Honoring a True Leader and Visionary

Chairman Emeritus H. Carl McCall has dedicated the entirety of his life to empowering and uplifting New Yorkers. A fierce advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, McCall spent every day as Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees championing the issues most important to students and faculty throughout The State University of New York. McCall is responsible for developing some of our most groundbreaking and impactful policies to date, including Ban the Box and Enough is Enough.

As a result of his long standing contributions to SUNY and New York State, on February 14th, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the SUNY Administration Building located in downtown Albany will be renamed the H. Carl McCall SUNY Building.

The Governor also awarded McCall with the Governor's Medal of Public Service for his distinguished career in service to the State of New York during a reception at the Executive Mansion attended by members and guests of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus.

"Carl McCall is a friend and a true public servant who has graced this great state with more than 50 years of distinguished service and leadership, and all New Yorkers are better off for it," Governor Cuomo said. "While his achievements are beyond count, his legacy will be as a champion for those in need, and for helping restore faith in the ability of government to make a positive difference in people's lives. It is a worthy tribute we pay to one of New York's greatest trailblazers by awarding him the Governor's Medal of Public Service and renaming the SUNY Administration Building in his honor."

The State University of New York, founded in 1948, took possession of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Building as its system headquarters in 1972 and moved to the space in 1977 after interior renovations.

The initial portion of the complex, built in 1914-1915, includes the five-story block at the north end and the thirteen-story tower, connected by the long five-story diagonal wing. Another five-story wing was constructed in 1915-1918, south of the central tower.

The history of a great leader

Chairman Emeritus McCall is a historical figure for New York State, as well as for SUNY. He began his tenure as Chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees and serving SUNY when he was appointed on October 17, 2011.

McCall served as Comptroller of the State of New York from May 1993 to December 2002.  As Chief Fiscal Officer of the State, oversaw governmental and financial oversight and pension fund management.  As sole trustee of the 880,000-member State and Local Retirement Systems, McCall was responsible for investing a pension fund valued at $120 billion.

He also has had a distinguished career as a public servant, and served three terms as a New York State Senator representing the upper Manhattan district of New York City; as an Ambassador to the United Nations; as a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and as the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights.

McCall has been a passionate advocate for public education. He served as President of the New York City Board of Education from 1991–1993, where he set policy for the largest school system in the nation.

"It is a worthy tribute we pay to one of New York's greatest trailblazers by renaming the SUNY Administration Building in his honor."

- Governor Andrew Cuomo

His work also has spanned to the private sector; he served as a Vice President of Citibank and as Corporate Director of the New York Stock Exchange, Tyco International, New Plan Realty Corporation, Ariel Investment, and presently, Athene Holding.

McCall has received degrees from Dartmouth College, Andover Newton Theological Seminary, and the University of Edinburgh. He is the recipient of ten honorary degrees, and is married to Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

SUNY Board Chairman H Carl McCall stands next to the new sign for the H Carl McCall SUNY Building at the Governor's mansion.

SUNY Board Chairman H Carl McCall stands next to the new sign for the H Carl McCall SUNY Building at the Governor's mansion. (Image courtesy Paul Grondahl)


Enhancing the student experience for all

McCall was committed to enhancing the student experience and mitigating the impacts of outside factors in posing obstacles for student success. In December of 2014, Governor Cuomo announced the adoption of a system-wide sexual assault policy, following the passage of a resolution at the October Board of Trustees meeting. Under the guidance of Chairman Emeritus McCall, the policy was developed to effectively address incidents of sexual assault and ensure the safety of students. The first-of-its-kind in the nation, the policy includes a Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights, as well as a uniform definition of consent. This announcement also came with the launch of a new website, providing students and communities with additional tools and resources to combat sexual violence and misconduct.

McCall also fought to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, or background, have access to higher education.

In September of 2016, the Board of Trustees voted to "ban the box" from its general application, revising SUNY policy that previously required student applicants to declare prior felony convictions. This "milestone achievement," as former Chancellor Nancy Zimpher called it, came after a nationwide movement to remove opportunity for bias in the college application process and reduce barriers to achieving a higher education. Such historical change to SUNY policy would've been impossible without the leadership of McCall, who partnered with students to establish new procedures that only ask students to declare a prior felony conviction post-admission and only when they seek campus housing or participation in clinical or field experiences, internships, or study abroad programs.

The importance of empowering the student voice to be a part of the deliberative conversations that surround policy decisions was something McCall deeply understood.

His close friendship with the SUNY Student Assembly, the recognized overarching student government for SUNY's 64 campuses, fostered collaboration across all aspects of student life. By working hand-in-hand with the Student Assembly, McCall ensured that decisions made at all levels were reflective of the day-to-day experiences of students across the state.

During the Ban the Box initiative, McCall consulted students on next steps, basing the final policies on a resolution put forward by the Student Assembly that recommended "criminal history screenings should only be implemented after a student has been admitted, and that they should never be used to revoke admission."

Meylin Andares, Director of Enrollment Management and Student Success at SUNY System Administration reflected on McCall's focus on student success. "Chairman Emeritus H. Carl McCall firmly believes the core of SUNY's mission: to provide to the people of New York State educational services of the highest quality, with the broadest possible access, fully representative of all segments of the population," she said. "Thanks to his support and assistance, we created innovative forms of recruitment and enrollment strategies to ensure all students have the ability to level the playing field. His advocacy and relentless fight for social justice has improved campus policies and student experiences. We applaud his contribution and will proudly continue his legacy"

Creating a diverse and inclusive university system

Another focal point of McCall’s leadership was his staunch support of cultivating a diverse and inclusive university.

He opened opportunities for dialogue that enriched the world-renowned education that SUNY is known for, and empowered students to look through the lenses of their peers.

In September of 2015, the Board of Trustees adopted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy, designed to reaffirm SUNY's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and make SUNY the most inclusive higher education system in the country. Backed by Governor Cuomo, the policy included requirements for a Chief Diversity Officer and comprehensive strategic diversity plans for every campus, as well as an added emphasis on using leadership search firms with demonstrated value for diversity, customized cultural competency training, annual reporting, and dedicated faculty researchers. 

Flash forward to August of 2018, Chairman Emeritus McCall, joined by Chancellor Kristina Johnson, submitted a strategic plan to expand diversity, equity and inclusion system wide. The plan laid out six clear goals, with strategies and actionables to achieve the measures. These goals included items such as significantly increasing the diversity of SUNY faculty, and supporting recruitment, retention, and success of emerging and at-risk populations.

McCall’s impact is not limited to the policies that he established—it spreads to the lives he touched, the students he mentored, and the communities he inspired.

In his promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion, McCall was a steadfast advocate for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and for New York State's economically disadvantaged students. His support was consistent and helped change the trajectory for thousands of promising SUNY EOP students.

Associate Provost and Director of the Office of Opportunity Programs Cheryl Hamilton said, "Chairman Emeritus H. Carl McCall is a true visionary. His distinguished career in public service, along with his unwavering commitment to high-quality, accessible, and affordable higher education has positively influenced my vision to further strengthen our nationally recognized Educational Opportunity Program. He has inspired me to build on the program’s solid foundation and legacy as envisioned by Dr. Allen Ballard, the Honorable Percy E. Sutton, and the Honorable Dr. Arthur O. Eve."

With his diverse academic and professional backgrounds, and as he held the role of Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, McCall easily upheld the values most dear to the SUNY community by paving the way to a public higher education that is accessible, affordable, and inclusive for all people.

Published February 2020