SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher Receives Rockefeller Award for Public Service

December 8, 2014

Albany – The New York State Academy for Public Administration today presented State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher with the prestigious Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, the highest recognition of distinguished public service in New York State.

“Public service is one of life’s most rewarding experiences, and I have had the rare opportunity to have this experience at the impact level of the nation’s largest system of higher education,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “I am truly in awe of SUNY – of the people who work here, the students who study on our campuses and online, and the many partners we have in government, business, and communities across the state. I share this award with each and every one of them and thank the State Academy for recognizing our collective work.

“Nelson A. Rockefeller dedicated a lifetime to public service and it is a great honor to receive this award, which not only bears his name but also embodies his marvelous vision.”

Throughout a more than 40-year career in public education, Chancellor Zimpher has attained international recognition for her visionary institutional and community leadership. She has led three major public research universities and is now in her sixth year as chancellor of SUNY.

A major thrust behind Chancellor Zimpher’s success has been leading universities to realize their potential as vital economic drivers in their communities, regions, and states. Harnessing the power of the SUNY’s vast “systemness,” as she calls it, and spearheading groundbreaking initiatives to spur economic development and innovation throughout New York, Chancellor Zimpher has set SUNY on course to achieve its full collective impact while serving as a national model. 

Engaging SUNY’s stakeholders immediately upon her arrival in New York in 2009 with a tour of the SUNY campuses and their surrounding communities in her first 100 days, Chancellor Zimpher convened all of SUNY’s constituent groups to collaboratively develop and implement The Power of SUNY, a strategic plan centered on driving economic development in New York State and improving the quality of life for all citizens. Currently, the University is undertaking a refresh of the plan, assessing its progress at the five-year mark and setting new goals for the future.

Under Chancellor Zimpher’s leadership, SUNY has broadened its service to students through a number of new initiatives – such as Open SUNY, seamless transfer, and a commitment to applied learning – that increase access, completion, and success for students while the University continues to offer one of the most affordable post-secondary educations in the country without sacrificing quality.

Building upon her experience as co-founder of StriveTogether, Chancellor Zimpher has expanded SUNY’s role in the delivery of education from cradle to career by encouraging campuses to partner with local K-12 schools and cross-sector leaders, and positioning the system to support those efforts. SUNY’s statewide Cradle to Career Alliance now supports and coordinates the efforts of 12 community partnerships that are working to collectively move the dial on student outcomes that span the education pipeline.

In addition to broadening SUNY’s collaboration with K-12 and businesses and industry in the private sector, Chancellor Zimpher has forged unprecedented partnerships with President Barack Obama’s administration and the White House as well as Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and members of the State Legislature. In New York, this has led to successful legislation and policy reforms such as NYSUNY 2020, STARTUP-NY, and the Master Teacher and STEM Scholarship Programs, among others.

About the Nelson A. Rockefeller Award
Inaugurated in 1980 by the Empire State Capital Area Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration and now selected by the State Academy for Public Administration (SAPA), the Rockefeller Award is presented to individuals who have made a significant academic contribution in the public service related fields such as public administration, public policy, public health, political science, education, or economics. 

Previous Rockefeller Award recipients include Hon. Arthur Levitt; Dr. T. Norman Hurd; Dr. Howard Miller; Hon. Erastus Corning 2nd ; Hon. Malcolm Wilson; Dr. David Axelrod; James Biggane; Hon. Francis Bergan; Richard Wiebe; William Hennessy; Dr. Henrik N. Dullea; Peter C. Goldmark Jr.; Robert J. Morgado; Hon. Thomas M. Whalen III; John C. Egan; Alton G. Marshall; Hon. Warren M. Anderson; Hon. H. Carl McCall; Hon. Judith S. Kaye; George C. Sinnott; Thomas A. Constantine; Richard P. Mills; and Richard P. Nathan, Ph.D.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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