SUNY Remembers New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo

January 6, 2015

Albany – The State University of New York today shared the following remembrances of former New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo in recognition of his lifelong contributions to SUNY and New York State.

SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall: “I have had the honor over many decades of working, campaigning, and most importantly, ‎developing a partnership and friendship with Governor Mario Cuomo. I join with all New Yorkers in mourning the loss of this iconic leader and send my condolences to his family. Mario Cuomo was a champion for diversity and civil rights, and his devotion to the plight of the less fortunate brought important societal issues to the forefront of national discussion. One of the most gifted speakers of our time, Mario Cuomo painted a picture of American life that remains vivid and powerful to this day. In the halls of government in Albany or as New York's ambassador on the national stage, Mario Cuomo was always principled, cerebral, honest, and above reproach. ‎He changed New York for the better and although his voice is now silent, his timeless words and ideals have shaped our state and will be with us forever.”

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher: "New York and the country have lost one of the great leaders of our time. Mario Cuomo's vision that government could be a vehicle to improve lives, especially for our most disadvantaged citizens, reverberates to this day at the State University of New York, as does his dedication to keeping public higher education in New York affordable and world-class. While in office, he graciously accepted invitations to meet with and speak to our students, faculty, and governance groups. He hosted President Clinton at the University at Albany in 1994 and made the initial investments in what has now grown into SUNY Polytechnic Institute. My thoughts and prayers are with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the entire Cuomo family during this difficult time.”

SUNY Trustee Dr. Marshall A. Lichtman, professor of Medicine, Biochemistry, and Biophysics at University of Rochester Medical Center: “I had the distinct honor of meeting Mario Cuomo on several occasions. One that stands out is the signing of a human organ transplantation agreement in the late 1980s at Buffalo General Hospital. The agreement brought together three hospitals – Roswell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo General, and the University at Rochester Medical Center – to cut costs by eliminating the duplication of medical procedures among our institutions, which were so close in proximity. The agreement was one of many that the former governor set in motion to bolster and support New York’s healthcare programs. He was a truly visionary leader.”

D. Bruce Johnstone, SUNY Chancellor 1988-94: “Mario Cuomo was brilliant, thoughtful, and a strong supporter of public higher education. While we never had as much state revenue as we would have liked, his years were mainly during difficult financial times for the state, and the governor was supportive of our long struggle, primarily with the State Legislature, to free ourselves from much of the pernicious over-regulation that had so plagued the campuses and the system in the early 80s. Most important to me -- and I believe to the entire system -- Mario Cuomo appointed good trustees and superb chairs and was fully committed to the essential independence and academic integrity of the State University. In short, I admired him greatly and was proud to be a part of his cabinet.”

Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive officer and officer-in-charge of SUNY Polytechnic Institute: “For SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and its Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Governor Mario M. Cuomo leaves an enduring legacy. He was the mastermind of the SUNY Graduate Research Initiative which, in 1988, recruited me to New York.  He also devised and implemented the Centers for Advanced Technology (CATs) programs that, to my knowledge, were the first of their kind in the U.S. to fuse academic innovation with industrial relevance and commercial applicability to enable New York universities to contribute to the vibrancy and competitiveness of the New York economy. Our designation in 1993 as a CAT is undoubtedly the catalyst to the establishment of CNSE and then SUNY Poly. His vision for and impact on the nanotechnology revolution in New York did not stop there. He also funded the first state-of-the-art building (currently known as the Center for Emerging Sciences and Technology Management) on the Albany NanoTech campus that certainly provided the impetus for the Andrew Cuomo first-of-its-kind CNSE model of co-location of CNSE faculty and students with corporate researchers, that is now driving the nanotechnology expansion across New York. It is also driving the Federal Government borrowing the CNSE model under its own National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

“For me personally, being interviewed by a governor, and Mario M. Cuomo nonetheless, for my first real job as assistant professor of physics truly blew my mind away and cemented my decision to take the job here instead of multiple offers from prestigious top ten institutions and national laboratories. But what really struck me were the depth of his intellect, the intensity of his passion, his down-to-earth engagement style, and his sense of humor. During our interactions, he came across as both a colleague and as a mentor in chatting about the ever evolving economic landscape in the U.S., the role of universities in economic development, his vision for the role of higher education in New York’s competitiveness, and my thoughts, plans, and aspirations. I have never witnessed any other leader command such presence both privately and publicly and was especially struck by how he commanded the New York press whenever he entered a press conference and suddenly everything went quiet and you could hear a needle drop. My silver lining in this loss is the fact that his vision and blueprint for economic vibrancy in New York are now being carried out by a leader of the same caliber, his own son, Andrew. What a poetic justice.”

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., president of Stony Brook University: “Mario Cuomo was an early and eloquent voice for social mobility achieved through public higher education. His life exemplified the American dream, demonstrating that opportunity and hard work can lift up immigrants, the poor, and the middle class. He was the soul of the Democratic Party during a time of economic prosperity that focused on the upper class. The principals he expressed live on and take shape every day on the Stony Brook University campus, where 34 percent of our students are first generation in their family to attend college and where 36 percent of our students receive PELL grants. All of us at Stony Brook University mourn his passing and we extend our heartfelt condolences to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the entire Cuomo family.”

University at Albany President Robert J. Jones: “Governor Mario Cuomo left his enduring imprint on the University at Albany and its faculty, administration, and students when he established the esteemed New York State Writers Institute, recognized the need to pursue and apply technology for management and service delivery in the public sector through the Center for Technology and Government (CTG), and celebrated our students’ success at commencement ceremonies. Many on our downtown campus fondly recall the Governor’s competitive spirit in the renowned basketball games on the court in Page Hall. Our University community sends its deepest sympathy to his family during this very difficult time.”

University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi: “Governor Cuomo was one of our great and visionary champions of public higher education. He recognized UB’s and SUNY’s tremendous potential as beacons of educational excellence, social vitality, and economic prosperity for New York State and beyond. And again and again over the years, he helped us to realize that potential to the fullest—from his dedication to expanding public access to higher education excellence, to his support for building vibrant campuses in Buffalo and across SUNY, to his commitment to making UB and SUNY leading engines of innovation and world-class research. Today that legacy continues as strong as ever. Our UB community is deeply grateful, and we are inspired by Governor Mario Cuomo’s vision as we rise to meet the new challenges and opportunities the 21st century will bring for Buffalo, New York State, and our world.”

Frank A. Cipriani, president emeritus, Farmingdale State College: “I first met Mario Cuomo just before he became lieutenant governor and was acting as Ombudsman for a blind street singer who had a guide dog from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, of which I was chairman at the time. I was immediately taken by his quick wit and engaging personality. I was president at Farmingdale for all of the 12 years that he was governor and the four that he was lieutenant governor.  In all of those years, we met on the campus and at formal occasions and he called on me to serve in several public posts. What I enjoyed most were the occasional drop-ins he made on campus. Twice, he played basketball at Farmingdale and the three times he addressed our graduates. I always found him to be a brilliant, thoughtful, and caring human being. I am privileged to have known him.”

SUNY Downstate Medical Center President Dr. John F. Williams: “On behalf of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, I would like to extend condolences to the entire Cuomo family in this time of grief, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Matilda Cuomo, and SUNY Downstate alum Dr. Margaret Cuomo. Mario Cuomo had a strong impact on our campus and, by extension, on our Brooklyn community. He was instrumental in helping the campus attain funding for Downstate's Health Science Education Building, and attended its groundbreaking ceremony in 1987. In the intervening years, in its halls thousands of physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals have studied and trained for careers of service. Mario Cuomo was an advocate and champion for education; for providing access and opportunity to all and particularly to immigrants and those from disadvantaged backgrounds; and for ensuring that the health safety net was there to embrace those in need. His vision for a just and equitable society was and is inspirational. We at Downstate mourn his loss.”

Calvin O. Butts, III, President, SUNY College at Old Westbury: "Former Governor Mario Cuomo led a creative and successful life, and his loss is a devastating one for all who call New York home.  An outstanding public servant, he accomplished so much while always maintaining a focus on what was for the good of the people, no matter their background or standing in life.  From the depth of his great religious faith and with a compassionate heart, his life's work has left an indelible mark on this state and its people."

SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian: “Governor Mario Cuomo championed the first engineering programs at SUNY New Paltz 30 years ago. His legacy is still felt through the many graduates who have received a quality education in engineering and who lead successful lives and careers in business, industry, and government today.  The College is grateful for the late governor’s great work and sends heartfelt condolences to his family during this difficult time.”

SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley: “Mario Cuomo led our state through difficult times, always with a focus on the greater good and a vision of our citizenry's immense possibilities. He was an inspiration for generations of Americans with his devotion to public service and his deliberative and eloquent approach to governing grounded in humane values.”

Erie Community College President Jack Quinn: “From my many meetings with Governor Mario Cuomo, I know that he understood the indispensability of education. He valued its importance for both his state constituents and his own family, who he valued over all else. His leadership served as a great example to generations of New Yorkers, and his influence will certainly be missed.”

SUNY Maritime College President RADM Michael A. Alfultis, Ph.D.: “To this day, I hear regularly from SUNY Maritime alumni who fondly recall when the college hosted Governor Mario Cuomo and hundreds of distinguished guests, aboard its training vessel, the Empire State V, during Fourth of July ceremonies held in New York Harbor in 1986. The event marked the unveiling of a restored Statue of Liberty, which had recently received a $30 million facelift for its centennial anniversary.”

Jhilmil (Jill) Ghaleb, SUNY Delhi College Council member:  "Governor Mario Cuomo strived to make our great state of New York a better place for all. He exemplified the qualities of a true leader. He had integrity, strength of character, and was a brilliant and riveting communicator. Most importantly, he had heart, and an innate sense of justice; he cared deeply for the people. We New Yorkers were truly privileged and blessed to have Mario Cuomo as our governor. "

Steven G. Frederick, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Clinton Community College: “I had the pleasure of meeting Governor Mario Cuomo in 1994 during a rally to save the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. One of my most lasting impressions of Governor Cuomo was of the size of his hands: When he shook mine, his hand seemed to come up to my elbow! In the early 1950’s when he signed on to play baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates as an outfielder, he probably did not need a glove!”

Yacov Shamash, vice president for Economic Development and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University: “During his time as governor, Mario Cuomo funded the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) that continues to enable Stony Brook and other SUNY campuses to assist hundreds of New York State businesses and create thousands of jobs.”

SUNY Brockport Council Member Ken Pink: “My wife and I were newlyweds when Mario Cuomo was first elected governor back in 1983. I have lived in upstate New York my entire life so it’s fair to say I saw the best years in New York State governance during Governor Mario Cuomo's term in office. He raised the bar to a such a high point of excellence that everyone in the country emulated his leadership style. With his leadership, we as New Yorkers can all say with great conviction, a heartfelt, ‘Thank You’ and ‘Well Done!’  Governor, you will be missed and never forgotten.”


About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, 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 2022, 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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