Will Conclude 12-Year Presidency Following 2014-15 Academic Year; Legacy of College Growth Will Remain

Dr. William Richards Through the Years

PHOTO: Dr. William RichardsMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Having recently celebrated the successful conclusion of a $25.1 million capital campaign and presently nearing completion of an expansive capital construction and renovation program that has dramatically altered both College campuses within the past six years, SUNY Orange president Dr. William Richards today announced to the College community that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2014-15 academic year.

The timing of the announcement, according to Richards, is intended to facilitate the smoothest transition possible for the College by allowing the Board of Trustees the time necessary to conduct a national search for his successor while he continues to guide the College’s operations through the upcoming academic year. Richards notified the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees of his intentions on Tuesday evening.

“When I first arrived at the College, several colleagues asked me how long I intended to stay. My response was always that I didn’t have any particular timeline in mind but that I’d know when it was time to move on. That time has now come,” Richards says. “I still enjoy everything about being the president of the College and working with dedicated faculty and staff who have the best interests of students at heart. But I also have a very strong sense that it’s time for me to step down and I’ve learned to pay attention to such stirrings.

“I look forward to my last year and I am committed to leaving the College in the best possible condition to face future challenges.”

“The College will miss Bill’s creative leadership. He’s brought a calm, assertive and visionary presence to SUNY Orange and it has been a pleasure working with him over the past 11 years,” says Joan Wolfe, chair of the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees. “When Bill arrived in 2003, SUNY Orange was lagging seriously behind our sister colleges in certain degree programs, technology, capital improvements and fundraising.

“Now look where we are. We have a successful branch campus in Newburgh. We’ve got new facilities in Middletown. The Trustees have a wonderful relationship with the SUNY Orange Foundation Board, which has pushed our fundraising and scholarship levels to all-time highs. And we just recently completed a major capital campaign,” Wolfe adds. “We are also proud that we have been able to reach many of our goals due to great teamwork between the Board of Trustees, College community, Foundation board, county executive, county legislators and our many wonderful partners throughout the region.

“Our students and graduates continue to accomplish great things and the College has earned a respected reputation within the local and regional communities due to Bill’s wonderful work. With Bill at the helm, and his wife Helen by his side every step of the way, the College and all of Orange County have been greatly enriched.”

Upon his retirement, Richards, who arrived as SUNY Orange’s eighth president on Aug. 1, 2003, will have completed the second-longest presidential tenure in the College’s 65-year history, trailing only the 17-year stint of Dr. Robert Novak (1965-82).

In total, Richards’ 36-year academic career will have featured 18 years in executive leadership roles on college campuses, including three years as chief executive officer of the Westminster campus of Front Range Community College in Denver, Colo. (2000-2003), and three years as president of Otero Junior College in La Junta Colo. (1996-99). He was also president of the Higher Education and Advanced Technologies (HEAT) Center, a long-range strategic planning group headquartered in Denver, during the 1999-2000 academic year.

PHOTO: Capital Campaign partyBefore he departs next summer, Richards expects to assist the Board of Trustees through the College’s third strategic planning process--all of which have occurred during his tenure--which will include creation of a Strategic Plan 2020; revisions to the College’s mission, vision and goals; and updates to academic, facilities, technology, enrollment management and institutional effectiveness plans. He will also sharpen SUNY Orange’s focus on student recruitment and retention, with a special eye toward bolstering the STEM-related academic programs that will be housed within the new Rowley Center for Science and Engineering that will open this August.

Significant highlights from Richards’ SUNY Orange presidency include: completion of the Defining Moments capital campaign that generated $25.1 million in private gifts to the College; approval, development and expansion of the Newburgh campus, which had previously been an extension center; and construction and expansion of facilities on the Middletown campus, including the campus’ crown jewel, the Rowley Center.

Completion of the Rowley Center will cap an aggressive series of capital improvement projects that will have seen the College pour approximately $140 million into buildings and grounds within the past six years. In all, the College will have fully constructed or renovated six structures during that span, resulting in more than 285,000 square feet of new or renewed educational space.

Throughout his tenure, Richards has employed a style of leadership that focuses on three major goals: to enrich lives through learning, enhance economic opportunities in the area the College serves, and to participate in and lead community development. To that end, the College has engaged in countless community partnerships over the years that have both enhanced the SUNY Orange academic experience for students while at the same time positively benefitting residents throughout the Hudson Valley.

He’s also brought a focus upon strategic planning to the College; helped strengthen relations between the Board of Trustees and the SUNY Orange Foundation Board of Directors; approved the establishment of the Colt Athletic Hall of Fame to recognize former athletes and teams; supported industry forums that brought growth and efficiencies to the areas of healthcare, banking and advanced manufacturing; and greatly enhanced the availability of professional development opportunities for faculty and staff through significant expansion of the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

PHOTO: Dr. William Richards at CommencementIn order to address recent budgetary challenges created in part by dwindling support from New York State, SUNY Orange has placed a greater emphasis on the acquisition of grants from government organizations as well as public and private foundations. In the past 11 years, the College has secured nearly 16.9 million in grants, with two-thirds of that tally--almost $11.5 million--coming in the past six years.

In the past decade, the College has built vibrant collaborative relationships with local high schools, its sister community colleges in the Hudson Valley, and many businesses and organizations. Additionally, SUNY Orange maintains a thriving partnership with Orange County government leadership.

In nearly all instances in which he has facilitated collaborations, Richards has sought to meet one or more of the following goals: improve the educational program, provide critical experiential learning opportunities to enhance classroom education, facilitate more effective institutional operations to allow the College to “provide more with less,” or contribute to the expansion of educational access and opportunity for local residents.

Richards helped SUNY Orange become a founding member of a four-community college consortium (the Hudson Valley Educational Consortium) designed to expand access to first responder and innovative technology programs (credit and non-credit) for residents of Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties. It is the first such consortium in the State University of New York to bring programming offered at one of the schools to students at the other schools through a combination of video teleconferencing technology, online study and classroom coursework at the student’s “home” campus.

Soon after his arrival, Richards guided the College through an exhaustive and thorough self-assessment that resulted in development of SUNY Orange’s first-ever five-year Strategic Plan. The initial plan, completed in 2004, and its subsequent revision in 2009 have served as guiding documents for College planning and operations since.

Richards earned a bachelor’s degree, graduating magna cum laude, from Regis College (currently Regis University) in 1966 and a master’s degree, with honors, from St. Louis University in 1968. He acquired his Ph.D. in medieval literature from the University of Denver in 1987.

He and his wife Helen are active on many boards and organizations throughout the Hudson Valley, including Hospice of Orange & Sullivan Counties, Inc., Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress, Newburgh Armory Unity Center, Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Citizens Foundation, Orange County Partnership, Inspire and United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region.

Major SUNY Orange Accomplishments Since 2003

Defining Moments Capital Campaign: 25.1 Million

In addition to construction in Newburgh and Middletown (noted below), the Defining Moments campaign that concluded this past Fall helped increase the College’s scholarship endowment by 207 percent, to more than $2.4 million, allowing SUNY Orange to issue a new high of $270,000 in assistance this past academic year. Campaign donations supported a host of additional projects or improvements, including: scholarships for daycare, faculty and staff professional development, creation of new academic programming, technological upgrades to classrooms, the Global Initiative: Africa program, expanded wireless internet access on the Middletown campus, attendance by Honors Program students at regional conferences, a SUNY Orange student research competition, the archival process for materials in the Ben Gilman Collection, and creation of a one-stop services hub in the Shepard Student Center.

PHOTO: SUNY Orange Newburgh campusCreation of the Newburgh Branch Campus

SUNY Orange’s expanded campus in Newburgh (right) includes Kaplan Hall, an 85,000-square-foot classroom and laboratory building that opened in January 2011, along with the renovated Tower Building that was reopened in January 2012. The College offers seven full degree programs in Newburgh and services more than 1,500 full- and part-time students. The campus has elevated educational access for students from throughout the eastern portion of Orange County, and beyond, and has become a key component in the revitalization of the City of Newburgh. Additionally, in December 2013, the Orange County Legislature approved the purchase of three buildings--American Legion Hall, Masonic Lodge and former YMCA--adjacent to Kaplan Hall along Grand Street for future College expansion. The County-owned Maple Building stands next to the Tower Building and could serve the College’s needs in the future.

Middletown Campus Capital Improvements

Within the past three years, the College has enhanced its Middletown campus via construction of the Morrison Lab School, a magnificent new childcare facility that also serves as an on-campus learning laboratory for the College’s education and early childhood development students; a parking garage along Wawayanda Avenue; and the Rowley Center, a 107,000-square-foot facility that will house the science, biology, engineering and architecture programs. Once those programs are established in the Rowley Center, the College will renovate those departments’ vacated academic and office spaces for use by other departments.

Additional SUNY Orange Accomplishments since 2003


  • Founding member of the Hudson Valley Educational Consortium
  • Joined Franklin University’s Community College Alliance
  • Acquired Benjamin A. Gilman Collection and established Gilman Center for International Education at the MiddletownCampus Library
  • Introduced new academic programs in human services, emergency management, new media and public health
  • Established Interdisciplinary Studies Department
  • Greatly expanded College’s Honors Program for motivated, high-achieving students
  • Saw tenfold growth in membership in Phi Theta Kappa (national honor society for two-year students)
  • Expanded transfer articulations with four-year colleges and universities and introduced joint academic programs (i.e.: criminal justice articulation with St. John’s University and new RN to BSN program with SUNY Binghamton)
  • Developed the Global Initiative program, a series of yearlong, college-wide investigations into regions of the world (Latin America, Asia, Africa) or issues of global importance (sustainability, global health)
  • Successfully completed two Middle States Commission on Higher Education Self-Study accreditation visits

Community Collaborations

  • Completed industry forums in the areas of healthcare, banking and advanced manufacturing
  • Developed Frontier TechLab
  • Created the Center for Assistive and Rehabilitative Technology (CART)

College Operations

  • Implemented two College-wide Strategic Plans (2005 and 2009)
  • Instituted and expanded Center for Teaching and Learning (professional development for faculty and staff)
  • Created Institutional Effectiveness Plan to improve College operations and track College performance
  • Implemented plans for Emergency Management and Sustainability to guide and improve College operations
  • Original signatory of Climate Commitment and infused sustainability into College operations and policies

Student Services

  • Expanded student services to include One-Stop Centers on both campuses
  • Established the College’s Wellness Center
  • Refined College orientation process to include NEW Start workshops attended by all incoming students so that they may become better acclimated to SUNY Orange

Institutional Advancement

  • Strengthened collaboration/relations between the SUNY Orange Foundation Board and Board of Trustees
  • Moved Alumni Association from College Association to Institutional Advancement
  • Initiated President’s Scholarship for Outstanding Academic Achievement
  • Promoted pursuit and acceptance of grants from government organizations as well as public and private foundations, resulting in the acceptance of approximately $16.9 million in grant awards in the past 11 years


  • Oversaw growth in availability of online classes
  • Introduced and expanded use of simulation manikins in nursing laboratories
  • Implemented SMART Classrooms
  • Expanded wireless internet access throughout both campuses
  • Revamped MySUNYOrange online services (to be launched in June 2014) to promote increased student retention and completion


  • Established Colt Athletic Hall of Fame (first induction class was in 2012)
  • Helped return Orange County Home Show to the College in 2012
  • Broadened naming of College spaces in honor of those friends and former employees who contributed greatly to the advancement of the College (Shepard Student Center, Gilman Center for International Education, Edward A. Diana Physical Education Center, M. William Lahey Library, Rowley Center for Science and Engineering, Mary A. Diana Softball Field, Mindy Ross Gallery)

SUNY Orange Presidents

Fred Germain (1950-51)

Edwin Miner (1951-59)

William G. Dwyer (1960-64)

Robert Novak (1965-82)

Mary Norman (1982-85)

William Messner (1986-96)

Preston Pulliams (1997-2003)

William Richards (2003-present)

» Back to Headlines

Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940