March 24, 2010


College receives $1 million donation

Granddaughter of SUNY Cortland president gives money to create endowed academic chair

Staff reports
The granddaughter of one of SUNY Cortland’s early presidents has bequeathed $1 million to the College Foundation to create the college’s first endowed academic chair, which will be in the Department of Educational Leadership.
Louise M. Conley of Princeton, N.J., a member of the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors, made the gift to endow the Louise M. Conley Chair in Educational Leadership.
Conley is the granddaughter of Francis J. Cheney, the second principal of the Cortland Normal School, the forerunner to the college. Cheney led the Normal School from 1891 until 1912.
She previously donated $150,000 to create the biennial Francis J. Cheney Educational Issues Conference at SUNY Cortland. The conference was held from 1999 until 2005.
The bequest marks the third gift of $1 million or more by an individual to SUNY Cortland in as many months. Alumnus John Fantauzzi gave $5.2 million in January for scholarships for children of immigrants and first-generation students. Alumnus Michael O’Reilly gave $1 million in February to create a scholarship fund for future science teachers.
The naming of the award was approved Tuesday by the SUNY board of trustees during its meeting in Manhattan.
The endowment will provide $40,000 to $50,000 per year in research funds for its recipient, said Raymond Franco, vice president for institutional advancement. It will not be used to pay salaries.
“Once the resources become available to the college, the Louise M. Conley Chair in Educational Leadership will provide a SUNY Cortland faculty member ... with additional funds to support his or her research, teaching, student assistants or in fulfilling departmental initiatives,” Franco said today in a statement.
The Educational Leadership program at SUNY Cortland is designed to satisfy the requirements of the Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration.
Conley, a licensed psychologist, created the conferences to bring educational leaders to campus, to share their strategies for improving teacher education and the teaching of students from kindergarten through college.
Another initiative funded by Conley, the Francis J. Cheney Scholarship, provides $1,000 annually up to four years to admitted freshmen who are majoring in the area of education and who demonstrate the highest academic achievement and greatest financial need.
In 2004, she supported the college’s new Alumni House and funded the Louise McCarthy Conley Room, which encompasses the master bedroom as well as two adjoining rooms with a full-sized walk-in closet and a bathroom.
While Conley is the college’s first million-dollar donor who did not graduate from the institution, her Cortland roots run deep.
“I heard about Cortland Normal School all my life because both of my parents went there and my grandfather was the head of it,” Conley said. “It was an integral part of my parents’ early education. They very much valued the quality of the education they received there.”
Her mother, Clara Cheney, Class of 1917, and her father, Rollin McCarthy, Class of 1916, both graduated from Cortland Normal. They reunited a few years later while pursuing master’s degrees at Cornell University and were married in 1925. Her parents and both sets of grandparents are buried in Cortland Rural Cemetery next to the college.
Although she had only visited Cortland once with her father and again with both parents in 1984 for her sister’s burial, Conley reconnected with the college in the 1990s when she read correspondence her father received from the Alumni Affairs Office regarding the reopening of Old Main. She attended events associated with the gala and savored the special place her grandfather occupied in SUNY Cortland’s history.
“I had an admiration for him through my mother because he died when my mother was 12,” Conley said. “I knew only of him through my mother’s eyes. But reading more about him, I learned that he did an excellent job of leading the school and moving it forward. He was an effective organizer during his 21 years there. He was a very good liaison between Cortland Normal and the town.”


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