Profiles in Diversity

Throughtout history, many individuals have graduated from, worked for, or represented the State University of New York to further the mission to be "fully representative of all segments of the population in a complete range of academic, professional and vocational postsecondary programs."

We've profiled some of these diverse individuals below to share their stories of success that were earned through their time at SUNY.

Dr. Clifton Wharton Jr. 

Clifton Wharton headshot

Dr. Clifton Wharton Jr. served as the first African American chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) from 1978 to 1987. A highlight of his tenure was implementing 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 be an economic driver for the State of New York.

Beyond his academic accomplishments (entering Harvard at 16, master's in international affairs from SAIS, and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago), he built his career around a commitment to public service. 

Dr. Wharton's SUNY tenure was noted 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." Throughout his tenure, he remained dedicated to the principle that academia's doors should be open to the masses. 

He appointed an independent commission that resulted in streamlined processes and enhanced SUNY's national reputation that to this day remains his legacy. In 2012 SUNY's Board of Trustees 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.

Dr. Wharton's pioneering global efforts made him a sought-after advisor in the fields of business, government, and education. While his leadership positions were many and impressive, most notably, he was a barrier breaker. Throughout a career that spanned 70 years, he served as the first African American president of Michigan State University in 1970, the first African American chancellor of SUNY in 1978. In 1982, he was the first African American to serve as the chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1987, the first African American CEO of a major U.S. corporation at TIAA-CREF.

Although his accomplishments are vast, it is his work in higher education administration that we honor above all.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion