The Schenectady County Community College Board of Trustees held a typical meeting Monday evening, with one major change — Denise Murphy McGraw was not there.
The chairwoman of the board decided to step down from her prominent role at the college after serving more than seven years as its biggest cheerleader. The choice was a personal one.
“I had no plans of doing another seven-year term. I couldn’t do another seven years and I didn’t want to do another seven years,” McGraw said. “I will miss everyone, but what more could I possibly accomplish? I don’t know what else I could do, and what other ground I could break.”
The news came suddenly for some, but it wasn’t a surprise. McGraw wears many hats.
She is also a partner at Hill, Gosdeck & McGraw LLC, co-chairwoman of the state Public Affairs Committee of the Junior League, serves on the Niskayuna Town Board and is on the board of the Albany Starfish Swim Club.
“I am sad to see her go, we are going to miss her,” said Ann Fleming Brown, vice chairwoman of the SCCC Board of Trustees. “I wondered when she would move on from the board. She is very involved in the community. It’s a big loss and she led us through some big milestones.”
McGraw announced her resignation on Friday, but she had planned to leave the board for some time. Her term actually ended last July. “I was kind of just hanging on,” she said.
“I had already made the decision before Quintin left,” she said. Quintin Bullock, SCCC’s former president, left the college in March. “I think continuing the search for a new president is something someone new should do.”
The Board of Trustees is leading a national search for Bullock’s replacement. Martha Asselin, the vice president of student affairs at SCCC, is serving as acting president.
On Monday, Asselin praised McGraw for all of her accomplishments while serving in her leadership role at the college.
“She has done so much for this school, and she has made so many wonderful things happen here,” she said. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without here. The college is thriving, and we have Denise to thank for that.”
While McGraw served as chairwoman of the board, SCCC spared its theater program from the chopping block, opened a new music building, erected student housing, unveiled its new Center City location and expanded into downtown Albany.
“She loves Schenectady, the college and this community,” Asselin said. “I hope the board will keep that momentum and the same energy that Denise had. One thing I know for sure — we will continue to see great things happening at the college.”
Fleming Brown will serve as chairwoman until the nominating committee names McGraw’s replacement. The committee is expected to make its recommendations over the next three weeks, and will name a new chairman by next month.
During Monday’s meeting, the board welcomed two new members appointed by the Schenectady County Legislature last week — Dr. Bill Levering, pastor of the First Reformed Church of Schenectady, and Dr. Alton Brisport, an orthopedic therapist in Schenectady who has taught at SCCC for the past decade.
Levering filled the empty seat left by McGraw, while Brisport replaced Sharon Daley. Renee Bradley was also reappointed by the Legislature and will serve for another term.
“I think Denise works extraordinarily hard at everything she does and has demonstrated a great commitment to SCCC and has been part of a great change for the college,” said Gary Hughes, majority leader of the Legislature. “But I am confident in the new trustees that the Legislature appointed. They are all very committed people ready and willing to work hard.”
Also during their meeting, the trustees unanimously approved a resolution supporting a proposed casino in Schenectady. The casino project is expected to provide job opportunities for SCCC graduates in the casino and gaming management program.
The college plans to offer job training at its main campus in Schenectady and extension site in Albany for prospective casino employees. The casino is expected to create 1,200 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs.
McGraw said she believes a casino in Schenectady would contribute to the economic growth of the city and help with the expansion of SCCC’s gaming program, which was launched last fall.
“We have already begun to look at additional concentrations within the program, including casino security and casino technology,” she said. “We want to train these students to enter a job at a casino, wherever it may be.”
McGraw said that she will miss being on the board and has made some real friends during her time at SCCC, but it was time for her to move on.
“It’s just time,” she said. “I am relieved in a way because it’s summer and for the first time in a long time I can actually enjoy the summer. I think the timing was absolutely perfect, and I’m ready.”