SUNY Celebrates the Achievements of 52 EOP Students Honored with the Norman R. McConney, Jr. Award for Student Excellence

April 18, 2024

Award Recognizes Educational Opportunity Program Students for Academic Excellence and Strength in Overcoming Personal Obstacles

Photos from the Event Can Be Found Here

Albany, NY
– State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. today recognized the achievements of 52 students in SUNY's Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) who are honored with the Norman R. McConney, Jr. Award for Student Excellence. The award, now celebrating its fifth class of honorees, recognizes outstanding EOP students for their academic merit and perseverance.

The honor is named in memory of Norman R. McConney, Jr. (1946–2016), a graduate of the University at Albany and former assistant dean for special programs at SUNY. McConney, alongside former Assembly Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve, helped create the EOP as a statewide program.

“Today, we celebrate the resilience and success of our SUNY EOP students. A student who is the granddaughter of an undocumented immigrant who struggled academically in high school, but today excels with a 3.7 GPA. A student who made it on the dean’s list while helping raise and provide for their siblings. Students who give back to their community to help younger kids have a better life," said SUNY Chancellor King. “Each student we celebrate today has shown strength time and time again in pursuit of an education that will open the doors of opportunity and upward mobility."

The SUNY Board of Trustees said, “Since the formation of the Educational Opportunity Program, 85,000 students have benefitted from the incredible support and guidance this program has offered. EOP provides SUNY students a path toward success, and our McConney award winners are among the most extraordinary students on their campuses. The Board of Trustees would like to thank Governor Hochul and our partners in the New York State Legislature who continuously advocate for this program so SUNY may continue to help all New Yorkers find their place at SUNY."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "I am immensely proud of the perseverance and determination exhibited by this year's cohort of Norman R. McConney Jr. Student Excellence Award winners. Our SUNY Educational Opportunity (EOP) Program, which we proudly fund annually, including last year's $43.757 million investment, continues to excel in its mission of expanding higher education access to traditionally marginalized and disadvantaged populations across New York. It brings me great joy to witness the significant impact this program has on our students, many of whom are first-generation college students. I eagerly anticipate the remarkable accomplishments our students will achieve throughout their lives as they join the esteemed ranks of SUNY alumni."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “Congratulations to all the students honored today for their hard work and exceptional accomplishments. The EOP program is essential to many students seeking higher education as a step toward a brighter future. As Speaker, I've fought to ensure our opportunity programs have the tools and funding they need to continue to make higher education accessible to all students on their path toward success. I'm honored to celebrate the students here today and look forward to celebrating many more in the years ahead."

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee said, “I want to congratulate the fifty-two EOP students who are being honored for academic excellence. Despite overcoming adversity, they have helped others, demonstrating resilience and community service. I wish them continued success as they enter the workforce as proud SUNY graduates."

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Chair of the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Higher Education said, "The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) serves more than 10,000 students every year at SUNY campuses throughout New York State. These 52 students represent the promise of the SUNY system; founded on equity, affordability, and uplifting students from a wide swathe of backgrounds as one of our greatest social mobility tools. I congratulate these students and, as Higher Education Chair in the Assembly, I look forward to continuing to secure funding for EOP programs that enhance our student experience and build even more bridges from college to career for our graduates."

Blake G. Washington, Budget Director for the State of New York, and a University at Albany and EOP alumnus, was this year’s keynote speaker. Mr. Washington is responsible for the development and management of the New York State budget and leads a team of public servants to administer the fiscal duties of the state, including economic and revenue forecasting, tax policy, fiscal planning, capital financing and management of the State’s debt portfolio.

This year’s student speaker, Omar Cunningham, enrolled in the Business Administration program at Hudson Valley Community College, has consistently been named to the President's List, and aspires to transfer to the University at Albany. He holds the title of President of the EOP Club, where he provides peer mentorship, drawing from his own reservoir of resilience and leadership to uplift others. He also serves as the vice president of the Entrepreneur Club and as a senator for the Student Senate at HVCC. His journey to higher education is just as remarkable as his accomplishments since entering HVCC as an EOP student.

Since its inception in 1967, the EOP has provided access, academic support, and supplemental financial assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. In its 56-year history, the EOP has served more than 85,000 students and evolved into one of the country's most successful college access programs.

About Norman R. McConney, Jr.

SUNY recognizes Educational Opportunity Program students for their academic achievements in honor of Norman R. McConney, Jr. due to his legacy of public service, which encompassed several statewide initiatives to benefit underrepresented New Yorkers, including programs to prepare minority high school students for careers in the sciences and medicine and scholarships for students underrepresented in the licensed professions. Mr. McConney is also credited with helping found the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus, which later became the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus.

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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