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Purdue Calumet ex-chancellor to temporarily lead Buffalo State

Instead of promoting someone from within the school, SUNY Buffalo State has chosen Howard Cohen of Purdue University Calumet as its interim president.

Cohen will lead the school while President Aaron M. Podolefsky takes a leave of absence to undergo treatment for prostate cancer.

Cohen was the chancellor at Purdue Calumet in Hammond, Ind., part of the Purdue University system, from 2001 to 2011 and went on to become chancellor emeritus. His background is in philosophy, and he holds master’s and doctoral degrees in that field from Harvard University.

Purdue Calumet saw record enrollment during Cohen’s 10 years as chancellor, according to a news release. It had 8,639 undergraduate students this year, according U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings issue, which described the school as a “tier 2” regional university. According to the magazine, Buffalo State has more than 10,000 undergraduates.

“Buffalo State has a mission that is important to me, and I am inspired by the exceptionally dedicated faculty and staff I have already had the pleasure of meeting,” Cohen said.

“I also take personal satisfaction in this opportunity to serve,” he added. “In that regard, I am indebted to the philosopher Kwame Appiah, who has expressed the notion that if you are in a position to make a difference, and you can do so without great sacrifice, do it.”

Podolefsky first told the campus of his cancer diagnosis nearly two years ago, and he continued to serve. But he announced last week that he had to leave office to focus solely on his treatment.

Cohen will receive an annual salary of $225,000, according to the release. He has also held administrative posts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

Howard Zemsky, chairman of the Buffalo State Council, told The Buffalo News that Cohen was chosen over internal candidates because he brings a decade of experience as leader of a university. He also said bringing in Cohen is less disruptive to the school than it would have been if many current employees were promoted and shuffled around.

“There’s less disruption if you’re filling one vacant position,” Zemsky said.

Cohen’s appointment becomes official Aug. 1.