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GCC readies for first president’s inauguration in 37 years

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Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 12:24 am

BATAVIA — It’s no wonder that staff at Genesee Community College had to form a committee to plan the new president’s inauguration.

The formal ceremony hasn’t been done for 37 years. Dr. Stuart Steiner took the reins as president in 1975, and remained GCC’s leader until he retired in 2011.

Now it’s Dr. James Sunser’s turn. Although he officially took the job Aug. 1 last year, Sunser is slated for the full academic procession at 2 p.m. May 5 at Stuart Steiner Theatre, 1 College Rd. A reception is to follow in the campus forum.

Guests will include various college staff and student representatives; Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the state university of New York; and Debbie L. Sydow, president of Onondaga Community College, where Sunser was on staff as bursar, vice president for finance and vice president for continuing and extended learning for 22 years. Sydow, who was a friend and mentor to the fourth president, will be the keynote speaker.

GCC Spokesman Rick Ensman is a member of the committee. It has mapped out not only a tribute to officially welcome Sunser to the city campus but a week’s worth of activities to appeal to all sorts of interests, he said.

“I have never been to a presidential inauguration or to any inauguration. It’s an academic ceremony that has a protocol,” he said. “It’s a very, very exciting planning process. The members of the commitee are very pleased and proud to be planning a celebration of the college and to showcase the wonderful work we do for the community.”

Even if some people don’t plan to attend the inauguration, there will be plenty of other events to entertain them, Ensman said.

The week will kick off with a visit from Tibetan monks from April 30 to May 4. They plan to build a sand mandala — a colorful tool used for gaining wisdom and compassion.

Law Day is set for May 2 and a series of art exhibits will be on display throughout the week as students conduct a mini Relay for Life outside to benefit American Cancer Society.

There will also be an exhibit of Sunser’s life in the college library. A transplant from the Syracuse suburb of Clay, Sunser now lives in Indian Falls with his wife Roseann. Some of his first 100 days were charted by meeting with students and staff, playing some impromptu basketball and initiating a new college assessment system.

He has been quick to credit a two-year institution, Onondaga Community College, for his own successful career path, and has the resume to back it up. A native of Syracuse, Sunser has a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, a master’s degree from Brockport State College, a Certificate of Advanced Study from the University of Rochester, and a doctor of education degree from the University of Rochester.

He is a recipient of the 2000 State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service and has served as a member of the adjunct faculty of Keuka College since 2004.

His predecessors ...

Dr. Alfred C. O’Connell was the founding president of GCC, serving from 1967 to 1970. Next in line was Dr. Cornelius (Neal) V. Robbins, who was there from 1970 to 1975.

Dr. Stuart Steiner was a member of the college staff since its inception in 1967 before he was hired as president in 1975.

More details about the ceremony and special activities are to be released in a few weeks, Ensman said. To register for the inauguration, go to:

For more information, call (585) 345-6812.

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