Albany – The State University
of New York Board of Trustees today appointed Clifton R. Wharton Jr. as
chancellor emeritus, a title conferred to a past-chancellor of the system for
just the third time in SUNY history.
Clifton Wharton served as SUNY
chancellor from 1978 to 1987. A highlight of his tenure was the implementation
of an ambitious long-term strategic planning effort known as The Challenge
and the Choice, which refocused SUNY’s mission to provide top quality
teaching and learning to students and to be an economic driver for the State of
New York. He was also the system’s first African American chancellor.
“Throughout SUNY history,
there have been great leaders who have made their mark in each of the three
tenets of our mission: to learn, to search, to serve; and Clifton Wharton is
one of our most prominent,” said Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “SUNY is
fortunate that at a critical point in the system’s development, a man who is
known as a national and global visionary served as our Chancellor. Today’s
appointment is befitting of his service and much deserved.”
appointment as Chancellor Emeritus is a fitting tribute to a man who pioneered
SUNY during one its most tumultuous and challenging times,” said SUNY
Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “He leaves a lasting legacy within SUNY’s history
and I commend the Board for recognizing his exemplary service with this
About Clifton R. Wharton
Clifton Reginald Wharton Jr.
has led an extraordinary life. Beyond his own academic accomplishments
(entering Harvard at 16, Masters in international affairs from SAIS and a
Master of Arts and PhD in economics from the University of Chicago), he built
his career around a commitment to public service.
His work in international
economic development, specifically in Latin America and Asia, was unique in
that Dr. Wharton didn’t use a theoretical approach with these communities.
Instead, he gave them the tools and the training they needed to become
self-sufficient in agriculture and nutrition thus raising their standard of
Dr. Wharton’s pioneering
global efforts made him a sought-after advisor in the fields of both business
and government. And while his achievements in various corporate positions, most
notably as the first African-American CEO of a major U.S. corporation at
TIAA-CREF, are vast, it is his work in the field of higher education
administration that we honor above all.
Clifton Wharton began his
official foray into higher education by becoming the first African American
president of Michigan State University in 1970. His calm and diplomatic
demeanor, coupled with his first-hand experience in foreign affairs with Latin
America and Southeast Asia served his constituency well, even through such
traumatic events as the Kent State protest.
As president, he advocated
for universal access to higher education, led the university to growth,
increased student involvement on advisory councils, and developed a new urban
In 1978, Dr. Wharton’s became
chancellor of one of the largest systems of public higher education in the
world and immediately began to put his mark on the State University of New
His time at SUNY is
remembered for many insightful and thorough reviews of the burgeoning and
bureaucratic system that earned him the title of “one of the top five most
influential leaders in higher education,” according to a national survey of the
time. Throughout his tenure, he remained dedicated to the principle that the
doors of academia should be open to the masses.
He appointed an independent
commission that resulted in streamlined processes and enhanced national
reputation for SUNY that to this day remains his legacy.
Above all else, Dr. Clifton
Wharton and his wife Dolores, who has had her own extremely distinguished
career, have always committed themselves to the people that made these
organizations successful. The unwavering support and the sense of family they
instilled in SUNY employees, students and the community has earned them the
utmost respect and admiration.
About the State University of New York
The State University of New
York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States,
educating nearly 468,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate
programs on 64 campuses with more than 3 million alumni around the
globe. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu