Just days before presiding over his 16th and final SUNY Fredonia commencement, President Dennis L. Hefner and his wife, Jan, will be honored at two special events celebrating their long service and dedication to the campus and its students.
Under Dr. Hefner's leadership, enrollment has increased significantly, academic programs have been expanded, and the campus is humming today with construction activity and design work reminiscent of the "modern" campus development of a half-century ago.
The festive atmosphere that characterized popular all-campus parties hosted by the Hefners over the years will fill the Outdoor Arcade at the Rockefeller Arts Center at a free reception, open to the campus and the public, on May 3. The three-hour gathering, which begins at 2 p.m., will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Hefner, the longest serving president in modern SUNY Fredonia history and second-longest current president among four-year SUNY campuses.
SUNY Fredonia will honor retiring President Dennis Hefner at an outdoor reception on May 3 at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Indeed, the Outdoor Arcade is a fitting site for such a gathering; it was there that his post-inauguration reception as SUNY Fredonia's 12th president was held.
Brief comments will be presented by guests and Dr. Hefner. Light refreshments and desserts will be served and a nacho bar - a nod to the Hefners' penchant for Mexican-style food - will be offered. Student ensembles from the School of Music will perform at locations in and around the arcade.
On May 4, a Presidential Gala will be held at the Robert and Marilyn Maytum Rehearsal Halls in support of the new Hefner Presidential Scholarship Endowment Fund, which will provide substantial awards to low-income, academically high-performing students. The 6,500 square feet that encompass both rehearsal halls will be adorned with banners, posters and photographs highlighting the Hefners' distinguished service.
DFT Communications President and Chief Technology Officer Kurt Maytum, a past chair of the Fredonia College Foundation, will serve as master of ceremonies of the gala, which begins at 6 p.m.
SUNY Geneseo President Christopher Dahl, the only comprehensive college president in the SUNY system whose tenure exceeds Dr. Hefner's, will also speak at the gala.
"The excitement about Dennis seems to be palpable campuswide, with people wanting Dennis to know how much they appreciate his positive influence on the campus and the community," said Senior Director of Development Karen West.
Dr. Hefner's dedication to students and unflagging support of the campus were the catalysts for a wide range of impressive bricks-and-mortar projects, totaling $360 million, that are unfolding today along with University Commons, Campus and Community Children's Center, University Stadium, Technology Incubator, Robert and Marilyn Maytum Rehearsal Halls, Rosch Recital Hall and Steele Hall Natatorium that all opened in recent years.
"When I think of Dennis Hefner, I remember his vision for this campus, his commitment to students and his tireless efforts in support of SUNY Fredonia," said Vice President for Advancement David Tiffany. "His vision involved growing the range of program and course offerings, increasing enrollment, and finding ways to make the campus vibrant and exciting during a series of years that were financially tough."
Dr. Tiffany, who has reported directly to 10 campus presidents, considers Dr. Hefner - an economist by training - to be the finest leader he's ever worked with during his own higher-education career that spans 37 years. "And that is because of his intense focus on our campus and on doing everything possible to strengthen it and to increase opportunities for our students," he said.
"I've never seen anybody better at getting state dollars to build campus buildings. And he always has another project in mind, which shows that he is looking well down the road. That is planning, and that is vision," Dr. Tiffany said.
SUNY Fredonia achieved unprecedented growth in undergraduate enrollment approaching 25 percent during the Hefner presidency, said Daniel Tramuta, associate vice president of Enrollment Services and a member of the Class of 1978. "His keen ability to analyze data, build consensus, and motivate faculty and staff - while always placing the welfare of SUNY Fredonia above any other concern - was most certainly one of the hallmarks of his presidency," Tramuta said.
Patty Feraldi, director of Alumni Affairs and a member of the Class of 1977, considers Dr. Hefner "the most recognizable figure" both on the campus and off. "During the last 16 years, any person - current student or graduate - who has had any connection with the university has had an opportunity to meet him," Feraldi said.
Mrs. Hefner's personal touch with the campus, from cheering for hockey teams to hosting the all-campus parties which opened every academic year, has been a bonus of the Hefner presidency. Of special note was SUNY Fredonia's year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary in 2001. The Hefners participated in at least one anniversary event a week for an entire year. Mrs. Hefner designed the invitations sent to emeriti faculty who were honored at a banquet and placed American flags along the walkways at the dedication of the Lake Shore Savings Bank clock tower. Both events helped open the celebration.
The fondly remembered closing event, the "Puttin' on the Glitz" dinner-dance that served as a scholarship fundraiser, bore Mrs. Hefner's signature as well. "She attended to every detail, making sure the decorations were gold and glittery. Jan's involvement with the campus has always been personal and with a high level of class," West explained.
Dr. Hefner is viewed as one of the most approachable figures on campus. In fact, his engaging smile and right arm extended to shake hands were immortalized by a SUNY Fredonia graduate in a ceramic and paint sculpture. This larger-than-life figure created by Kevin Raymond, '99 - a fixture in Reed Library for years - will join the open reception.
"Dennis and Jan know the appreciation for them is deeply felt, but I wonder if they really understand the depth and breadth of it throughout the campus and community, and SUNY itself," Ms. West said.
Those unable to attend the Presidential Gala may contribute to the new Hefner Presidential Scholarship at www.fredonia.edu/giveonline/hefnerfund or by check to the Fredonia College Foundation, 272 Central Ave., Fredonia, NY 14063. Additional gifts from guests of the gala are also welcome.