SUNY New Paltz faculty, staff and students, past and present, and family members came together on Nov. 5 to remember and honor President Emeritus Dr. John J. Neumaier, following his passing this June at the age of 94.
Neumaier’s presidency covered a vital transitional period from 1968-1972. He stewarded the College during the latter phases of its evolution from a teacher’s college into a center for liberal arts and graduate studies, and also pushed forward ahead-of-their-time innovations to extend educational opportunities to African-Americans and other students from underrepresented groups.
“President Emeritus Neumaier led the College at a time of great cultural upheaval,” said current SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian. “In four short, tumultuous years, he captained this ship in a stormy sea of political and social unrest, with an overarching principle at the heart of his decisions and actions: what is best for students. It is a moral compass that has served me well during my own presidency. I count myself as very fortunate to have known John and to have been able to share ideas with this brilliant man.”
The memorial program followed the annual fall retired faculty luncheon, and featured remarks from family, friends and colleagues of President Emeritus Neumaier, including his daughter Diane Neumaier, members of his administration Gail Gallerie and William Sample, President Emeritus Steven G. Poskanzer, and Emeritus Professor of History Gerald Sorin (who was a young faculty member when Neumaier arrived).
Terry Amsler ’73 (Political Science) traveled from Indiana to attend the memorial reception, and Emerita Professor Carole Cowan and Lecturer Susan Seligman of New Paltz’s Music Department performed on violin and cello, respectively.
Ira Fusfeld ’70 (English), publisher emeritus of the Daily Freeman and a student during Neumaier’s presidency, spoke about the impact of Neumaier’s presidency on the impassioned, rapidly changing student body of late 1960s SUNY New Paltz.
“In my view, there was no one better suited to be the president of this college at that tumultuous time in its history, because he understood the mood of the students. He listened to them and he largely bonded with them,” Fusfeld said.
Fusfeld brought the remembrance to an appropriate conclusion, delivering a still-relevant quotation from President Neumaier’s first address to the New Paltz student body in September 1968.
“‘Let us here at New Paltz build together, with patience, yet with determination, through some compromise, yet not so as to jeopardize the principles involved,’” Fusfeld quoted Neumaier as having said. “‘Let our internal policy be guided by sharing ideas, concerns and actions, following agreement and disagreement that lead to an education that is relevant to the present and to you – that fosters understanding of the past and that holds out hope for the future. I admit that’s a very big undertaking, and I pledge myself to serve you and to work with you in this common enterprise.’”