Dr. Virginia Schaefer Horvath has been appointed by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) as the 13th president of SUNY Fredonia.
Dr. Horvath is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs at SUNY Fredonia, a position she has held since joining the campus in 2005. She was recommended out of a pool of more than 50 candidates and five finalists by a 15-member search committee and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. She was officially appointed by the SUNY Board of Trustees at a board meeting held earlier today, and will begin serving as president on July 1. In doing so, she will become the first female president in the Fredonia campus’ 186-year history.
A press conference to officially introduce the incoming president will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 29 in Reed Library on the SUNY Fredonia campus. A formal inauguration will also be held shortly after classes resume in the fall of 2012, at a date and place to be determined.
A Western New York native, Horvath was born and raised in Amherst, N.Y. She is a SUNY graduate, having earned a bachelor of arts in English from the University at Buffalo before continuing on to Kent State University for both a master’s and Ph.D., also in English. She joined the faculty at Kent State in 1985 and became Dean of Academic and Student Services for the regional campuses, a position she held from 2001 to 2005. Even as a full-time administrator at Kent State and SUNY Fredonia, Horvath has continued to teach undergraduate courses on a regular basis.
“As vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Fredonia for the past seven years, Dr. Horvath will bring great insight, knowledge, and leadership to the presidential post,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We are pleased that she has agreed to serve as the first female president of SUNY Fredonia and look forward to working more closely with her in the future.”
“Dr. Horvath’s proven commitment to improving higher education in Western New York will serve her well in her new role as president of SUNY Fredonia,” added SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “She has an impressive legacy of leadership that I am confident she will continue to build upon at the college, and I know she will exceed the expectations of students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike.”
Horvath’s scholarship includes more than a dozen critical articles and books, in addition to numerous poems and reviews. She has presented and given workshops at more than 70 regional, national and international conferences. A recipient of Kent State’s Distinguished Teaching Award, she has academic specialties in medieval literature, British literature, children’s/young adult literature, and poetry. Dr. Horvath was a Visiting Professor at Shimane University (Japan), a Fellow of the American Council on Education, and a Protégé of the Millennium Leadership Initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Her service to her profession and to her current and previous campuses is also well known. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Fredonia Academic Community Engagement (FACE) Center, which connects student learning and pedagogy with opportunities to serve and positively impact the Western New York community. Under her leadership, SUNY Fredonia also added the Office of Student Creative Activity and Research, the Professional Development Center and several new academic programs.
“On behalf of the Fredonia College Council and the Presidential Search Committee, I wish to congratulate Dr. Horvath on her selection as the next president of SUNY Fredonia,” added the Hon. Frank A. Pagano, who served as chair of the search committee in addition to his continuing role as chair of the Fredonia College Council. “She stood out as exceptional among our candidates, and performed well at every stage of the review process. She is clearly passionate about this campus and its students, and I have no doubt that she will represent the college proudly and effectively.”
Her selection concludes a thorough, national search, aided by the nationally recognized search firm of R. H. Perry & Associates, which began in September 2011 and drew candidates from across the U.S.
“I also wish to thank all of the members of our search committee, as well as the team of R. H. Perry & Associates, for all of the time and hard work they invested in helping us reach this important decision,” Mr. Pagano added.
As Vice President for Academic Affairs, Horvath has served as the chief academic officer and the second-highest ranking official at SUNY Fredonia for the past seven years, making her uniquely aware of the campus’ strengths and recent successes as well as its opportunities for growth and improvement.
“There are many challenges right now in higher education, but SUNY Fredonia is in a good position to address those and to be known even more widely for our student success and campus environment,” Horvath said. “I am honored to have been recommended by the Fredonia search committee and selected by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees, and I look forward to serving the students, faculty, staff and community as president.” Horvath has played a major role in many of the campus’ most critical processes, including developing the current and pending five-year strategic plans, directing and overseeing various accreditation reviews, collaborating on budget and staffing planning initiatives, leading assessment processes across the campus, hiring more than 100 new or replacement full-time faculty, and supporting various fundraising and alumni, media and government relations initiatives.
“I’m very pleased with Dr. Horvath’s selection,” said current SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner, who will retire after 16 years in the campus’ top post at the end of the 2011-12 academic year. “I believe she is a natural, logical choice to continue the momentum and positive trajectory our team has collectively achieved. We have worked very well together over the last seven years, and her impact upon this campus to date has been substantial and remarkable. I look forward to working with her during this period of transition, and am confident SUNY Fredonia’s students, employees and many other constituents will be well-served by her for many years to come.”
The 54-year-old Horvath says she is very fortunate to have been able to learn from President Hefner and countless other colleagues and collaborators at Fredonia over the past seven years. She notes that, although the search profile indicated that the next president would “advance the institution among SUNY comprehensive universities,” she sees even greater potential for SUNY Fredonia to be known beyond the region and state for its faculty and staff innovation, student success, community engagement, and partnerships for regional development.
“Dr. Hefner leaves quite a legacy at Fredonia: strong enrollments, impressive facilities, fiscal responsibility, and commitments to the many communities our campus serves,” Horvath added. “The strategic plan recently developed in a collaborative process offers exciting ways to build on the historic and recent strengths of Fredonia, and I look forward to working with the faculty and staff to implement that plan.”
In addition to being a Western New York native, SUNY alumna and Fredonia’s first female president, Horvath’s selection is noteworthy in that she is a first-generation college graduate. She grew up as a part of a large family in what she describes as a “crowded, multigenerational home where there was plenty of love but limited resources.” She and her siblings were expected to work hard, seek life-changing opportunities, and, somehow, go to college. The beneficiary of the L. Gertrude Angell Scholarship at The Buffalo Seminary, the high school from which she graduated in 1975, Horvath has had many invaluable experiences that have led to her commitment to serving today’s students — especially the first-generation and non-traditional students for whom a public university can be most transformational. Her international opportunities in Kenya as an American Field Service (AFS) student and in Japan as a visiting faculty member helped shape her commitment to global understanding as an important component of a liberal arts education.
My parents did not have the opportunity to attend college, but my mother always emboldened us to venture beyond our modest beginnings,” Horvath recalled. “Although I wanted to go away to college, I learned frugality, as I worked to pay my own way at a local university. I learned practicality as well, discovering that registering for more than 20 credit hours each semester would allow me to graduate a full year earlier.”
Horvath sees a number of possible areas for further progress at Fredonia, including enhancing the identity of the institution and its programs, increasing investments in technology and online learning opportunities, revising general education and academic majors, exploring new sources of revenue, and strengthening support for diversity, to name just a few.
“The opportunity to serve as SUNY Fredonia’s next president is a calling that comes at a perfect point in my life,” Horvath concluded. “I have been impressed with the ways people work together here — even in times of fiscal challenges — to do what is right for students and to keep the mission of a regional, public liberal arts college at the center: to keep class sizes small, to focus on quality as well as affordability, to offer extra assistance, to challenge students in and out of the classroom to learn more than they thought possible, to engage with their scholarly/creative fields and with people in Western New York and beyond. There is more work to do, however, and I am eager to continue serving Fredonia in my new capacity beginning in July.”
At the 2010 Scholars Breakfast, Dr. Horvath (right) was joined by her father, Paul (second from left), SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher (second from right), and President Hefner (center) in presenting an award established in memory of her mother, Mary Joyce, to Kathleen Grace Fiori (left), the 2010 recipient.
Dr. Horvath’s compensation will include an annual salary of $205,000, slightly below the average ($210,875) among the current SUNY comprehensive college presidents, and in recognition of SUNY Fredonia’s standing as the third-largest four-year college (public or private) in the eight counties of Western New York. It is eight percent less than President Hefner’s current salary. As directed by SUNY and for SUNY’s convenience, she will reside in the President’s House, located on Central Avenue adjacent to the campus, which provides proximity to the campus for the president’s day-to-day job requirements. She will also be provided with a state vehicle, due to the amount of travel the position requires. No other compensation will be issued.
Dr. Horvath is married to Dr. Brooke Horvath, Professor of English at Kent State University; they have four daughters, Emily, Caitlin, Susan and Jordan. She is one of seven children of Paul and Mary Joyce Schaefer — five of whom still call Western New York home, along with their father.