INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
President Lois B. DeFleur to retire in July
Admitting it was a day of “mixed emotions,” President Lois B. DeFleur announced on Jan. 13 that she will retire at the end of July after 19 years at Binghamton University.
“While I feel very sad, I also feel very proud and I’m excited about the next phase of my life,” DeFleur said.
The next phase will take her to Denver, where she plans to live after a summer wedding. DeFleur also cited the health of her mother as a reason for retirement.
“I just felt that with some significant things happening in my personal life that I really had to make some changes,” she said.
Since becoming president in 1990, DeFleur has overseen the University’s growth in projects ranging from the openings of the University Downtown Center, Events Center and Innovative Technologies Complex to accolades for internationalization efforts, research, affordability and value.
But DeFleur was quick to deflect individual attention during a news conference on Jan. 13, saying credit for the past two decades also belongs to the University community.
“Through all of the years, I’ve talked about what really counts at Binghamton University,” she said. “What really counts is the fact that we have the best students, talented and fantastic faculty, a committed, innovative staff, and a wonderful set of vice presidents who have been with me a long time. It isn’t about any single person; it’s about quality. That’s the hallmark of this institution.
“It’s been a team effort,” she added. “I just have to applaud everyone at the institution and in the community who have embraced the University and worked with us.”
DeFleur said she came to her retirement decision late last summer and into the early fall, but put the plans on hold to deal with state budget issues, a law school proposal and a SUNY review of the University’s intercollegiate athletics.
“I felt strongly that I couldn’t walk away from challenges,” she said. “You don’t just say, ‘OK. The going is tough’ and you walk away. I have never pulled away from tough challenges.”
But her engagement led to a desire for more time with her fiancé and family. DeFleur then informed University Council Chair Kathryn Grant Madigan and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher of her decision. Faculty, staff and students received an e-mail letter from DeFleur about her decision on the morning of Jan. 13. The next six months will give the University Council time to conduct a search for a successor, she said in the letter.
Zimpher praised DeFleur’s tenure in a statement on the SUNY web site, calling the president “a true visionary.”
“I can attest to the esteem in which President DeFleur is held by her national colleagues, and have seen first hand how DeFleur’s advocacy at the national level for excellence in higher education has translated perfectly to the reality she and her team have created at Binghamton University,” the chancellor said. “Her contributions to SUNY over the past 19 years will be long-lasting, and I wish her the best of luck in her future as she takes time to be with her family.”
DeFleur emphasized that the spring semester features a full agenda, such as preparation for the Middle States accreditation visit and working to meet potential budget reductions. She is especially excited about the development of a law school.
“I feel strongly that it is absolutely appropriate, that it is needed and builds upon the strengths of this institution,” she said. “We need to continue to work to develop the law school. In my opinion, it is the next important strategic move for the University.”
Despite a long list of accomplishments over the past 19 years, DeFleur said she is most proud every May and December when students attend commencement.
“When I watch the thousands of students go across the stage and look at what they’ve achieved – top honors nationally and going on to be leaders in every field – you see that what is at the heart of the institution is education,” she said. “The proudest moments for me are when I see the end result of what we’re working on.”
DeFleur, who said she will spend more time flying during retirement, said she does not dwell on what she could have done differently since 1990.
“You do your best, rely on the good judgments of others, listen to people and make your decisions,” she said. “I believe overall that the decisions I’ve made working with my vice presidents, faculty and staff have substantially improved this University.”