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Says King brings to SUNY a deep commitment to advancing equity & excellence for all students, supporting educators, & improving college affordability
The State University of New York board of trustees on Monday announced the appointment of John B. King Jr. as the 15th chancellor of SUNY, the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the U.S.
A press release said, “Chancellor King brings to this position decades of experience as a leader in education administration and policy at the local, state and national levels. He has championed expanding access to high-quality, affordable education in recognition of the transformative power it holds for students from all walks of life.”
SUNY Chairman Dr. Merryl H. Tisch said, "As we work to continue to transform SUNY to meet the needs of the next generation of students and New York’s economy, we need a leader who understands how to balance striving for both excellence and equity. John King has a proven record of doing both.”
SUNY Vice Chairman Cesar Perales said, "We are thrilled to welcome John back to New York, and are confident that he is perfectly positioned and prepared to tackle the challenges that face our system in the years ahead.”
King’s selection was said to be the result of a year-long global search. The board unanimously approved his appointment. He will replace Deborah F. Stanley, former president of SUNY Oswego, who has been serving as interim chancellor since December 2021. King will move back to New York and begin his new role in January.
"I am humbled and honored to accept the position of chancellor and to advance Gov. Kathy Hochul’s vision to make SUNY the best statewide system of public higher education in our nation,” King said. "Public education quite literally saved my life when I lost both of my parents at a young age, and I have dedicated my professional career ever since to ensuring that every student has access to the academic opportunities that they need and deserve. I look forward to working with all members of our campus communities, lawmakers and stakeholders to bring SUNY to new heights and maximize its potential."
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a SUNY Binghamton Class of 1992 graduate, said, "For almost 75 years, the State University of New York system has been committed to advancing knowledge for students. As a proud graduate of SUNY Binghamton, I can personally attest to the power of our state's public universities and was honored to join the search committee for the next chancellor. As a child of New York, product of our public schools and educator and public servant, John King has the vision, intellect, experience and expertise needed to lead the system into the future. While serving as secretary of education, we had the chance to partner to expand college affordability, increase financial aid, as well as invest in student success and completion. I know he will carry this work forward in his new work, and congratulate John on his appointment."
King is currently the president of The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students in early childhood, K-12 education, and higher education. Prior to his appointment to that post in 2017, King served as U.S. secretary of education under President Barack Obama, who called him "an exceptionally talented educator."
The press release said, “While serving in this cabinet-level post, Chancellor King worked to simplify the financial aid process, oversaw federal investments in evidence-based strategies to increase college completion, and advocated for the president’s America’s College Promise proposal, which called for creating a federal-state partnership to make attendance at community colleges free, and also investing in scaled wrap-around services to support students on the path to academic success.
“From 2011 to the beginning of 2015 when he joined the Obama administration, Chancellor King served as New York state’s first African American and first Puerto Rican education commissioner. He worked in this position to leverage federal Perkins funding to invest in a statewide initiative connecting K-12 schools, higher education institutions and employers to tailor high school curriculum to meet the needs of a modern-day workforce – an effort he has expressed to the board that he hopes to continue and expand on as chancellor.”
Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett said, "As President Obama's secretary of education, John King helped lead our fight for expanded access to higher education for every American and to ensure that all students had the support they needed to finish college. He championed the role of community colleges, connected them to the needs of today's workforce, and helped lead the effort across the administration to lift up young men and boys of color through President Obama's ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative. John believes in his core that public education – from pre-K to post-doctorate – is the key to challenging inequity and unlocking the potential of every individual. I can think of no better leader than John to lead the State University of New York, and I know his service will be exemplary."
Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said, “John King brings a wealth of experience to this new position. As both the U.S. secretary of education and an overseer of Harvard, he understands both the opportunities and the challenges faced by higher education. SUNY is fortunate to be getting the benefit of his leadership."
American Council on Education President Ted Mitchell said, "John King is one of America's premier educators and a tireless force for expanding student access and success. He is the perfect choice to lead The State University of New York, one of this country's most effective engines of economic and social mobility. I could not be happier for John and our colleagues at SUNY, and I am confident it will be an exciting and prosperous tenure. All of us at ACE look forward to working with John in his new role."
King is a lifelong educator and public servant who began his career teaching high school social studies in San Juan and Boston. While in Boston, he co-founded a middle school specifically intended to serve a high-poverty student population that became one of the highest performing urban public middle schools in the state and eventually grew into the successful Uncommon Schools network, which he co-managed.
King served from January 2015 to December 2015 as delegated deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, which included overseeing all pre-school through 12th grade policies with a focus on improving equity and closing achievement gaps. He also oversaw cross-agency collaboration for Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” task force, seeking to address opportunity gaps experienced by young men and boys of color. In the fall of 2015, Obama tapped King to serve as education secretary beginning in January 2016, and he was later confirmed by the Senate in a 49-40 vote.
Prior to joining the Obama administration, King served as state education commissioner in New York – a post to which he was appointed in 2011 – overseeing all elementary and secondary schools, as well as public, independent and proprietary colleges and universities, professional licensure, libraries, museums and numerous other educational institutions.
King holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard University, a Master of Arts degree in the teaching of social studies from Columbia University's Teachers College, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational administrative practice from Columbia University's Teachers College. He was a 1995 Truman Scholar and received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies.
King was elected to serve on the Harvard University board of overseers in 2019, is a vice chair of the board of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and also serves on the boards of the Robin Hood Foundation, the Century Foundation, and MDRC.
Among many awards, King has received the Ann S. Kheel Award from the New York Urban League; the Eugene M. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award from the "I Have A Dream" Foundation; the New York Immigration Coalition Builders of the "New" New York Award; and the Robin Hood Foundation Heroes Award; as well as honorary degrees from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Memphis, and LeMoyne College.
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the U.S., and more than 95% of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including contributions from students and faculty. There are more than 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more, visit suny.edu.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "I applaud and congratulate the SUNY board of trustees on their selection of a truly outstanding chancellor in John King. His professional experience at every level of our education system, including as secretary of education to President Obama, combined with deep New York roots, make him an ideal leader for the SUNY system. I look forward to working with him on our ambitious goal of transforming SUNY into the top statewide system of public higher education in the country. I'm grateful to SUNY leadership, particularly board Chair Merryl Tisch, Vice Chair Cesar Perales and Interim Chancellor Deborah Stanley, for their work during this transition period, and to the board for undertaking such a thorough and successful search."
New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said, “The world-class SUNY system provides outstanding public higher education for students across New York state. We need champions at every level who will join our fight for the resources needed to take our public colleges and universities to the next level. We will work with Chancellor King to ensure that our campuses and the educators serving on them receive the critical funding and support they deserve as we continue to push toward a common goal: Making sure every New Yorker has access to an affordable and exceptional public education.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal said, “We welcome Dr. John King as SUNY’s new chancellor, and we look forward to working with him to strengthen the SUNY system and keep SUNY as the premier public higher education system in the nation.
“UUP shares Dr. King’s commitment to equity and excellence for all students and making a college education affordable and accessible. These are attributes we believe SUNY’s new chancellor must have to be effective.
“We are hopeful that Dr. King, a Brooklyn native, will be a strong advocate for SUNY, especially when it comes to securing more state funding for our public higher education system and our public teaching hospitals.
“A fully funded SUNY system will support the working conditions that UUP-represented employees deserve, and guarantee that our students and patients will receive the rigorous education, high-quality academic services, and excellent health care that they are entitled to. He will have an equally strong ally in UUP in making that happen.
“UUP also thanks Deborah Stanley, SUNY’s interim chancellor, for her service during the search for a new chancellor.”
UUP is the nation’s largest higher education union, representing more than 37,000 employees at SUNY and its public teaching hospitals.
On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said, “At a time when New York families and students are struggling and being forced to take out massive loans simply to afford higher education, the inflated compensation package offered to John King for the position of SUNY chancellor by the board of trustees is simply absurd.
“On top of an annual salary that is more than three times the governor’s, New York taxpayers are going to be on the hook for thousands of dollars a month to pay for travel between New York and Maryland, John King’s state of residence, and more over-the-top and unnecessary benefits.
“This grossly excessive compensation package is a slap in the face to every hard-working New York family and student who struggle to afford higher education, and the SUNY board should immediately reconsider what is very clearly a bad deal for New York students and taxpayers.”