By Dan Hust
LOCH SHELDRAKE Heading out a year earlier than originally announced, SUNY Sullivan President Mamie Howard Golladay is retiring at the end of this month.
She actually left her office today, taking advantage of accumulated vacation time.
“I thought maybe they [the college board] needed to start with a new president,” she explained in an interview this week. “It’s time.”
While she’s faced criticism and budget cuts from the County Legislature, Golladay and Board Chair Nick Speranza confirmed her departure was her own choice.
Asked if the board wishes her well, Speranza replied, “Absolutely, and I think she’ll do well.”
In a press release, he credited Golladay with securing the $3 million necessary to build the college’s dormitories, increasing in-county enrollment by 30 percent, switching the Loch Sheldrake campus to green energy, garnering a one-of-a-kind emergency preparedness grant and championing the NJCAA Division III National Men’s Basketball Tournament held there earlier this year.
Reflecting on her 14 years at Sullivan, Golladay said she’s proudest of increasing the number of students and the green energy initiatives.
Though the nursing division was criticized and even sued earlier this year over testing procedures, Golladay a nurse herself was glad to have presided over that division’s expansion, and she hopes the college will focus heavily on health sciences, due to the availability of local healthcare jobs.
“And of course, there are some great people here,” she mused. “I’ll even miss some of my adversaries.”
She was called on the mat by members of the public and the County Legislature for signing off on a windmill that never was built, and she had strained relationships with county government officials, who wanted more say in a college that gets about a quarter of its funding from county taxpayers.
She hopes legislators and college board members will be more communicative in the future, “but the political part of it, I will not miss at all,” she acknowledged.
And she has some regrets.
“I regret we weren’t able to get the CAST [Center for Advanced Sciences and Technology] Building even started,” she remarked of a $15 million project that still awaits half of its funding from the county. “I think the college absolutely needs that building.”
She added with a small laugh, “But maybe they’ll build it now that I’m gone.”
Golladay also regrets that the college, due to financial issues, couldn’t pay the faculty and staff the higher salaries she felt they deserve or hire more personnel.
“It’s been difficult ever since I’ve been here,” she remarked, “and the state has not been much better [than the county in providing funding].”
Those won’t be difficulties facing her anymore, but Golladay said she’s already received multiple employment offers and is exploring both paid and volunteer opportunities.
Having been continuously employed since the age of 12 with 35 years in upper education alone she’s intrigued by retirement but is eager to stay active.
“I believe I still have a lot to do,” Golladay affirmed. “I’m not going to stop moving.”
She won’t be leaving her home in Neversink, however, and looks forward to gardening and other leisure pursuits.
“I’m getting a puppy in September,” she related, “and we’re going to have a lot of fun!”
A new direction
Golladay’s departure adds to a litany of top-level changes at Sullivan.
Board Chair Phyllis Coombe stepped down and was replaced in July by Speranza.
Two other board members Bob Ernst and Joan Farrow have reached the end of their terms and are awaiting governor-appointed successors.
There’s a brand new dean of students, and Vice President of Administrative Services Jeff Shapiro, who reportedly did not get along with Golladay, resigned last week by “mutual agreement,” said Speranza.
“SUNY is now looking for an interim president for us,” Speranza explained, adding that Shapiro won’t likely be replaced until Sullivan has someone in the presidency.
In the meantime, his goal is to unify the supporters and employees of the college including legislators.
“I think we’ll work hard to open all those channels of communication,” he remarked.
Speranza added he’s not intimidated by the potentially major financial and leadership challenges which lie ahead.
“I’m the type of guy who really welcomes the opportunity to effect change,” he explained. “My vision for the college is to get it to the point where the name of SUNY Sullivan registers in the eyes of students because we have excellent programs.”