rate … and we are still counting!

As you all can imagine, an enterprise as complex and challenging as a comprehensive campaign requires the highest level of leadership.

As such, you can also imagine how thrilled I was to have Jim Barba, the President and CEO of Albany Medical Center, agree to serve as the honorary chair of our first-ever campaign.

Jim has been a good friend of the college for a number of years, and is always a staunch advocate for the work we do across this campus.

While the focus of the campaign has been on encouraging participation at all levels, I cannot miss this opportunity to make but one mention of the extraordinary amount of funds raised thus far. As we brought a close to the 2007 year, with a flurry of pledges committed by our faculty and staff, we crossed over the $2 million mark!

Needless to say, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far, and confident that we’re ready to make history … yet again!

Master Plan

Last November, Hudson Valley received an unprecedented show of support when the Rensselaer County Legislature approved the entire Facilities Master Plan, which totals nearly $200 million.

So what does that mean? First of all, you need to understand that 50% of the funding comes from the state and 50% is local. We needed the county’s legislative approval before we can even request funding on the state level. Without the county’s approval, nothing happens. As a result of our persistence and working closely with Kathy Jimino, Neil Kelleher and the rest of our legislators, the county came to understand how important this plan was for our students and Rensselaer County. Consequently, they passed a resolution supporting our plan.

Construction of a 750-car parking deck is the priority item for Phase One of this master plan. Faculty and staff will be allocated 250 of these spaces and 500 spaces will be for student use. We have a county resolution for the $15.6 million parking deck because the Faculty Student Association has generously agreed to match the state share (thank you). We have been patiently waiting to see if we would receive state funding in the 2008-2009 budget. And I’m pleased to say that the governor included the parking deck in his proposed budget. Once we receive final approval, work should begin on the parking garage as early as Spring 2009.

Phase Two of the plan would begin no sooner than 2012. This includes the construction of the Brahan Science Center and related building renovations. Let me repeat, the soonest that we can begin the Brahan Science Center project is 2012. We now need to work on securing the state’s portion of the project.

The remainder of the master plan would be dependent on the state budget approval process and which budget cycle it was approved in.

We will continue our efforts to secure the state funding for the Master Plan. And although it will be years before we see some of these changes on campus, I promise you, it will be so worth the wait.

Federal Earmark

On December 27th, President Bush signed a Fiscal Year 2008 federal Omnibus Appropriations bill that included $478,492 for a new evening/weekend nursing program at Hudson Valley. This is the very first time the college has received a federal earmark.

More than 250 students at Hudson Valley Community College are waiting to enter the college’s Nursing Program, and more than half of those students have completed their prerequisite courses.

This backlog of students makes it very difficult for eligible prospective students to gain immediate admission to the Nursing program. At the same time, health care employers across the region are suffering from a workforce shortage in the nursing area.

The college is unable to expand the program without additional external funding because the college currently has an annual per-student revenue gap exceeding $10,000.

Development of this proposal dates back four years, and we can thank the hard work and persistence of many of you, as well as, the support of our entire Congressional delegation – Representatives McNulty and Gillibrand and Senators Schumer and Clinton.

Governor Spitzer’s State of the State Address

In his State of the State address earlier this month, Governor Spitzer outlined the strongest recommendations for the State University of New York in generations. His vision of a better future for the state and for its children can be achieved by making a strong investment in our educational institutions. The Governor’s robust support reflects his understanding that higher education is truly an important driver of the innovation economy.

As you know, Capital Region residents, businesses and community groups are vitally affected by the quality of higher education that is offered by Hudson Valley. I am happy that the governor indicated that we “must invest in our community colleges. They provide the education and training necessary for our state to compete globally.” We are anxiously watching as the legislative process unfolds.

Under this proposal, students wishing to begin their higher education path in a community college would have a seamless means of transferring to one of New York’s four-year SUNY and CUNY institutions. This process would not only make transferring easier, but will encourage students to stay within the SUNY system.

I am also pleased that the Governor supports the need for a permanent and sustainable funding source for public higher education.


All that we have talked about this afternoon — the many pieces of good news and demonstrations of forward progress that they represent, make clear that Hudson Valley Community College is an institution that is truly a leader, remarkably innovative, thoroughly relevant, and unquestionably successful….. And we’re not done yet.

Finally, I would like to offer some observations about why it is so important that each of us not only share a common understanding of the value of what we do here together, but that we also share a commitment to spreading the word about Hudson Valley.

When we gathered at the All-College Meeting in the Fall, I asked each of you to recognize and embrace your roles as ambassadors of this college, and to take up the charge to help the institution on its journey forward by taking every opportunity that comes your way to shape the perceptions of the people of the Capital Region about the impact and value of Hudson Valley.

This is not just a matter of enlightened self-interest; our individual roles as ambassadors of Hudson Valley Community College are, in fact, vital.

The future of the Capital Region depends on the educational readiness of the people who live here, so that they may be free to continue to live here, earn a living and care for their families here, and contribute to the quality of life that we enjoy here.

Hudson Valley Community College is the community’s college, and it is here, more so than in any other place, where the foundation of our community’s future will be secured.

So as you consider whether to take the time to help someone into a better understanding of this place, I want you to remember our shared responsibility not just to do what we do so well, but to seize every opportunity to speak about it to others.

Last year, we began an initiative to more effectively define our college and to identify the common language with which each of us can describe Hudson Valley to others. In so doing, we intended that the entire community of the college would have a common vocabulary to speak to others about the institution, and in so doing produce a more accurate, consistent and compelling identity.

Let me touch on a few of the words and phrases that I particularly want you to internalize. Remember, these statements came from you through the market voicing process.

We are “one of America’s most effective and productive colleges”—“a community college at it best.”

“We are the ideal educational choice, indeed a 1st educational choice, for many people, no matter their age or circumstance, who bring hope and determination to the task of making a better life for themselves and their families.”

Our faculty members are “entrepreneurial, student-centered, and dedicated teachers who work with an innovative and responsive staff, and up-to-date facilities and technology, to meet the needs of a diverse community of students.”

And the result of our shared labors? Simply this: “Hudson Valley produces self-confident women and men with capacity, purpose and ambition who go on to deepen the social and economic capital of our region.”

In case that’s too much to remember in the moment, there are four key truths about Hudson Valley that are easy to remember, and which distinguish us from all other institutions.

  • We are respected across the country for the excellence of our teaching and the readiness of our graduates.

  • We are urgently committed to the success of every student.

  • We fundamentally strengthen the community we serve.

  • And finally, we deliver broad educational opportunity to all who are motivated to seek it.

I ask you to think about these messages, to internalize them, and to use them. They reflect the critical importance of what we do here, even as we work together to make them even more true of tomorrow than they were yesterday. And I urge you to never forget the foundational promise of this institution.

And the most important message: “Hudson Valley Community College changes lives.” In fact, each of you change lives.

So, if upon occasion, you find yourself having a tough day and wishing that your classrooms were full of valedictorians,
or you are here at 4 AM plowing the parking lots,
or working feverishly to package students financial aid,
or feeling chained to your desk advising student after student,
or many other examples of your fine work.

In those moments, I hope you will remember the higher reward that comes to those who take on the challenging work of changing lives.

As you well know, there is no such thing as a typical Hudson Valley student—they are of all ages and backgrounds, diverse in their circumstances, talents, and dreams. They go on to become PhDs and trades people; educators and hygienists, healthcare professionals and technology workers. And they do so because your work at this college allowed them to find their way.

So if you’re tempted upon occasion to see your work as the hard work of education—the tough slog—remember that for some of your students, their very presence at this college represents an accomplishment against the odds, and that you are their best hope. No matter what your role is at the college you are contributing to changing lives.

I want you to know that the story of this college is one I intend to be told far and wide. With the great success this institution has had, with the great example of the community college that it has become, we have an obligation to tell our story well beyond the confines of our region.

While it is true that we are a respected institution across the country among those who know a good deal about community colleges, it is also true that we are not the most visible institution. It’s my intention that in the future, Hudson Valley will be present and accounted for at national conferences, forums and debates that focus on the role of community colleges in America.

We are a leader in the largest and most complex educational system in the world, The State University of New York, and as a community college that has continued to innovate in the delivery of vital services, we deliver the promise of New York State’s educational system, and contribute to the revitalization of our economy, on a daily basis.

We have a wealth of best practices to share with our colleagues across the country, and it’s important that we do so. We have important stories to tell, and I intend that we shall tell them.

But I need your help: the internal and extended family of this college needs to become its advocates, its tireless cheerleaders, its most effective story-tellers. The stories of our progress and success are yours, and I ask for your help in collecting them and telling them, locally, regionally and nationally.

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the colorful former president of George Washington University, has said that community colleges are to American education what Jazz is to American music.

How very perfect an analogy that is. The Community College, like Jazz, is an inherently American invention, formed of the American experience and the American way of life. Taken as a whole, the permeation of community colleges into the culture of our nation is extraordinary: community college students comprise well more than half of all college students in the United States.

We are the inevitable and necessary educational response to the American experience. We were born in the neighborhoods of America, and from our earliest days, we produced opportunities that classical institutions would not, and outcomes that more classical pedagogy could not.

From the beginning, we learned to survive and thrive through experimentation, innovation, even sometimes improvisation, all things that are difficult, if not impossible, for classical institutions to do.

And what have we accomplished with our art? A great deal. We have produced generations of graduates whose educations touched their souls, and changed their lives. We have brought the life-affirming value of accessible education to people who otherwise could never, or would never, have bought a ticket to the symphony.

Where does Hudson Valley Community College stand among the greats of Community Colleges? In my estimation, about where Jazz at Lincoln Center stands among the legends of Jazz.

We are an institution of excellence. We are both educators and performers.

Our work reaches across socio-economic divides and into the heads and hearts of the whole of our society. We reach and move people in ways that other forms of education cannot; we provide an experience that uplifts the human spirit. And for all these reasons, we exert a tremendously positive, powerful effect upon our world.

I want to thank each and every one of you for making a difference in the lives of our students.

I could not be prouder than to lead this great ensemble, Hudson Valley Community College.

(Play video)