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Podolefsky, on sick leave, resigns as SUNY Buffalo State president

SUNY Buffalo State President Aaron M. Podolefsky, already on sick leave from the college, announced Monday that he is resigning his position, effective July 31.

Howard Cohen, chancellor emeritus at Purdue University Calumet in Indiana, will begin serving as interim president at Buffalo State on Aug. 1. Originally hired in an interim capacity while Podolefsky was on leave for treatment of prostate cancer, Cohen now will remain in the post through the 2013-14 academic year, at an annual salary of $225,000.

Meanwhile, the search for a new president is expected to begin in September, according to Howard A. Zemsky, chairman of the Buffalo State College Council.

“It wasn’t that many years ago that we completed the search that brought Aaron to town,” Zemsky said. “We can expect this search to be conducted in much the same way.”

Zemsky sees the top job at Buffalo State as an attractive position for anyone committed to higher education on the public level.

“We’ll be looking for people with successful track records in public education and who share the values of Buffalo State – excellent teaching, service learning, community involvement,” Zemsky said. “We want people who have at their core the desire to change young people’s lives for the better, people of inspired vision.”

A little more than three years ago, the college found that in Podolefsky, who came to Buffalo after serving as president at the University of Central Missouri. An anthropologist, he earned a bachelor’s degree at San Jose State University and a master’s and a doctorate from State University at Stony Brook. Last September, in his State of the College address, Podolefsky described his theory of education this way:

“I believe that real learning – deep learning – is a transformation in how one sees the world. It is the ability to discern patterns from what looks at first like chaos, to understand that there is complexity in what at first seems simple.

“This cognitive transformation is, in some sense, our real goal in educating students.”

Podolefsky, 67, is the college’s eighth president. In his three years at Buffalo State, the campus has opened a new student apartment complex, renovated the third floor of Rockwell Hall and Campbell Student Union, completed phase one of the science and mathematics complex, and opened a new technology building. In 2011 and 2012, Buffalo State was named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In announcing his resignation, Podolefsky wrote in an email to faculty and students: “In what has been a personally challenging and arduous journey, I’ve given long, thoughtful consideration to the next step on this life path and have concluded that my overall well-being and quality of life must be my first priority.”

He added, “Serving as Buffalo State’s president has been one of the greatest privileges in my professional life in public education.”

Podolefsky succeeded Muriel A. Howard as president in 2010. Howard had held the post for 13 years before accepting a job as president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.