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Provost Emeritus Spotlight: Stanley McKenzie

Stanley McKenzie

Stanley McKenzie, provost emeritus and retired professor of literature, has pledged $300,000 to the College of Liberal Arts. The gift is expected to contribute to the improvement of the college in two key areas: the Stanley McKenzie Salon Endowed Fund and the Stan McKenzie Commons.

The generous donation is just the latest contribution that McKenzie has made to RIT and COLA, starting with his arrival at the institute in 1967 as a member of the English department. At the time, RIT was still located in downtown Rochester and enrollment was under 10,000 students.

While much has changed since his first days at RIT, McKenzie's generosity has not. McKenzie held various different positions during his time at RIT, including stints as the provost and vice president of academic affairs, the director of judicial affairs, assistant to the provost and the acting dean of COLA.

Except for a 10-year span during his tenure as provost, McKenzie taught in COLA regardless of the various positions that he held. This strong connection was a major reason that McKenzie was glad to support the improvements to the college.

"My closest friends and colleagues were largely from [COLA]," said McKenzie in an email interview. "There was never a time when I did not consider myself first and foremost a faculty member of that college."

McKenzie had already made arrangements to donate the remaining balance of his RIT Pension Plan once he passed to the RIT general scholarship fund. When Dean Winebrake approached McKenzie with a proposal for improvements to the faculty commons and to endow a lecture series, the timing was right to make the donation.

Being able to sponsor the endowed fund and commons have been ways for him to be involved in improving the college earlier.

"I decided that it would indeed be neat to make an additional gift that would bear my name where I would be able to see the benefits of it during my lifetime," said McKenzie.

The Stanley McKenzie Endowed Fund will serve a number of functions for the COLA community: allowing students, faculty and staff to discuss current research and events, bring speakers to campus. and help with event marketing.

The endowed fund bears the ‘salon' moniker from a McKenzie tradition that began back in 1985. He would host faculty and staff from throughout the college at his home where they would discuss the events of interest at RIT and the greater world each Friday night. The Stanley McKenzie Salon Endowed Fund will open these discussions up to students as well and will provide for similar hospitality in the faculty commons of Liberal Arts Hall for the events which McKenzie had provided during his time at RIT.

The commons that will bear McKenzie's name will include renovations to the entrances of the Liberal Arts building while improving the equipment, technology and hospitality services of the college for the benefit of faculty, students and staff.

While McKenzie hasn't seen plans for any of the improvements to the college, he's excited for the results.

"I haven't seen any concept drawings yet, and I will admit that I am curious as to how the Commons will be integrated into the entry ways in building 06," said McKenzie. "I have tremendous confidence in the RIT architects and of course in [Dean] Winebrake's good sense as he approves the plans."

McKenzie's tremendous commitment to RIT is especially striking when one considers that his career here almost didn't happen. Having completed his undergrad degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Science and Humanities, McKenzie came to the University of Rochester to complete his Masters and Ph.D. in English Literature.

As his time at University of Rochester was coming to an end, a fortuitous lunch with a friend's family first made him aware of RIT and two openings in the English department.

"I had never heard of RIT, but I did apply and was accepted," said McKenzie. "I fully intended to leave after I finished my dissertation in 2-3 years and try to land a teaching position at some nationally ranked ‘publish-or-perish' university."

McKenzie, of course, would begin his long tenure with RIT with that decision, to the benefit of the institute and COLA. Even in retirement, McKenzie continues giving back; he'll be teaching a course in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien this summer.

McKenzie, who now lives in Arizona, uses his time to catch up on the works of great writers that he hasn't previously read. He also continues to travel; last year he was in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.