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Maurie McInnis

Billy Cosh

Stony Brook University Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron and Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis have named Billy Cosh the third head coach in Stony Brook football’s Division I era, as announced on Dec. 13. 

“This is an incredibly exciting day for Stony Brook and the future of our football program as we welcome Billy Cosh to Long Island as our new head coach,” said Heilbron. “Billy is an innovative coach who will bring energy, intensity and a specific plan for building a championship-level program at Stony Brook. More importantly, he genuinely cares about creating a positive environment for our student-athletes, and I am so happy that he is joining our Seawolves family along with his wife Kelsey and daughter Charli.” 

 “We’re so thrilled to welcome Coach Cosh and his family to ours here at Stony Brook. As a former accomplished student-athlete himself, he understands the importance of being a coach, as well as a teacher and mentor for his players to excel at the highest levels of competition. During the interview process, it was evident Billy is a dynamic leader and innovative coach who cares deeply about student-athletes contributing on the field as well as in the classroom and in the Stony Brook community. Today marks the beginning of an exciting chapter in Stony Brook’s football history,” said President McInnis.

Cosh joins Stony Brook for his first career head coaching job after spending the 2023 season at Western Michigan as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“My family and I are excited for this opportunity to join the Stony Brook family and to lead this football program to new heights moving forward! I want to thank President McInnis, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron, and the search committee for giving me this tremendous opportunity,” said Cosh. “Great location, academics, athletics and, more importantly, people really excites me about being the head football coach here. Being a FCS coach over the years, I have always admired Stony Brook from afar. I know we will develop these young men the right way and play a brand of football that will return us to the top in a great league in the CAA! I am ready to get to work and build the trust that is needed to have success.”

The Emerson String Quartet performed its final concert at the Staller Center for the Arts to a packed house on October 14, signaling the end of the quartet’s nearly 25-year-long history as Artists in Residence at Stony Brook University. They were rewarded with four standing ovations from the sold-out 1,000-member audience.

The program featured Beethoven String Quartet in Bb Major and Schubert String Quintet in C Major. Special guest and former Emerson cellist David Finckel joined the ensemble — including cellist Paul Watkins, Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer on violin, and Larry Dutton on viola — for the Schubert piece.

Following the concert, a reception for the group and honored guests was held in the Zuccaire Gallery, with remarks from Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis; Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts; former Provost Robert McGrath; Gilbert Kalish, professor in the Department of Music; Judith Lochhead, professor and former chair of the Department of Music; and Christina Dahl, chair of the Department of Music.

McGrath, Kalish and Lochhead, along with former Stony Brook President Shirley Strum Kenny, were instrumental in bringing the group to campus as Artists in Residence.

Following the remarks, Inkles awarded the group members with trophies in recognition of their years performing as a group in the Staller Center. Despite a busy touring schedule over the past two decades, the group members have always made time to serve on faculty committees and to be available for music students.

Dahl described to the group a recent faculty meeting in which Setzer participated in a faculty meeting on a Sunday evening while he was on tour in Milan, where the time was 12:30 am.

 “T​​hey come to faculty meetings, serve as lecturers and advisors and sit on dissertation committees,” Dahl said. “The rest of the world sits in on their concerts, but one of the most remarkable things about their long association with the department is that they never stood on ceremony, or acted as if they deserve special consideration.”

President McInnis looked toward the future with the group members as they continue to serve as faculty within the Department of Music. 

“Through the Emerson String Quartet Institute in the Department of Music, group members Eugene Drucker, Lawrence Dutton, Philip Setzer and Paul Watkins, along with the quartet’s ex-cellist, David Finckel, will remain at Stony Brook to coach and mentor student string quartets,” she said.

President McInnis continued, “It was such an honor to be in the audience to celebrate the Emerson String Quartet’s nearly 22-year-long history as Artists in Residence at Stony Brook University and the Grand Finale Concert of what has been nearly 100 sold-out concerts held in the Staller Center on our campus. While it is bittersweet to join together for the final farewell Staller Center concert for the Quartet, we are grateful they will remain as colleagues in Stony Brook’s Department of Music where they will uphold their legacy, sharing their gifts with our students in the Emerson String Quartet Institute.”

Wendy Pearson Photo by Michael Anthony Wells

Stony Brook University has named Wendy Pearson as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, effective Nov. 1. Most recently, Pearson served as the Senior Advisor to the Provost at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. 

Pearson will report to Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis and work in close partnership with campus leaders and partners to identify and advance Stony Brook’s institutional priorities. Important goals include ensuring implementation and assessment of the recently completed strategic plan, taking the lead in developing an overall plan for our Southampton campus, and assisting in supporting SBU’s work as anchor institution for The New York Climate Exchange on Governors Island in New York City.

“Wendy has a proven track record of both convening key stakeholders on and beyond campus while connecting them to accomplish the wider strategic vision that moves priorities forward,” said President McInnis. “We’re so pleased to have her leadership involvement with the New York Climate Exchange, and her extensive experience in higher education will help us focus and align our planning on the pillars that the university needs to best commit resources to benefit our community.”

Pearson’s previous roles at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa include academic affairs program officer in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, where she managed program review and the development and modification of academic programs, and special projects manager for the School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies. She also served as program coordinator in the Center for Peace & Conflict Studies/Detroit Council for World Affairs at Wayne State University, coordinating curriculum development and Japan study tours for public school teachers.

“I am honored to join this dynamic community of scholars and innovators,” said Pearson. “Leaving Hawai‘i for New York represents an exciting new chapter, and I am eager to contribute to the remarkable progress and bold initiatives of Stony Brook University. I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders to turn shared vision into reality, to drive positive change, and to make a lasting impact.” 

Making a Difference: What’s Next for Stony Brook?

“A lot can happen in just a year at Stony Brook University…welcome to what’s next,” identified President Maurie McInnis, who delivered her second State of the University address to students, faculty, staff, elected representatives and local community members on Oct. 11. In addition to discussing the university’s numerous achievements since last year’s State of the University, President McInnis shared her and her team’s vision on how the flagship university is looking to continue its mission to “take on the big challenges, make a difference and change the world.”

According to the President, through the “close collaboration with faculty, staff and administrator across the institution, as well as welcomed support from government and institutions from across New York,” she reminded her audience of some of the university’s achievements since the last State of the University including:

  • Welcoming the first cohort of Simons STEM Scholar students;

  • The University being selected as the anchor institution for The New York Climate Exchange on Governors Island;

  • Achieving our highest ranking from the US News & World Report (#1 New York’s public college and #58 nationally)

  • Stony Brook University Hospital was named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals in 2023 by Healthgrades,  putting it in the top one percent of the country;

  • Stony Brook garnered its highest state funding in a decade; and

  • The university received a $500 million endowment gift from the Simons Foundation which is the largest unrestricted endowment donation in the history of US higher education. It also serves to more than double the entire endowment previously held by the university.

Also, the President shared her strategy for success by implementing “the three Rs” which serve as guideposts to enable success: “Recognition,” “Revenue” and “Reputation.”

  • Stony Brook provides recognition by “celebrating the amazing faculty and staff [as well as students] who are building a culture of ambition and excellence.”

  • Regarding revenue, the university looks to raise the matching funds that will build our endowment and will look for ways to secure the ongoing support needed to grow and to maintain operations.

  • Stony Brook will continue to build our reputation by letting the world know that it is New York’s number one public university, a flagship institution, a top health care system hospital, and an innovative research university focused on addressing the world’s most important challenges.

President McInnis stressed the university’s efforts to develop more multidisciplinary collaborations to address important questions and tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time.  As the university moves forward, one of the priorities includes supporting faculty who are working at the spaces between disciplines and forming partnerships supporting climate science, clean energy, healthcare and quantum information science.

The President also addressed how the university community will use its past successes to pave the way to the future with programs like the new Collaborative for the Earth faculty-driven initiative that looks to leverage Stony Brook’s role as a climate solutions leader. It will bring together members from almost every school and college in the  university, representing a united effort to work across disciplines and perspectives to develop  equitable solutions.

Dr. Harold Paz. File photo by Stony Brook Medicine/Jeanne Neville

Two years after he joined Stony Brook University as executive vice president for health sciences, Dr. Harold “Hal” Paz is no longer one of the most senior members of New York State’s southern flagship university staff.

An internal SBU announcement that went out Friday, Oct. 6, from the office of President Maurie McInnis indicated that Paz, whose page on the Renaissance School of Medicine website no longer links to information about him, will be replaced on an interim basis by Dr. William Wertheim.

Wertheim joined Stony Brook in 1996 and had been serving as the vice dean for graduate academic affairs at the Renaissance School of Medicine, where he had previously been interim dean.

Wertheim is also an Endowed Chair in Graduate Medical Education at the School of Medicine and is president of the Stony Brook Medicine Community Medical Group.

While Stony Brook didn’t offer a reason for Paz’s departure, officials indicated it is “not our practice to discuss personnel matters.”

Paz had come to SBU from The Ohio State University, where he was executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs and chief executive officer of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Paz, who was Chief Executive Officer of Stony Brook University Medicine, reported to McInnis and was a member of her senior leadership team.

When Stony Brook announced that executive vice president and provost Carl Lejuez joined the university in May 2022, the university signaled that Lejuez would work collaboratively with Paz.

Paz had also been working with academic, hospital and clinical leadership and with community partners in his role.

The announcement of Paz’s departure from SBU, which came two years and two days after his official start date, did not include a list of any of Paz’s achievements, initiatives or contributions to the university.

Before joining The Ohio State University, Paz was the executive vice president and chief medical officer for CVS Health/Aetna, serving as a leader in the company’s domestic and global businesses. He also served as dean of the College of Medicine at Pennsylvania State University and CEO of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System.

Paz had succeeded Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, who retired as senior vice president of health sciences, in June 2021.

Paz serves on the National Academy of Medicine Leadership Consortium, the board of directors of Research America and the Curai Health advisory board.

In April, Paz was appointed to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Accelerating Treatments and Improving Quality of Life committee.

Wertheim’s tenure

Wertheim started his Stony Brook career by leading the Medical Consult Services. He later served as associate program director and director of the primary care track of the Internal Medicine residency, then Internal Medicine residency program director, and then executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine and associate dean for clinical outreach.

Wertheim has also served as the president of the medical staff at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Wertheim graduated from Harvard University and New York University School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Michigan Hospitals, where he served as chief resident.

Wertheim worked as a clinical faculty member at the University of Michigan’s Veterans Administration Hospital. In New York, he worked at The Brooklyn Hospital Center.

The letter from the president’s office announcing the changes urged the community to “join us in congratulating Dr. Wertheim on his appointment and welcoming him to his new role.”

Stony Brook University climbs 19 spots in the latest US News and World Report ranking. File photo from SBU

The public university that could, Stony Brook University, which is considerably younger than many of the schools with greater prestige, climbed 19 spots in the latest US News and World Report ranking of schools to 58.

At the highest ever rank for a State University of New York institution, SBU also placed 12th among national universities for social mobility rank.

“Stony Brook takes tremendous pride in its role as a New York flagship institution, and these latest rankings offer yet another proof point that this university is a destination of choice for students from all backgrounds looking to reach and exceed their boldest ambitions,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. “While these rankings represent an opportunity to celebrate Stony Brook’s promising trajectory as the top public university in New York state, the focused commitment to our mission continues to guide our path forward.”

Stony Brook’s climb up the rankings is neither a one-year wonder nor a sudden recognition of the breadth and depth of its programs and the commitment of its staff to students from a wide range of backgrounds.

Stony Brook ranked in the 93 in 2022.

“While this jump is much bigger, you feel more confident when it’s part of a trend,” said Carl Lejuez, executive vice president and provost, in an interview. “This is a trajectory that has been led by the president’s vision for what it means for the state of New York to have a premier public institution.”

Lejuez added that SBU benefited from a change in the way US News and World Report compiles its rankings. At the same time that alumni giving, where Stony Brook doesn’t do as well, was taken out of the rankings, the periodical increased its emphasis on the graduation of Pell-eligible students.

Considered among the most economically challenged students at Stony Brook, Pell-eligible undergraduates achieved an 80% graduation rate.

“Other schools have a huge disparity” for the graduation rates of Pell-eligible students, Lejuez said. “We’ve really leaned into who we are” particularly for students who can improve their social mobility through a quality and well-respected education.

“We do believe those changed metrics make the rankings better,” Bill Warren, vice president for marketing and communications, said in an interview. “It’s not happenstance that we rose — we are being recognized for many of the things we do so very well.”

Specifically, Warren said the university admits and supports a diverse student population that has excellent graduation rates, reflecting the level of academic and other types of support the school offers to ensure the college experience meets and “hopefully exceeds” their expectations and needs.

More applicants

The climb in the rankings has helped drive up applications and made 2023 the largest incoming first year class in the school’s history.

In 2023, applications surged 24.2% for all Stony Brook application submissions to 55,633. The freshman rate, which comprised the vast majority of those applications, increased 23.9% to 50,435.

The faculty, meanwhile, applauded the recognition and the higher ranking.

“Without question, this is great news for Stony Brook University and long overdue,” Clinton Rubin, SUNY distinguished professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, wrote in an email. The senior administration is “committed to building on strengths, and research and technology development across all disciplines is thriving. The impact the university has had on upward mobility is inspiring, and the faculty, staff and students are proud to be part of such a key resource for the global community.”

Stony Brook has “come a long way and has much more to contribute,” Rubin added.

Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has noticed a “happiness” at the university: “I believe we are in fact better even than these rankings say,” he said in an interview.

Van Nieuwenhuizen said that 14 of his 17 former Ph.D. students have become professors elsewhere, which shows how other institutions value the students who earn degrees at Stony Brook University.

In addition to the higher ranking from US News and World Report, Stony Brook has also had some high-profile academic and financial victories recently.

Stony Brook was named the anchor institution to build a Climate Exchange Center on Governors Island that is dedicated to research and education and sharing information about the impacts of global warming on the world. [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media].

In addition, the Simons Foundation, founded by former math chair and founder and CEO of Renaissance Technologies and his wife Marilyn, announced a $500 million gift to the university, which was the largest ever unrestricted endowment gift to an institution of higher learning. [See story, “Simons Foundation gives record $500M gift to Stony Brook University,” June 2, TBR News Media].

Further opportunities

Lejuez sees continued opportunities for the university. He said international enrollment has not returned to the pre-pandemic levels.

Comparing Stony Brook to where the school’s peers are in terms of out-of-state and international students, the university is “not where we want to be in both of those areas.”

SBU is developing strategies that Lejuez anticipates will pay off within two years.

“You never want to bring in international and domestic out-of-state students at the expense of students in the state,” but having the right mix of students from different backgrounds and experiences “creates a vibrant university,” he said.

Lejuez has been to South Korea twice and China once in the past six months and has emphasized the quality of the programs and the safety of the campus.

Stony Brook is also enhancing the level of its advisory services for students.

“We invested a lot this summer in advising,” Lejuez said, which is an area where “we were lagging behind other universities. Students and parents are going to see a lot of focus in advising and tutoring” which help ensure student success.

By Aidan Johnson

[email protected]

Stony Brook Medicine’s new facility at Smith Haven Mall held its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, July 19, welcoming the completion of the facility’s Phase One of its advanced specialties, which will likely be finished by 2027.

The new facility, which will be the new home to the different advanced specialties that were found on Technology Drive, offers a much more accessible “one-stop shop” for patients.

Maurie McInnis, president of Stony Brook University and overseer of Stony Brook Medicine, spoke at the ceremony, saying Stony Brook Medicine’s new location will be reminding their patients that they are there for them.

“We believe in quality health care that is accessible to all,” McInnis said in her speech. “As a world-renowned medical system and an entrusted flagship university for New York State, it is our duty and our privilege to make it so,” she continued.

Dr. Todd Griffin, vice president for clinical services and vice dean for clinical affairs at Stony Brook Medicine, shared his outlook for the facility’s future, saying, “We eagerly anticipate hosting a health care open house in the near future where our community and patients can explore our beautiful facility and learn more about the services that are available to them.”

Since Smith Haven Mall falls in both the towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) each spoke during the ceremony.

“You think about life and you wonder, and you ask people in their everyday lives what concerns them,” Romaine said after praising SBU, the hospital and its staff.

“They’re concerned about health, because without health, you don’t have anything else. This facility will do so much good for so many years and for so many people,” he added.

Wehrheim spoke about the renaissance he believes is underway in Smithtown. 

“This is an excellent partnership and a huge benefit both to the new residents that will be coming to live in our Town of Smithtown, and also for Stony Brook Medicine,” he said, expressing his gratitude to McInnis.

“We make laws in government, but you folk, you doctors and staff and nurses, actually save lives and that’s what’s important to a community.”

Pictured above, from left to right: Simons Foundation President David Spergel, Jim and Marilyn Simon, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis and Governor Kathy Hochul. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University’s former Math Department chair is making history.

Jim Simons, with his wife Marilyn and through the Simons Foundation, is giving the largest ever unrestricted gift of $500 million to the university’s endowment.

The donation, which the Simons Foundation will provide in installments over the next seven years, will more than double the endowment for the SUNY flagship school.

As a part of a program Governor Kathy Hochul (D) created last year, New York State will provide a one-to-two endowment match while the school, with support from the Simons Foundation, reaches out to other donors for additional support.

SBU expects the gift to total about $1 billion.

“Today is indeed a historic day for Stony Brook University,” President Maurie McInnis said during a press conference at the Simons Foundation headquarters in Manhattan on June 1. “I cannot overestimate the tremendous impact” the gift will have.

The university anticipates using the gift, named the Simons Infinity Investment, for student scholarships for a diverse student body, endowed professorships, research initiatives, development of new academic fields and clinical care.

McInnis, who is the sixth president of SBU, suggested this kind of support helped create and shape some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Harvard and Yale.

Looking at how they started, “you’ll find that they were bolstered by generous supporters who were ambitious and wise enough to see the potential of the institutions and invest in the future,” McInnis said at the press conference. “Because of those supporters, look where they are now. That is the trajectory we are on,” thanks to the support from Jim and Marilyn Simons and the foundation president, David Spergel.

McInnis believes the funds will help make the university a place where every student meets their potential, thanks to the support and the “deep sense of belonging in every corner of campus.”

The funds would also help ensure that researchers have access to the “best labs and equipment” so they can “chase the next discovery” and where learners will come to the university because they “know they have the resources they need to make a difference.”

History of giving

The Simons family has a long history of giving back to the university, which was so important in their lives.

Starting with a much more humble gift of $750 in 1983, the Simons family, with this gift and other recent commitments, have pledged $1.2 billion to a university that Gov. Hochul declared a flagship of the state university system in 2022.

“I’m so happy to be here today, to be able to give back to Stony Brook, which has given so much to me,” Marilyn Simons said at the press conference.

When she started as a student at Stony Brook, Marilyn said her father was a subcontractor who, along with her brother and cousin, did some of the brickwork at university buildings.

In addition to earning her bachelor’s at Stony Brook, Marilyn Simons also earned her Ph.D.

“I’m grateful to Stony Brook for all it’s given me,” she said. “I hope many others will invest along with us.”

Jim Simons became chairman of the Math Department when he was 30. He hired 10 faculty in his first year and the same number in his second.

When Hochul stood up to speak, Simons interrupted her.

“I’ve known” all six presidents of Stony Brook, the former Math Department chair said. McInnis “is the best.”

Hochul appreciated the direction and vision of SBU’s leadership, recognizing the sizeable financial commitment the state would now have to meet.

When she came up with the endowment idea, “I didn’t realize it was going to be so expensive for me,” Hochul laughed. If that inspired the Simons Foundation to come forward, “it was worth it.”

A public institution like Stony Brook “has no limits right now,” Hochul added. “I guarantee across the world, they’ve all heard of Stony Brook right now.”

A winning streak

The $500 million gift from the Simons Foundation continues a winning streak, making 2023 a memorable and landmark year for the university.

A few weeks ago, Stony Brook, with a $100 million commitment from the Simons Foundation, won the state’s contest to turn Governors Island into a center for climate science called the New York Climate Exchange. [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media website.]

The center, which will cost $700 million to construct and is expected to open in 2028, will house research laboratories, host community discussions and train 6,000 people per year to work in green energy jobs.

SBU has “shown that it has the knowledge, the authority and the boldness to bring together the most eminent institutions to address the world’s leading challenges,” McInnis said.

David Baszucki and Jan Ellison Baszucki. Photo from Baszucki Group

Stony Brook University has announced a philanthropic gift to develop Neuroblox, a software platform developed by biomedical engineer and neuroscientist Lilianne Mujica-Parodi that will model brain circuits to treat brain disorders. The gift was made possible by David Baszucki, founder and chief executive officer of Roblox, and his wife, bestselling author Jan Ellison Baszucki.

Mujica-Parodi took inspiration from Roblox in conceiving Neuroblox as a cutting-edge platform that will open up a world of modeling possibilities for neuroscientists without training in computational sciences. The platform will allow researchers to explore the complexities of brain-based disorders by providing a blueprint for individualized care.

Roblox is an interactive platform that allows users to create their own immersive experiences and release them with one click to smartphones, tablets, desktops, consoles and virtual reality devices. Anyone can use the platform, even those without programming experience.

“Right now, there is a disconnect between the aims of clinical research and the computational tools we have to exploit that research,” said Mujica-Parodi. “Neuroblox is doing something fundamentally different. It’s trying to bridge that gap.”

Brain disorders like bipolar disorder, dementia and schizophrenia impact millions of families who have long struggled to find answers, including the Baszucki family. Jan and David Baszucki reached out to Mujica-Parodi after learning about her first-of-its-kind study exploring the role of ketosis on brain functioning. This was an area of particular significance for the Baszuckis, as it was a ketogenic diet that put their own son’s bipolar disorder into remission.

Fueled by enthusiasm for the potential of this project, Mujica-Parodi quickly assembled a team of the brightest minds in computing, neuroscience, biomedical engineering and beyond to bring the Neuroblox vision to life.

“Here was a neuroscientist unveiling the mechanism by which ketones work to stabilize brain networks,” Jan Ellison Baszucki said. “This explained why a ketogenic diet gave our son his mind and his life back. We had to wonder if building on this knowledge by investing in metabolic neuroscience could be the first step toward helping others suffering from mental illnesses.”

The $6.2 million investment from the Baszucki family includes $3.2 million to help build and launch Neuroblox and $3 million to create the Baszucki Endowed Chair for Metabolic Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. Mujica-Parodi will be the inaugural holder of this chair, which recognizes an exceptional researcher in metabolic neuroscience.

“Lily is building a software platform where neuroscience researchers worldwide can refine, test and share models to help us understand how the brain regulates energy — a critical driver of mental health,” said David Baszucki. “Our family believes Neuroblox’s impact on understanding and treating brain-based disorders, including mental illness, will be transformative.”

The gifts will be enhanced by an additional $550,000 from Stony Brook’s Presidential Innovation and Excellence Fund. This fund is designed specifically to accelerate the university’s highest ambitions.

“Lily’s innovative approach to one of our most pressing societal issues — our mental health and well-being — is inspiring. It underscores our commitment as an institution to advance knowledge that will have a long-term, significant impact on the world,” said President Maurie McInnis. “We could not be prouder of these efforts, and we are thrilled that the Baszuckis have chosen to invest in Lily’s trailblazing work in a way that will undoubtedly change lives.”

Left to right: Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, Simons Foundation president David Spergel, SBU President Maurie McInnis, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Harbor School student Leanna Martin Peterson and Trust for Governors Island President Clare Newman. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Climate change often conjures images of violent storms, rising sea levels and endangered animals.

Scientists around the world warn so often about the dangers to our one and only planet that some couples have decided to hold off — or even not — have children among all the future anxiety.

Amid all that worry, however, New York City, the Trust for Governors Island, Stony Brook University and a team of other universities, nonprofits and businesses are working on the kind of solutions that could lead to a better future.

On a sun-splashed Monday morning at Governors Island just off the southern tip of Manhattan, Mayor Eric Adams (D), SBU President Maurie McInnis, Simons Foundation President David Spergel and a host of other luminaries discussed a new $710 million center for climate solutions, which Stony Brook as the anchor institution has called the New York Climate Exchange.

With $100 million in backing from the Simons Foundation, $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and $150 million from New York City, the center will serve a host of important functions, including retraining 6,000 workers a year for jobs in the green energy sector, providing incubator space for businesses that are working on climate solutions and educating children from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In addition to the huge win for Stony Brook, which competed against other high-powered public and private universities for this coveted lead role, the effort could be a victory for New York, the surrounding mid-Atlantic states, the country and the planet.

Near the Statue of Liberty, which is a beacon of hope for democracy and an iconic symbol of the country, the Governors Island effort can come up with solutions and alternatives to a doom-and-gloom scenario while also sparking a commitment from students eager to find an outlet for their energy and creativity.

Will the center on its own help the world avoid the 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in temperature from the pre-Industrial Revolution days that scientists often point to as a tipping point for the planet? 

Absolutely not. That’s up to everyone from government and state leaders to huge companies and even individuals in the U.S. and throughout the world.

What the climate center, which will be completed in 2028 and will generate its own electric power without adding greenhouse gasses, will do is encourage dialogue with everyone, offer hope and provide a place for the best and brightest minds to develop answers to some of the world’s most troubling questions.

Coming just a few days after Earth Day, that is worth celebrating.