Louise M. Conley, Ph.D., the chair of the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors, did not graduate from the College. Her Cortland roots, however, run deep.
Conley, a licensed psychologist from Princeton, N.J., is the granddaughter of Francis J. Cheney, the second principal of the Cortland Normal School. Her mother, Clara Cheney ’17, and her father, Rollin McCarthy ’16, also both graduated from Cortland Normal School.
In the mid-1990s, Conley reconnected with the College and in the time since has blended her rich family history with a personal belief in philanthropy. She became the first person who did not graduate from SUNY Cortland to offer the institution a million-dollar gift when she endowed the Louise M. Conley Chair in Educational Leadership in 2011.
The first endowed chair naming in the College’s history, Conley’s transformational gift allows funding for a faculty member in the Educational Leadership Department to support research and teaching. The department is one of four within SUNY Cortland’s School of Education and prepares educational leaders by integrating theory and practice — a skill the Cheney family clearly holds in high regard.
Conley created and co-sponsored the Francis J. Cheney Educational Issues Conference at SUNY Cortland in the late 1990s, named after her grandfather, the Cortland Normal School principal from 1891 until his death in 1912. The conference, held annually, brings influential leaders in education to the SUNY Cortland campus to share their strategies for improving teacher education programs and the education of students from kindergarten through college. Conley regularly attends.
Another initiative funded by Conley, the Francis J. Cheney Scholarship, provides $1,000 annually up to four years to admitted first-year students who are majoring in the area of education and who demonstrate the highest academic achievement and greatest financial need.
She also supported the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House when the Alumni Association purchased it in 2004 and funded the Louise McCarthy Conley Room, which encompasses the mansion’s master bedroom.
Conley continues to run a private psychology practice in Princeton, N.J., two days each week while commuting to Cortland regularly, keeping her family’s longtime commitment to the College strong.