BARBARA JEAN MORRIS OUT
Dennis Craig Aims To Apply
Lessons Learned At Purchase
By JIM KEVLIN & LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – With the resignation of Dr. Barbara Jean Morris, new SUNY Oneonta interim president Dennis Craig is ready to hear both the good and the bad about how the campus can recover from the COVID-19 outbreak that infected more than 700 students less than week after classes resumed.
“I want to foster an atmosphere where everyone can speak frankly,” he said. “I want to get a back-and-forth dialogue going about what went wrong. People on this campus did a tremendous amount of work, and I appreciate that.”
Craig’s appointment was announced at a 12:30 p.m. press conference called by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. “SUNY Oneonta is at a critical juncture and Acting President Craig will bring steady, focused, and collaborative leadership to the campus,” said Malatras.
“For the SUNY Oneonta campus, Acting President Craig’s first priority is to ensure students have what they need to complete their fall semester, as well as a clear plan in place for the spring. And Dennis will do so with my support in collaboration and with guidance and feedback from the campus community—particularly our students, with Mayor Gary Herzig and other local officials, and local health officials.”
According to Malatras, Morris reached out to him 10 days ago to advise him that she was pursuing other opportunities. She became president of the college in 2018, following the retirement of Dr. Nancy Kleniewski.
An hour before the press conference, Malatras met in the Dewar Lounge with collage staff and administrators, as well as Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Town Supervision Bob Wood, to inform them of the change.
“The city is losing a million dollars a semester in water, sewer and bus fees,” said Herzig in comments after the press conference. “A lot of our businesses were hit very hard. But we don’t want to spend time reliving what happened, we want to move forward.”
Craig was acting president at SUNY Purchase when nearby New Rochelle was one of the state’s first COVID-19 “hot spots,” and quickly put into place specific accommodations for students, faculty and staff. “As a result of his actions, SUNY Purchase was one of the best places in the SUNY system,” he said. “They had just a handful of cases.”
The former VP for admissions and associate provost for enrollment at Purchase, Craig served as Interim President for the college’s 2019-20 school year, following the departure of longtime President Thomas J. Schwarz in 2018.
He previously was director of admissions at Montclair State University and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, the senior director of administration and operations at Pace University’s World Trade Institute and the associate dean of enrollment services at NYU’s College of Dentistry. He was also director of admissions and financial aid at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
He holds a BS in business and economics from SUNY Plattsburgh and an MA in history from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He attended Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education where he earned a certificate from their Institute for Management and Leadership in Higher Education.
“I am truly honored to serve Oneonta during this transition and look forward to working closely with my new colleagues across the college as we continue to rise to the many challenges associated with the pandemic,” said Craig. “Success will require an effective partnership with our students and families, and I am committed to listening to them, as well as working closely with campus and local governance and all stakeholders in the weeks ahead.”
Malatras said the SUNY system is continuing their attack on COVD-19 with a “three-pronged” approach, which includes testing, uniform compliance and transparency.
“We have 64 diverse campuses,” he said. “We’re depending on individual presidents to respond to local situations.”