Convocation Speech - 2008 RIT Commencement Ceremony
Growing up in the Sputnik era, Stan McKenzie dreamed of becoming an astronaut. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied math and science. Then he grew to be 6' 4", a size that forced him to resign himself to a profession that carried more weight. He decided to become a professor of literature instead and acquired a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in that field.
Stan, an RIT professor for 40 years, took on a new RIT mission in 1994 when he was named provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. His life mission remains to maintain a sense of humor. "Working 80-100 hours a week, I've learned you have to be able to laugh at things," he adds. "I try not to take myself or anything else, too seriously."
While active in RIT's administration for the past several years, he professes his first love to be teaching and plans eventually to return full-time. "I love getting to know students through the classroom," he says. "I always have final exam parties at my house. They take the exam there, and if they want to, they can party afterwards. I have an eight-person jacuzzi, sauna, and a pool table. It's always a good time." Stan received the RIT Outstanding Young Teacher Award in 1970.
Stan grew accustomed to opening his home to students during his first years in Rochester when he lived in Kate Gleason Hall. "My wife became the assistant director of housing at RIT, and we had students stop by all the time," he says. "That is how I initially became involved in Student Affairs." So involved he won Student Affair's "A+ /Leadership Award" in 1989, and the “Student Affairs Award for Promoting Learning Outside the Classroom” in 2003.
For fun, Stan takes to the great outdoors. A Washington State native, he enjoys vacationing in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
A great source of pride to Stan, he won a Northeast regional collegiate table tennis championship in 1963, and was a competitive tennis player. Stan doesn't get the chance to play tennis anymore, but most days you'll find him working out in the Student Life Center. Some favorite "escapism" activities include watching movies-especially action flicks-and reading suspense/action novels from the likes of Tom Clancy, Scott Turow, and John Grisham.
Other spare time professional reading includes Shakespeare and 16th century journals. "I had a fantastic Shakespeare professor at MIT," says Stan. "My passion for Shakespeare stemmed from his course." A long term goal, he plans to write a book about Shakespeare and his creative use of nothingness.
His office speaks volumes about his person. Huge portraits of Shakespeare, Twain, and Tolkien's Gandolf and Frodo decorate his walls. They are accompanied by helicopter views of RIT and a mace-an accoutrement of 16th century town court officials.
Stan says his most fulfilling role at RIT was serving as director of Judicial Affairs for 16 years. He valued the opportunity to affect student's lives. "No one comes to RIT to get expelled," he says. "If students make mistakes and you can help them deal with their problems and get their lives back on track, that is incredibly gratifying."
Other milestone contributions include serving as co-chair of the RIT Strategic Planning Committee, co-chair of the RIT Priorities and Objectives Committee, chair of Faculty Council, President's Search Committee member, the Reporter Magazine advisory board member, Residence Life Advisory Board member, and faculty advisor of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.
He earned a Ph.D. in 1971 and a M.A. in 1967 in English literature at the University of Rochester, and a B.S. in "Science and Humanities" at MIT in 1964.
Regarding his current position as provost, Stan says, "It is an honor to serve a university that is positioned to hold an even higher place among U.S. educational institutions. My goal remains to advance RIT's strategic plan implementation. Through this plan we have the means to strengthen programs that will serve new students, transfer students and adults who want the very best in career education."