Dennis O’Keefe Memorial Lecture to focus on unity of college and community in New Paltz and America

NEW PALTZ –Gerald Benjamin, director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at the State University of New York at New Paltz, will deliver the fifth annual Dennis O’Keefe Memorial Lecture sponsored by the Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21, in CSB Auditorium on the New Paltz campus. This event is free and open to the public.

Benjamin’s lecture, titled “College and Community in New Paltz and America,” addresses the impact of the divide between these two entities. Benjamin said:

“We are predisposed to think of “the college” and “the community” as apart from each other, not a part of each other. We speak of the college as a separate community, the college community, that is bounded and has membership. We know that town/gown tensions are pandemic, and certainly present in New Paltz. And we also make commitments to “serving the (outside) community,” and encouraging our students to do so.

Gerald Benjamin, Director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO)

Yet are we not one community, are we not really and fundamentally all in this together, in this place, at this time? And wouldn’t we benefit enormously from consciously embracing this unity? Certainly, Dennis O’Keefe’s life was a testament to this idea.”

Benjamin joined New Paltz as assistant professor of political science in 1968 and was appointed Distinguished Professor by the SUNY Board of Trustees in April 2002. During his time at SUNY New Paltz he has served as chair of the department of political science, presiding officer of the faculty, and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Benjamin served as an elected member of the Ulster county legislature between 1981 and 1993. Between 1985 to 1991 he was the Majority Leader; from 1991 to 1993 he was the legislature’s chairman, which at that time was the county’s chief elected officer.

As the first director of Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach and vice president for Regional Engagement, Benjamin has worked to discuss public policy and foster community collaboration in the Hudson Valley. His experience and knowledge of the structure of New York state politics has been an asset to the Center, New Paltz students and local government. During his discussion, Benjamin will share his experiences and highlight the separation that occurs between community and campus.

Dennis O’Keefe graduated from New Paltz in 1973 and was a dynamic member of the college and community. His positive spirit inspired the lives of New Paltz faculty, staff, students and community members. O’Keefe’s diverse interests included Thomas Jefferson, architecture, weather, and New Paltz history. He served as a long-time staff member of the Sojourner Truth Library and with the New Paltz Volunteer Fire Department.

The Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library is an association of faculty, students, alumni and community members dedicated to promoting and enhancing the library as a shared resource. Membership in the Friends group includes borrowing privileges and access to campus parking. For further information please contact the secretary to the Dean of the Library at 845-257-3719 or visit the Library Web site.