See you in September (not): Stanley stuns SBU, SUNY

Past president: Samuel Stanley Jr. will step down as president of Stony Brook University this summer and take the reins of Michigan State University.

From the Didn’t See That Coming file comes the sudden departure of Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley Jr., who has resigned his position and will step down July 31.

Stanley, who become SBU’s fifth president in July 2009, will become the 21st president of Michigan State University, according to several news reports.

His decision – which follows a decade-long tenure ripe with physical expansion and award-winning faculty research – has apparently caught SUNY by surprise: In announcing Stanley’s resignation Tuesday, the state university system said Chancellor Kristina Johnson and the SUNY Board of Trustees are “soon to appoint” an interim president, and would “assemble (a) search committee for a permanent president.”

A “campus search committee” will also be formed to aid the search, according to SUNY, while the selection of an interim successor will be up to Johnson and the state university trustees.

Despite the 11th-hour scramble, the chancellor had nothing but praise for SBU’s outgoing president, a Seattle native and Harvard University-educated physician recognized for his groundbreaking research into infectious diseases and the body’s inflammatory response to parasites, bacteria and viruses.

“Under Dr. Stanley’s leadership, Stony Brook University has become a vibrant center of research and one of the most highly regarded universities in the nation,” Johnson said Tuesday.

Kristina Johnson: The search is on.

In addition to presiding over the sixth-largest donation ever made to a public university – a $150 million gift from the Simons Foundation in 2011 – Stanley pushed forward a notably progressive agenda during his decade-long tenure, including the recent opening of SBU’s Institute for AI-Driven Discovery and Information.

A champion of the NYSUNY 2020 challenge-grant program and member of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, the SBU president also chairs the board of Brookhaven Science Associates, which manages Brookhaven National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy.

As such, Stanley joined a select group of academic leaders – including the heads of such prestigious institutions as Princeton and Stanford universities – who play a role in collaborations with national laboratories.

“His commitment to advancing technologies and research in environmental protection and renewable energy has been among many of Dr. Stanley’s most notable accomplishments,” Johnson noted.

Stanley, who served as vice chancellor of research at Washington University in Missouri before being named SBU president in 2009, earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago in 1976 and his Harvard University medical degree in 1980. After completing a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he attended a fellowship in infectious diseases at the Washington University School of Medicine and eventually became a professor there, pulling double duty in the departments of Medicine and Molecular Biology.

The highly distinguished biomedical researcher earned copious support from the National Institutes of Health, which repeatedly backed his efforts to enhance defenses against emerging infectious diseases.

Stanley’s long résumé and unique experiences made him an ideal leader for the up-and-coming Long Island crown jewel of the state university system, according to SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall.

H. Carl McCall: Stanley a ‘visionary leader.’

“He spearheaded some of the university’s most successful fundraising campaigns, increased the number of endowed professorships and strengthened Stony Brook’s stature as a leading research institution, especially in clean- and renewable-energy technologies,” McCall said in a statement. “President Stanley is a visionary leader who has taken Stony Brook University to new heights.”

Stanley’s resignation continues a shakeup of SBU’s old guard. Earlier this year, the university bid farewell to Yacov Shamash, its longtime vice president for economic development, as part of a realignment of SBU’s economic-development operations.

Michigan State University has been led by a succession of acting and interim presidents since former President Lou Anna Simon resigned in 2018 following a student-molestation scandal involving campus doctor Larry Nassar.

It’s finally found its permanent leader in Stanley, who’s set to take the reins of the 50,000-student university on Aug. 1 and called it “an honor and privilege to lead Stony Brook University and its amazing students, faculty and staff over the past 10 years.”

“We have accomplished so much together,” Stanley said Tuesday. “I am also very grateful to Chancellor Johnson, Chairman McCall, the SUNY Board of Trustees, the Stony Brook Foundation, and the Stony Brook Council for their strong support of all of our efforts at Stony Brook University.

“With all of these extraordinary people who are committed to Stony Brook’s success, I have the utmost confidence that Stony Brook University will continue its amazing trajectory over the next decade.”