Mark Grimm

 

Syracuse’s University Chancellor Is Unique

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Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud

Would you hold 30 events at your home to meet the staff? Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud (SIV-uh-rude) did. Convinced he should mostly listen in his first year (his tenure began January 2014), he invited 6,000 university employees to his home. About half, he said, took him up on the offer.

Syverud appeared before the Capital Region alumni chapter last week in Albany. He’s a warm, genuine person with a sense of humor. His eye-popping resume includes a time as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and he is a trustee of the $20 billion fund created by BP to pay claims arising from the Gulf oil spill.

“I’ve never been to a university that had so many niches,” Syverud said. He quizzed the audience on how many radio stations the university had (the answer is five). He pointed out 10,000 high school students took classes at S-U this past year, from all around the world. He underscored the school’s close ties with veterans. It has produced more generals and admirals than other university, except the service academies.

Syverud is candid about the high tuition (about $40,000/year) and the need to address it with savings. He discovered S-U had 11 different mobile phone contracts. It saved a quarter-million dollars by consolidating. Purchasing and travel practices needed updating. Organizational change must occur and technology must be better utilized to become more education savvy.

He didn’t skip over the scandal with the basketball program. Academic support for athletes is now under the Provost, not the athletic department.

Focused squarely on a “collective willingness” to meet the challenges posed, Syverud wants S-U to be a “student-powered’ university with wide scale collaboration.

I want us “to be the university that does change right,” he said.

Big task ahead. Big talent in charge.

The writer received a master’s degree in public communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

The Capital Region’s Unity Problem

June 9, 2015

Albany Hospitality Summit

A wonderful “Hospitality Summit” in Albany made it clear our region will finally get its convention center, with an opening likely in early 2017. Our “space capacity is going to be amazing” when combined with the current Empire Sate Plaza, according to OGS’s Sue Cleary.

But will we make the most of it? Municipal boundary lines have prevented us from acting as a region since the lines were drawn. We have a deeply-seated parochial culture. I grew up in Troy. Schenectady might as well have been a foreign country. It’s just the way we thought.

Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo all have Triple-A stadiums for their regions. We have Single-A….for Troy.

No single city or county holds the lion share of population here and the four cities have consistently carved their own paths. Civic pride is a wonderful thing, but so too is collaboration. Today’s economy demands it.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan told summit attendees that visitors to our region don’t see municipal boundaries. They are just looking to enjoy themselves. There’s nothing small about our region. More than 1.2 million boardings took place last year at our airport and our train station is the ninth busiest in the U.S. We have the brainpower, access to markets, natural resources, arts, a world-class racetrack and the medical facilities to run with the big dogs.

I’d love to see a single website that explains what all our places have to offer, the “what you can do here” site whose website name would be on every hotel reception desk, in every library, in every town and city hall and in every cab in the region. And every municipality would play a role in promoting it.

We’ve seen some cracks in the parochial armor. The Albany-Colonie and Schenectady chambers are merging. Municipalities are doing more with shared services. Our convention and visitors bureau works hard at collaboration.

The biggest challenge is designing a collaborative approach where everyone on board sees the benefit to themselves. This is tricky. This is difficult. But it is in our mutual interest to make it happen.

Unity is a beautiful thing. And it adds to our quality of life.

The writer is a Capital Region native, longtime small business owner and one-time Town Board member.

The Best in NBA History: It Wasn’t Jordan

NBA All-Time TeamThe NBA Finals start this week so let’s pick the best ever. The greatest player of all-time was not Michael Jordan. It was Bill Russell. The top players will tell you,”it’s about the rings,” — NBA championships. Russell won 11 of them in 13 years with the Celtics. No one else is close. Jordan had six titles, Magic Johnson had five. Russell revolutionized the way the paint could be controlled. He averaged more than 22 rebounds a game for his career. Russell also led the University of San Francisco to two national championships in the mid 50’s. It hasn’t won one since.

Magic and Michael are my two guards, though Oscar Robertson and Jerry West may be closer behind than most people under 50 realize. Magic made everyone around him better. In the 1980 Finals, he stepped in to play center to replace the injured Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and responded with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists — one of the greatest performances ever. Jordan was the best marketed player ever which has a lot to do with his top ranking in many people’s minds.

My forwards are Larry Bird and LeBron James. Larry Bird took Indiana State to the national title game. No other player could have done that with a small school team that was below .500 when he arrived. Bird, more than any other player, made everyone around him better. In his first year with the Celtics, the team record improved by 32 games. He won three NBA titles and a bad back may have prevented more.

There’s just no stopping LeBron James. The best player of his era, his blend of power and quickness is unmatched in the game’s history. He carried Miami to the NBA Finals in all four seasons he played there. Miami missed the playoffs this season. He has brought Cleveland to the NBA Finals in his first year back there. Players can’t wait to play with him.

My second team has Jabbar, forwards Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, along with West and Robertson.

Weigh in with your picks on Facebook or Twitter!

The writer is a former play-by-play college basketball announcer who became a NBA fan in 1966 when his brother, Karl, bet 50 cents on the final NBA championship game.