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SUNY Potsdam President John Schwaller. Photo: SUNY Potsdam
SUNY Potsdam President John Schwaller. Photo: SUNY Potsdam

Schwaller resigns SUNY Potsdam presidency

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SUNY Potsdam President John Schwaller made a surprise announcement Tuesday that he's stepping down from his post, effective July 31. Schwaller didn't detail his reasons for resigning. In a letter to campus, he said simply "the time is right for new leadership."

Schwaller's unexpected announcement comes during a period of change at the SUNY campuses in neighboring Potsdam and Canton, one touched off last year with a controversial plan to consolidate presidencies at the two schools, with Schwaller presumably at the top.

SUNY leadership in Albany stepped back from the shared presidency after protests from the Canton College community. Now, Schwaller's announcement is renewing concerns about consolidation.

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Julie Grant
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John Schwaller took over the presidency of SUNY Potsdam 2006. College provost Margaret Madden says six and a half years is a good run for someone in this kind of position.

"I was surprised, but in higher education these kinds of transitions happen. President Schwaller has been here as long as most college presidents have been in their positions, so in that sense, it's not unexpected." 

Schwaller's annual base salary is $193,600. 

SUNY Central administration in Albany has been on a mission to consolidate campuses, and save money. 

In his resignation letter, Schwaller described SUNY Potsdam's financial situation as "stable, yet fragile." He went on, "we must capitalize on the shared services initiative with SUNY Canton, to find administrative efficiencies and strengthen our investment in the SUNY Potsdam student experience."

Schwaller's resignation will leave both SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton without permanent presidents. Many people are asking if SUNY Central will try to save money by having one president oversee both colleges. 

The Canton college lost its longtime president Joseph Kennedy last year. In a controversial move, SUNY officials in Albany offered Kennedy a position in the central office. Many in the community thought Kennedy was forced to resign his presidency. Carli Schiffner has been serving as interim president at Canton, but the college has not gotten approval from SUNY Central to launch a search for a new president. 

Potsdam college council chair Roger Linden told reporters that Schwaller's resignation was not orchestrated by SUNY Central.

"To suggest that this in any manner was somehow the result of any sort of pressure and/ or suggestion from central administration would not be consonant with anything that I have been told by Dr. Schwaller, or that he has expressed to anybody else."

Provost Margaret Madden said she wants to alleviate concerns that students, faculty, and staff may have about the changes to come.

"The students won't experience anything different, and faculty and staff will continue to do their jobs and fulfill the mission of the institution. People are secure in their jobs and secure in their functions. And we will be just fine. In terms of opportunities, it certainly does give us a change to reflect on who we are and what's most important to us, and to assure that sustain those values."

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