SUNY Polytechnic Institute Mourns Loss of Former President

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Mourns Loss of Former President

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 14:39
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For Release:         Immediate – February 22, 2016

Contact:                Jerry Gretzinger, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Public Relations ­

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Peter J. Cayan oversaw establishment of permanent campus


Peter-Cayan-150-239x300.jpg UTICA, NY - Faculty, staff, and students are paying tribute to the life and legacy of Peter J. Cayan, President of SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Utica site from 1982-2002. Cayan, who presided over the construction of a permanent campus for an institution that had operated for years in temporary locations and pushed for the addition of four-year programs to its academic offerings, died Sunday, February 21, 2016 at age 85.

“Peter Cayan was a remarkable leader who guided the college through a critical period in its history,” said Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, President and CEO of SUNY Poly. “We will forever be indebted to Peter for the tremendous impact he had on our institution and on the Mohawk Valley. The SUNY Poly community mourns his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Cayan’s legacy at the institution was honored with the dedication of the Peter J. Cayan Library in 2003 and the establishment of a scholarship fund. His career in the State University of New York System spanned four decades; it was complemented by extensive involvement in the New York communities in which he and his wife, Jeri, lived.

Ron Sarner, Distinguished Service Professor at the Utica site said, “Peter Cayan led the institution during difficult times of transition. It was on his watch that the college finally secured a permanent campus. His calm demeanor was a stark contrast to the turbulence that characterized faculty-administration relations in the college’s earlier years. It was Peter Cayan, who in the time just before he retired, forged an agreement to allow the institution to become a full four-year college. Every day I am reminded of the key role that Peter played in the history of this college as I pass the library that bears his name.”

"Dr. Cayan was president when I arrived more than two decades ago at the former SUNY Institute of Technology, now SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which he regarded as an extension of his family. As a result, he warmly welcomed me to the faculty, and was always very supportive,” said Dr. Maarten Heyboer, Associate Professor of History and Co-Chair of the SUNY Poly Governance Council. “In my interactions with him, he was a "gentlemen's gentleman" whose primary commitment was always to the well-being and success of the students, faculty, and staff of SUNYIT as members of the larger community of the Mohawk Valley and the state of New York.  He was a great leader who jump-started a period of tremendous growth that still continues.  He will be missed.  May he rest in peace."

Steve Perta, Chair of the Staff Assembly at the Utica site said, "Dr. Cayan and his wife Jeri were deeply involved in all aspects of the campus and surrounding community. They developed a close bond with students, faculty and staff. In 2003, the newly constructed library at the Utica site was dedicated in Peter’s name serving as a lasting memory of his service to the State University of New York."

A graduate of La Salle Institute in Troy, N.Y., Cayan saw active duty in Korea while serving in the U.S. Army. His military service from 1948-51 was followed by a job at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., marriage to Jeri Ruddy, and night school at Siena College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics.

His academic career began in 1963 with an assistant professorship in business administration and management at SUNY Delhi; he stayed at Delhi for 13 years, and earned master’s degrees from Siena and SUNY Oneonta and a doctorate in higher education administration. He was Delhi’s Dean of the School of Business Management when, in 1976, he accepted the job of President at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake. After serving at NCCC from 1976-82, he accepted the position of President at SUNY Poly, then known as SUNY College of Technology.

At the start of the Cayan era, the college was located in converted industrial buildings in Utica. His arrival as president came just months after groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Marcy for a new campus. The first building, Kunsela Hall, was completed in 1984. Additional construction soon followed, including Donovan Hall, the Campus Center, and the Adirondack and Mohawk Residence Halls. Shortly after his retirement, the $14 million Peter J. Cayan Library was dedicated in May 2003.

In addition to his academic degrees, Cayan had been a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, England, and was appointed the first honorary professor at Nanchang University, Nanchang, China. He was the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce’s John T. O’Toole “Person of the Year” in 1997, was awarded the Business Council of New York State Chamber Commitment to Community Award by Governor Mario M. Cuomo in 1988, and received the Leonard F. Wilbur Kiwanis Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Service in 1995. A complete obituary with service details is available at:


SUNY Polytechnic Institute. SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem, formed from the merger of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and SUNY Institute of Technology. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience and nanoeconomics programs at its Albany location and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica/Rome location. Thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts more than $43 billion in high-tech investments, over 300 corporate partners, and maintains a statewide footprint. The 1.3 million-square-foot Albany NanoTech megaplex is home to more than 4,000 scientists, researchers, engineers, students, faculty, and staff, in addition to Tech Valley High School. SUNY Poly operates the Smart Cities Technology Innovation Center (SCiTI) at Kiernan Plaza in Albany, the Solar Energy Development Center in Halfmoon, the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST) in Troy, the Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries in Syracuse, the Smart System Technology and Commercialization Center (STC) in Canandaigua, and the Photovoltaic Manufacturing and Technology Development Facility in Rochester where SUNY Poly also leads the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics. SUNY Poly founded and manages the Computer Chip Commercialization Center (Quad-C) at its Utica location and also manages the $500 million New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, with nodes in Albany and Rochester, as well as the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend, Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub, and Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub. For information visit