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Buffalo State president taking leave to undergo cancer treatment

SUNY Buffalo State President Aaron M. Podolefsky will go on sick leave while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

Podolefsky, who turns 67 this month, first shared the news of his diagnosis with the campus nearly two years ago, but he has continued to serve as president.

Monday, Podolefsky announced to the campus in an email that he has decided to go on leave to focus on his health.

“It’s been a challenging journey,” Podolefsky wrote. “I’ve reached a point with the demands of treatment that I now need to place my entire focus on my overall health and well-being.

“After careful consideration, I’ve notified SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher that I will be going on sick leave, effectively immediately. A determination on an interim president will be made by Chancellor Zimpher in consultation with the Buffalo State Council, led by Howard Zemsky,” chairman of the council. “You will be notified of the interim appointment as soon as a decision is finalized,” he added.

Provost Dennis K. Ponton will serve as officer-in-charge until an interim president is appointed, Podolefsky said.

“I completely support President Podolefsky’s decision,” Zimpher said in a statement. “All of us at SUNY join the Buffalo State community in extending our best wishes to the president and his family. We will work with Mr. Zemsky to identify an interim so that leadership at Buffalo State will continue uninterrupted while President Podolefsky focuses on his health.”

“We understand and respect that President Podolefsky’s priority at this time must be focused on his health, and we wish him well and offer our steadfast support,” Zemsky said in a statement. “Moving forward, the Buffalo State Council will work with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to select an interim president as we look to continuing the integrity, commitment and bold vision that President Podolefsky has brought to this leadership role.”

Podolefsky, former president of the University of Central Missouri, was hired in March 2010 to succeed longtime President Muriel A. Howard.

He told the campus of his cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2011 and has been undergoing treatment.

Several weeks ago, Podolefsky started a clinical trial at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and doctors insisted that he refrain from large gatherings, which prevented him from attending Buffalo State’s May 18 commencement. “The warm, thoughtful and supportive campus community at Buffalo State has been remarkable throughout my illness,” he wrote in the email.

“Your enduring kindness, care and concern will be something that, without question, will be tremendously comforting and strengthening to me during my leave. Your continued thoughts, prayers and encouragement will give me great peace of mind in the time ahead.”