Dr. John Anderson doesn’t typically get surprised, but on his recent return to campus, the former Alfred State president couldn’t help but be pleasantly caught off-guard as he walked into the Student Leadership Center.
There, dozens of his former colleagues stood and applauded as he and his wife, Vivien, entered the room for what Anderson believed was an event to honor State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean. In reality, the assemblage of faculty, staff, students, community members, and friends of the college had all gathered to honor Anderson through the unveiling of a portrait of him that will permanently hang in the SLC.
Anderson was instrumental in the creation of the $33.5 million facility, and as current Alfred State President Dr. Skip Sullivan noted, “We felt there was no better way to honor John Anderson than to have John Anderson forever in this building. We are grateful and honored to have you here today, John, and this portrait will be hanging in this building as a tribute to you.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was William Heaney, community liaison for Young’s office. Because Young, who provided support to the SLC project, was unable to attend the event, Heaney read aloud a letter from the state senator commending Anderson on his time as president of the college.
“John M. Anderson truly was a visionary for Alfred State,” Young said in her letter. “Together, we worked in partnership to accomplish many key initiatives, including the Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, the Physical and Health Sciences Building, and the Student Leadership Center. It was always a pleasure because he brought great tenacity and skill to the projects at hand.”
College Council Chair Patricia K. Fogarty said whether it was buildings, renovations, or new programs, Anderson was “always ahead of everyone else.”
“John Anderson was and remains a visionary,” she said. “And John, the walls of this building resonate with your energy and your vision. Thank you for being a part of us, thank you for all you have done for us, and welcome home, my dear friend.”
Anderson, who was president of Alfred State from March 2008 to March 2013, had also served in administrative roles at the college from 1991 to 2003, and as a professor of chemistry and physics for more than 11 years beginning in 1981. He stepped down as Alfred State president in 2013 to pursue the presidency of Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a post he intends to retire from on March 1, 2018.
Speaking during the portrait unveiling ceremony, Anderson said he was “very much surprised” to be honored, and thanked those in attendance.
“It’s great to see my friends and colleagues here,” he said. “There are a lot of people to thank, there are a lot of stories, a lot of ideas, and this (the SLC) was one of them. I can’t take all the credit for it. There are a lot of people in this room who worked to create this vision.”
During his remarks, Anderson shared some insight into the process behind the realization of the SLC, which includes leadership suites, a café, radio station, campus store, and space for student clubs and organizations to meet and strategize. He commended Sullivan, saying “Alfred State is in good hands,” and recognized a number of his former colleagues who were present.
“There are so many others I see in the room and I hope I get to say hi to you personally,” he said. “This is very humbling. I couldn’t have done anything in any of my roles without the support of Vivien, my partner, my lovely wife. Thank you, and thank all of you.”