Campus celebrates DeFleur's tenure
By Eric Coker
On an afternoon in which faculty, staff and students paid tribute to retiring President Lois B. DeFleur, the guest of honor graciously returned the favor.
"Many people have said to me, 'Thank you' or 'Thank you for all you’ve done,'" she said. "I'm the one who should be thanking all of you. It is because of you and your commitment and belief in Binghamton that together we have achieved so much in these last years."
Members of the campus community gathered at the Mandela Room on May 6 for a reception honoring DeFleur's 20-year tenure as University president. DeFleur, who will depart in July, greeted well-wishers individually in a receiving line.
The reception also featured performances by the a capella group The Binghamton Crosbys, a cake from Sodexo and speeches from Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president of academic affairs; Richard Lee, Faculty Senate Executive Committee chair; Bonnie Jenson, Professional Employees Council chair; and Adam Amit, Student Association president.
Swain used DeFleur's flying experience as a metaphor for her leadership at the University.
"Binghamton University is the plane and when the president — the pilot — arrived, she chartered a course to land in a new location in higher education," Swain said. "Many of you have been on this plane with her for awhile and know the flight path has not been an easy one. But our pilot is courageous and skillful. When we encountered turbulence, she didn't bail out, nor did she set down at the nearest safe airport. Sometimes she wrestled that yoke and flew through the storm. Sometimes, she modified the flight plan.
"Her vision for Binghamton — pre-eminence in our institution's research and outreach endeavors — continues to expand in front of us," she said. "Our pilot has enabled this plane and crew to put many, many miles between where we were 20 years ago and where we are today. We remain on course despite our many challenges."
DeFleur pointed out that the University's growth and development over the past 20 years include more students, faculty and staff; new research centers and outreach programs; and new facilities.
She also praised a student body that features top students from New York state, the United States and all around the world, before mentioning the accolades for groups such as the debate team, accounting team, tennis team and computer science teams that last year won a national Federal Aviation Administration competition.
"I believe our students are our best ambassadors," she said. "Working with them has had a huge impact on my life. I’ve learned a lot."
DeFleur lauded the faculty and its leadership, thanking Lee for his longtime advice and support.
"It is because of the faculty — their teaching, research and outreach — that we continued to be recognized for excellence."
DeFleur then thanked the University's staff members: "They make Binghamton shine on a daily basis."
She saved her final tribute for the vice presidents, deans, directors and her office staff.
"I know I can be a pretty tough taskmaster at times," she said. "I have high standards for myself and all of you. Every day over the years, they showed up. They were there to make things happen and did it with enthusiasm and creativity. A special thank you to all of you because when the going got tough, you were there to say to me, 'You're not going to let them do that to Binghamton.' … They have kept me going."
Vice presidents Brian Rose, Gerald Sonnenfeld and James Van Voorst joined Swain in presenting DeFleur with a Binghamton University chair.
"You probably don’t need another piece of furniture to move to Colorado, but you can't leave Binghamton without a Binghamton chair," Swain said. "We hope you will find a place near a window where you can look at the open skies you love so much."
DeFleur concluded by insisting that the day was a "celebration of Binghamton's future" and that future is bright.
"While this may be a time of change and transition, Binghamton will continue to shine.
"This will be difficult for me personally because of all of the wonderful relationships and friendships I've had in the years here," she said, her voice starting to break with emotion. "Binghamton will always be near and dear to me."