Inauguration brings people from all over the state and beyond

HOPEWELL — Robert Nye has been president of Finger Lakes Community College for more than a year, but he was officially inaugurated Friday, surrounded by several dignitaries, family and friends.

“Nothing is more important than finding the right leadership,” Kristina M. Johnson, new chancellor of the State University of New York, told a crowd at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center.

“Great leaders come into an institution and they build upon existing excellence with respect for the past, realism for the present and optimism for the future," Johnson continued. "We have found such a leader in Dr. Robert Nye.”

Nye, a retired colonel with 30 years of service in the U.S. Army, joined FLCC in July 2016, replacing Barbara Risser, the college's fourth president. In higher education, inaugurations are conducted several months or more after the president has been in office and include representatives from nearby colleges.

Nye previously served as vice president for academic affairs at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and deputy provost of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He has a doctorate in public administration from the University of Kansas.

Johnson said it was even more impressive that he served as chief strategist for the deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq and was awarded two Bronze Stars.

“Thank you for your service, Dr. Nye,” she said, noting his many years of service to his country and record of leadership inform his leadership style on campus.

“He's a strategist and person who knows how to get things done,” Johnson said. “I've been told Dr. Nye is an authentic leader, kind and caring with a great sense of humor.”

She said he has been described as honorable and ethical and as always pushing staff and students to do the right thing.

Nye was led into the amphitheater by a large procession that included a representative from each graduating class for the last 49 years as a prelude to the college's upcoming 50th anniversary in February of offering full-time classes.

Nye recognized them, his wife Sue, members of the 10th Mountain Division that presented colors, and several other people, including Risser.

“Thank you for coming back home to FLCC to celebrate this event,” Nye said to Risser. “I've said this before and I'll say it again now; I have big shoes to fill.”

Nye called FLCC the college on the hill — “Lincoln Hill, to be exact” — comparing it to a beacon of hope as the site that became Boston was envisioned by Puritan John Winthrop in 1630 aboard the approaching ship Arbella as a "City on the Hill" watched by the world.

“Through the years, the idea of the 'City on the Hill' implied that we as American citizens, through the American spirit, should aspire to the ideals of freedom, democracy and opportunity, thereby setting an example for the world,” Nye said.

He said FLCC has a bold vision to build innovative programs to meet evolving educational needs, drawing on partnerships in the community and offering an educational environment designed to engage students, compel them to graduation and help them achieve dreams.

Nye said the nation is still striving to achieve the ideals of its founders and noted the college's founders more than 50 years ago faced challenges still faced today of social discord and racial disharmony.

He said the one thing that has not changed — that should be celebrated — is FLCC being an institution of dedicated servants, educators and students, along with community collaborators, striving to make a difference and maximize every opportunity for anyone who walks through its doors.

Nye recognized the college's growth from holding classes in downtown storefronts in the mid-'60s, to its main campus on Lincoln Hill, multiple campuses serving multiple communities and its growth of programs — things Nye said the founders would never have imagined.

Nye also welcomed two friends and former colleagues from Pennsylvania — Charles Allen, a professor at Army War College whom he called a mentor, peer, collaborator and trusted advisor; and William Griscom, president of Thaddeus Stevens College.

Nye said when he retired from the Army, he was lucky to serve as Griscom's chief academic officer.

“Everyday Bill demonstrated what right looks like for a college president and I'm so thankful for the time that I had with him to learn how to be a president.”

Donna Mihalik, chairwoman of the college board of trustees, said she is proud of what FLCC has become and eagerly anticipates its future.

Jack Marren, chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors, said the board is proud of its sponsorship of the college, which has surpassed its hopes. He noted most of the college's 27,000 graduates live, work and volunteer in the county and that the college increasingly serves as a center for the county.

Cathryn Kent, associate vice president of instruction, welcomed guests and introduced the various speakers that also included Allen and Griscom and former state Sen. Michael Nozzolio.

Gifts and reflections of the values of the college were presented by Eric McInroy, campus safety officer, on the value of inquiry; Sarah Moon, director of Library and Learning Resources, interconnectedness; Susan McCarthy, professor of nursing, vitality; and William Maskrey, president, FLCC Student Corporation, perseverance.

The processional was led by Geoff Smith, professor of music, with The Bookworms. The National Anthem was performed by members of the College Singers and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, with an invocation given by 2017 graduate Dorren Allen-Carr.

The celebration continues Saturday with a food truck rodeo from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the main campus with music provided by the FLCC Audio Engineering Society Club. A fall baseball game begins at 11 a.m. on the field behind the main campus and will feature audience participation games with prizes between innings. Entry to the game is free. Alumni and the general public are welcome.