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Karen Hitchcock: In Honor of Dr. James J. Gozzo

On June 30th, this coming Monday, an era will end at one of the Capital Region’s most respected institutions of higher education, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. President James Gozzo will leave the helm of this exceptional college – turning its leadership over to the new president, Dr. Gregory Dewey. I have been fortunate to have known President Gozzo for virtually all of his 16-year tenure at the college, a college which has been transformed by his presence.

In a piece in the Times Union this past April, Paul Grondahl wrote about  President Gozzo’s impact on the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on the occasion of the naming of the college’s Student Center in his honor. He reflected on  many of Jim’s accomplishments – from increasing the student body from 600 to 1600, to expanding the college’s physical facilities in major ways, including the new Student Center, student housing, more and better classroom space and research laboratories and, yes, establishing an entire new satellite campus in Colchester, Vermont. But, beyond all this, beyond the  upgrading in physical facilities and the major increase – over four- fold – in the college’s endowment, as Paul Grondahl pointed out, Jim’s efforts were all about the students. Almost a dozen new undergraduate and graduate programs were added, and he created a welcoming and supportive environment for all of his students.  To quote Paul Grondahl, “ … his student centered approach was more than lip service.” He listened and learned from his students, even as they were provided with a world-class education by a faculty and staff dedicated to their futures.

President Gozzo recognized the tremendous growth in his field and knew he would need to position his college differently to remain competitive as the number of pharmacy schools doubled during his years at Albany. And he did this by emphasizing quality, by expanding academic programs in key areas and by greatly enhancing the college’s commitment to research and scholarship, initiatives which transformed the educational experience and repositioned the college on the national scene.

Jim Gozzo’s big dreams for his college have been realized – realized through his creativity, his deep knowledge of the field of pharmacy and its trajectory of change and his commitment to the education and growth of his students.  For all the years I have been privileged to know him, Jim has always been Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ biggest fan. His admiration of his students, faculty and staff and his pride in their accomplishments were constant refrains. It was never about him, always others.

And, even as Jim has been the champion of and a forceful spokesperson for the “Albany College of Pharmacy” and, thanks to him, “Health Sciences” as well, he has also spoken out regarding the competitive advantage that all the colleges and universities represent here in the Capital Region. In a recent conversation with staff of the Albany Business Review, he said that “The infrastructure is here. It comes down to marketing and branding and how one projects the region.” I agree. The diversity of institutional type – from a major health sciences center, to highly-respected research universities, excellent community colleges and competitive, small liberal arts colleges and specialized professional schools -  and the large number of students per capita, one of the highest such ratios in the country,  are certainly distinguishing characteristics of our region. Indeed, our identity nationally as a creative economy has, in my view, much to do with our competitive advantage as a “college town” – almost 78,000 students in some 22 colleges and universities. This is not to deny our emerging identity as “Tech Valley.” However, it is widely acknowledged that much of that reputation derives from the research and development ongoing at many of our colleges and universities, often in partnership with our excellent technology-based business partners.  Perhaps there is an opportunity to wed these two perspectives of our region to the benefit of us all …. both reputational and economic.

In the meantime, I know you all join me in extending “congratulations” to Jim for a job exceptionally well done …. thousands of students have grown and become successful and compassionate health professionals due in no small measure to his wisdom and caring. How appropriate that one of his many legacies is a building designed and built for his beloved students, and now named, by his college, in honor of him … the “Gozzo Student Center.” Bravo, Jim, and many thanks from a community which I know will continue to be made better by your good work.

Dr. Karen Hitchcock, Special Advisor in the consulting firm, Park Strategies, LLC, was President of the University at Albany, State University of New York, from 1996-2004, after which she went on to lead Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Hitchcock has received honorary degrees from Albany Medical College and from her alma mater, St. Lawrence University. She has served on numerous regional and national committees and task forces dealing with issues in higher education, research and economic development. While at both the University at Albany and Queen’s University, she co-hosted the popular WAMC program, “The Best of our Knowledge”.


The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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