Emeritus Faculty Association news Sept 2012
Friday September 7th, usual time and place 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. The speaker will be Professor Peter Manning of the English department.
Bio: Professor Manning received his AB from Harvard College and his MA and Ph.D. from Yale University. He continues to teach and write in the area of the british romantics, with particular interest in the complex relationships between literary works and the contexts in which they emerged. This interest underlay his recent interdisciplinary dissertation seminar, Framing the Object enabled by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in Summers 2009 and 2010. He continues to work on his culturally-situated study of the late works of William Wordsworth.
Our annual luncheon in May gave us an opportunity to get acquainted with the new provost Denis Assanis. His bio has been provided in our last issue, but he also started his talk with a review of where he was coming from. Because of the influence of his father, a ship captain in Greece, he started out his education at the University of Newcastle and MIT with an orientation towards marine engineering. In his 9 years as a faculty member at the University of Illinois-Urbana, he branched out to such projects as wave motion technology and wave energy conversion. In moving to Ann Arbor, he changed from marine engines to automotive engines and transportation generally, in particular with respect to increasing efficiency. In 6 years as chair of mechanical engineering he moved that department to #2, behind MIT, enlivening the research with interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers from materials science, mathematics, medical science and even zoology. As director of the energy institute he further broadened his research interests to such questions as the future of nuclear reactors and clean and affordable energy, including a collaboration with China. At that point he was tempted by the offer from Stony Brook.
He sees his time at Stony Brook as an opportunity to help to move this university into the top 20 and a new level of excellence. Some of his priorities are to work closely with Dean Kaushansky to unify the East and West campus research effort, and upgrading the engineering and business schools, in particular hiring 100 faculty in interdisciplinary areas. To this end he is establishing a yearly competition to establish groups of faculty to think across disciplines to solve problems. Examples would be in the areas of climate change, energy sustainability, and new battery technology. This first round has 80 proposals from which it is planned to award some 5 to 7.
In response to questions he discussed his interest in -
re-imagining the role of languages and humanities in the university; significantly increasing the number of endowed chairs; redesigning buildings to encourage interaction and collaboration; encouraging innovation in teaching; and enhanced efforts to place graduates.
Paul Nathan Baer; member and former chair of Periodontics, passed away on June 25 at Jefferson's Ferry. An obituary appeared in the July 12 issue of the Village Times-Herald, see: http://www.northshoreoflongisland.com/1Obituariesbody.lasso
Comedy of Errors - II
Unlike the Comedy of Errors - I (see May issue), this one leans more to tragi-comedy. It appears here because we are the campus group with the longest memories.
Gyrodyne is a company which, somewhat like the US itself, originally used to make things but is now principally involved in finance and real estate development. The traffic implications of the latter aroused concern in both the village of Head of the Harbor and the Long Hill Civic Association. So with support from a state grant, Gyro proposed an access route from Nicolls road, via university property and a bridge over Stony Brook road. The university president wrote "SUNY Stony Brook has no need for this road" (NYTimes 11/10/96). Gyro's application for a zoning change from light industrial to residential was rejected by Suffolk County in 2002, and went nowhere thereafter in the townships of Smithtown and Brookhaven after the state allowed the taking of 245.5 acres of gyro's property by eminent domain on 4/25/05. Gyro argued that their principal asset was essentially confiscated by the payment of only $26M, and appealed. The state senator of district 1 (E Suffolk) generously said "At the appropriate time, whenever the value is set, the university will be there with a check" (Newsday 5-8-05). And at the same time the university committed itself to the operation of the old LIU campus in Southampton.
The case was assigned to the Court of Claims presided over by none other than our former state senator (district 2, W Suffolk) whose colleagues elevated him to a judgeship in 2002. On 6-30-10 he ruled extra value of $98.7M on the basis that Brookhaven was 90-95% likely and Smithtown 70-75% likely to change the zoning of the entire parcel to residential. Town officials demurred: "it would be purely speculative to comment on whether or not the potential changes of zone would would have been granted" (Public Information Officer, Brookhaven), and route 25A traffic density raised a "significantly more serious question that Smithtown would have permitted the higher density" (Planning Director, Smithtown). In his ruling the judge criticized the individual assigned by the state attorney general now Governor, writing that " the state failed to provide reasonable alternatives to calculate compensation. . . Rather than attempting to undermine claimant's valuation of the subject property, AAG (assistant attorney general) seemed content on spending the bulk of his cross-examination on bullying and belittling claimant's witnesses".
Gyro's stock price doubled.
In his last ruling filed 2-1-11 the judge added full legal costs to the total from the state and resigned (actually the day before) for reasons the court spokesman could not give, although it was mentioned that his 20 year personal problem with road rage had resurfaced while on the bench (Newsday 2-13-11).
At this point, over two years after the collapse of the real estate bubble, it was the university's turn to appeal. A new university president found that he had inherited a large deficit from his predecessor, even aside from the Gyro account. When he tried to offload the obligation in Southampton he was rebuffed by the same district 1 senator.
Finally on 6-5-12 while most of us were out of town, the Appeals Court confirmed the judgements of the Court of Claims. No further appeal is possible. The amount now owed Gyro is $167.5M and growing at the generous court-assigned interest rate of 9%, and nobody seems to know what to do about it. Previously Gyro had helpfully suggested that the university might tap the Stony Brook Foundation. This would essentially wipe out the accumulated assets of that institution, whose donors believed they were growing the university, not Gyro and its major stockholder, Bulldog Investors of Pleasantville, NY.