Stony Brook

Richard McCormick. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

The State University of New York Board of Trustees has named former Rutgers President Richard McCormick, 76, interim president of Stony Brook University as the school continues its search for a seventh president.

McCormick, who will take over the reigns at the downstate flagship SUNY school on August 1st, replaces Maurie McInnis, who left Stony Brook after four years to become the president of Yale University on July 1.

Dr. Bill Wertheim, Executive Vice President for Stony Brook Medicine, has been serving as Officer-in-Charge and Stony Brook University Hospital’s Governing Body since July 1.

McCormick, who was president of Rutgers from 2002 to 2012 and has taught and studied United States political history in the 19th and 20th centuries, has over four decades of experience in higher education, including leading several highly ranked public universities.

McCormick will oversee Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine and will serve as part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“Each step we take in this leadership transition is important, and we welcome Dr. McCormick,” John King, Jr, SUNY Chancellor said in a statement. “His vast higher education experience will continue to move this esteemed university forward as the campus conducts a national search for its new president.”

McCormick welcomed the chance to lead Stony Brook during this transition period.

Stony Brook “has achieved national stature yet remains fully engaged with its Long Island community, for which it is an economic engine,” McCormick said in a statement. “My thanks to the SUNY Board of Trustees, Chancellor King and the Stony Brook Council for this opportunity.”

As an interim president, McCormick will not be a candidate to become the next permanent president.

In addition to his tenure at Rutgers, which started in 1976 when he joined the history department, McCormick also was vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1992 to 1995 and was president of the University of Washington from 1995 to 2002.

The incoming interim Stony Brook president earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College in American Studies and his PhD in history from Yale in 1976, 20 years before McInnis also earned her PhD in the History of Art from the New Haven-based Ivy league school she now leads.

McCormick started his academic career at Rutgers, where he was a member of the history faculty from 1976 to 1992. He was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

McCormick is the son of Richard Patrick McCormick, a former Rutgers professor and Katheryne Levis, a former Rutgers administrator.

McCormick and his father co-taught an American history course.

An author of several books, McCormick is writing a book on the history of American political corruption from the 17th century to the present.

Rutgers achievements

McCormick, who earned his high school diploma from Piscataway Township High School in Piscataway, New Jersey, orchestrated constructive changes in his hometown university during his presidency.

McCormick helped raise $650 million while he was president.

Four years after becoming president, the university reorganized the undergraduate colleges on the New Brunswick campus into a School of Arts and Sciences and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

The reorganization included a comprehensive new curriculum at the School of Arts and Sciences, first year seminars, signature courses, expansion opportunities for undergraduate research and honors programs and support for top undergraduates competing for highly competitive scholarships and awards.

In the final years of his tenure, he merged Rutgers with the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and divisions of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill to integrate almost all units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers.

“Dr. McCormick’s notable accomplishments as president of Rutgers from 2002 until 2012 included reinvigorating undergraduate education, elevating its standing in the top tier of public research universities, realizing a longstanding goal of returning medical education to the university’s portfolio, and improving and strengthening connections with important partners, including alumni and local communities,” Wertheim said in a statement. “He is the ideal leader to help Stony Brook sustain its momentum as New York’s flagship university.”

The former Rutgers president led the school when it installed 40,000 high-efficiency solar panels over two large surface parking lots on the Livingston campus, producing over eight megawatts of power, which, at the time, was the largest renewable energy system built on a college campus in the country. Rutgers has continued to add solar panels.

Stony Brook momentum

McCormick’s experience with solar energy dovetails with some of Stony Brook’s recent environmental initiatives and successes.

With the support of the Simons Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, Stony Brook University won the competitive process as the lead institution to create a climate solutions center on Governors Island. The New York Climate Exchange will develop and deploy dynamic solutions to the global climate crisis, will provide educational and research opportunities and will serve as a place for New Yorkers to benefit from the green economy.

The Climate Solutions Center will include 400,000 square feet of green-designed building space, including research labs, classroom space, exhibits, greenhouses, mitigation technologies and housing facilities.

McCormick takes over as interim president at a time when Stony Brook has achieved some important financial and academic victories.

A year ago, the Simons Foundation made a $500 million endowment gift to Stony Brook. The gift, which will be spread out over seven years, was the largest unrestricted donation to an institution of higher education in United States history.

The Foundation gift, which the state will match on a 1:2 program, and other philanthropic contributions are expected to increase the endowment by as much as $1 billion.

Stony Brook recently climbed 19 spots in the rankings of colleges from US News and World Report, ranking 58th in the rankings. That’s the highest ever rank for a State University of New York institution. The school also placed 12th among national universities for social mobility rank.

“Stony Brook is a world-class institution, moving on an upward trajectory, educating the next generation of leaders and thinkers and bettering our society through research and economic development,” Stony Brook Council Kevin Law said in a statement. “I am pleased to welcome Dr. McCormick, whose accomplishments and vision in higher-education leadership are nothing short of extraordinary, as our interim president, and to begin the search for our next permanent president.”

Challenges ahead

McCormick will likely face the same some of the same challenges other university presidents, interim or not, have dealt with as protestors have expressed their frustrations over the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

At numerous universities, protests disrupted exams, classes and graduation ceremonies.

College presidents have tried to balance between the rights of students to assemble and express themselves and the university’s need to protect various groups of students from intimidation, bullying, or threats.

Local politicians welcomed McCormick. “I look forward to getting to know Dr. McCormick and collaborating with him to ensure that Stony Brook remains a premier institution of higher learning, providing a safe environment for students of all religions,” said Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY1).

Pixabay photo

By Serena Carpino

Father’s Day is always a special time of the year. Families go out for breakfast at Sweet Mama’s, rent kayaks in the Stony Brook Harbor, play a round of golf at St George’s in Setauket, or continue their own fun traditions. 

As Father’s Day approaches, TBR asked local personalities, “What does Father’s Day mean to you? How do you celebrate Father’s Day? What’s the best present you’ve given your father over the years?”

— Photos by Serena Carpino

Eric Rectanus, Stony Brook 

Father’s Day is “a way of honoring the person who took care of you. It’s the person who put a roof over your head, made sure you had food in your belly, loved you and cared for you no matter what.” Rectanus, who lost his father last year, said. “Seeing Father’s Day now compared to when I had my dad, I see really what Father’s Day means because I don’t have him anymore. It’s just that person who gives you unconditional love, no matter what you do in life.” 

Mario Solis, Stony Brook 

“For me, it’s just a time that [my family] can get together, especially with my dad. We don’t have that close of a relationship, so that’s really the only time that I get to spend time with him.” 

Solis said that he and his family celebrate Father’s Day with food. “We eat — eat and just spend time together. It’s nothing special but it means a lot to us.” Solis added that the best gift he has given his father was a tool set. 

Solis declined for his picture to be taken. 

Tatjana Trajkovic, East Setauket

 “Father’s Day is a day to celebrate your dad because a lot of us who have dads sometimes take them for granted and don’t realize that some people aren’t as fortunate as us. So, it’s a day to appreciate these special people,” Trajkovic said.

The family celebrates her father and sister as a “two-for-one special” since her sister’s birthday is the same day. “Usually, we get a cake and split it between them,” she said.

 Trajkovic will be attending college in the fall and hopes to give her father a meaningful present before she leaves. She explained, “On TikTok there’s a special Father’s Day present that’s trending where you have your dad write down all of his important memories and the best stories of his life. I want him to write all of these in a notebook so that I can carry them to college. That’ll probably be the best gift I’ll ever give him, but I suppose it’ll be a gift for me too.”

Christian McClain, Shoreham

Christian McClain, a student at Shoreham-Wading River High School, said that, to him, “Father’s Day means celebrating and appreciating the love, guidance and support my father has given me throughout my life.”

On Father’s Day, McClain always has baseball tournaments. So, to celebrate his father, he wears light-blue socks and a light-blue wristband. In addition, McClain said that the best gift he ever gave his father “was when my family surprised him with a trip to Italy over the summer.”

Karen Gilmore, Stony Brook 

For Father’s Day, Gilmore said that her “daughter gets a present and gives it to him. We usually take him out to dinner or something like that … we like to go to Ragazzi [Italian Kitchen & Bar, in Nesconset].”

This year, Gilmore’s daughter made her dad a nice picture with watercolor in a recent art class. Gilmore said, “She’s really proud that she’s going to give it to him. [It’s important because] it’s something personalized, something that she made, more than just buying something. It’s something that means something from the heart.”

Road repair after a burst sewage line in East Setauket poured an estimated 350,000 gallons of partially treated water into Setauket Harbor. Photo by George Hoffman

By Mallie Jane Kim

A river of water ran down the steep hill of Gnarled Hollow Road when Sotiria Everett arrived home from work June 4. The water appeared to be coming from under the street at the top of the slope, she said, adding she had to move cones and navigate around Suffolk County Water Authority trucks to reach her driveway.

“It was a disruption for us, obviously,” she said, noting the water to their house was off until about 10:30 p.m. that night. “The other concern is the damage it’s doing now in Setauket Harbor.”

A broken pipe spewed about 350,000 gallons of mostly treated wastewater over about 4.5 hours from the corner of Harbor Hill Road and Gnarled Hollow Road, according to a New York State sewage pollution alert. The water, which hadn’t yet gone through the final step of disinfection, followed surface streets to pour into Setauket Harbor, near Setauket Pond Park.

The place where the effluent entered the tidal harbor is the slowest to flush out and get diluted into the Long Island Sound because of its tucked-back location, according to George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force.

The high-pressure pipe that burst originated from a sewer facility that processes wastewater from Stony Brook University and surrounding neighborhoods. It was mostly treated but lacked the final disinfection step, which takes place in Port Jefferson before the treated water is pumped out into Port Jefferson Harbor, a method water quality advocates say is outdated.

“If you were building it now, you wouldn’t be allowed to outfall sewage into the middle of the harbor,” Hoffman said. “We’ve learned so much since then about nitrogen in the harbor.”

Too much nitrogen in area waters leads to various issues, including dangerous bacteria and algae blooms.

But water quality isn’t the only concern with piping effluent into the harbor, according to County Legislator Steve Englebright, D-Setauket.

“There are two broad themes that emerge when we talk about groundwater on Long Island,” Englebright said. “One is quality of water, and the other is quantity of water—this is a little of both.”

Suffolk County draws water from a single-source aquifer, and if more water from that source is pumped into the harbors than is recharged by rain, the aquifer starts to drain.

Coincidentally, that same week, Suffolk County legislators met about modernizing area sewage lines, including the one in question that runs from Stony Brook University to Port Jefferson, according to Englebright.

The group heard a presentation about the possibility of using processed sewage to water athletic fields and other green spaces on Stony Brook University’s campus, as well as St. George’s Golf and Country Club next door. Englebright pointed to Riverhead’s Indian Island Golf Course, which has been watering with effluent since 2016, as a model for this method.

In addition to helping recharge the aquifer, this method obviates the need to buy nitrogen to fertilize the grass since the cleaned wastewater already contains it.

The county is currently working out its budget, according to Englebright, and though he said it’s unclear whether such updates will make it into the budget as a capital improvement this year, he’s glad it is at least on the table.

“The sewer break underlined the urgency and reinforced the timeliness of some of these conversations,” he said. “It is important for us to reassess.”

After the spill, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services warned residents to take precautions when recreating in Setauket or Port Jefferson harbors and closed several area beaches, including Little Bay, Grantland, Bayview, Indian Field, and Bayberry Cove. The county lifted its advisory June 10, after testing showed bacteria was within “acceptable limits” for all areas except Indian Field Beach, which remained closed.

Englebright said the high-pressure pipe may have burst at that point because it takes a turn to be nearly vertical, accommodating the steep grade of the street. “That’s where the pressure was concentrated,” he said.

Regardless of why it happened, area resident Everett hopes it won’t happen again. The bottom of the steep road, she said, is often flooded enough from rainy weather.

“The area is always prone to flooding, and you add that it’s not from Mother Nature, not from rain,” she said. “Any way that could be prevented would be ideal.”