Raymond D. Franco ’72, M ’75, a respected and well-liked senior administrator at SUNY Cortland who has served his alma mater for 40 years, will retire on Aug. 31.
He will be designated as vice president for student affairs and vice president for institutional advancement emeritus.
Franco was appointed to his current position of vice president for institutional advancement in 2007, after having served as interim vice president for a year. Previously, he had been the College’s vice president for student affairs since 1994.
Franco played a key role in conceiving and planning both the College’s $18 million Stadium Complex and, more recently, the $56 million Student Life Center. He worked closely with campus leaders, area legislators and state officials on both sides of the political aisle to obtain state funding for the projects.
As vice president for student affairs, he helped lead the effort to solve the College’s growing need for additional high-quality athletic space by developing the stadium’s turf-covered fields.
Similarly, as a member of the President’s Cabinet, Franco was an early and vocal advocate for the creation of a student life center that would enhance recreational and social opportunities and serve as a unifying campus hub. Franco will see that dream realized this fall when contractors begin construction of the nearly 147,000-square-foot facility on the south end of campus.
“I am really proud of the fact that we are going to be building the Student Life Center,” Franco said. “(Recreational Sports Director) Julian Wright has been carrying that torch since he walked on campus and I have wanted to make it happen from the moment he talked to me about it. He pointed out we are a national role model in terms of campus health and wellness, and that the Student Life Center will affirm the importance of campus health and well being as it becomes the focal point for healthy living at college.
“I always felt that we had programs that were among the best in the SUNYsystem: residence life, counseling, university police, student health, recreational sports,” Franco said. “Our staff are among the best in the student affairs profession.”
A 1986 recipient of a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service, Franco joined SUNY Cortland in 1972 as a residence hall director and rose through the ranks as assistant director of housing, director of residence life, assistant vice president for student affairs/director of residential services and as interim vice president before becoming vice president for student affairs.
For six years Franco has supervised the offices of Alumni Affairs, Publications and Electronic Media, Public Relations, and the Cortland College Foundation. The division focuses on building support, assisting in marketing the College to students, raising funds and strengthening bonds with graduates. It serves as the College’s primary source for communicating with external audiences, as well as the campus community.
Franco presided over a significant expansion in all those areas, including alumni programming, both on campus and at the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House. He improved communication with the college community, alumni and the public through a greatly expanded online media and public communications presence, and developed improved loyalty and support for the College’s educational mission.
Franco focused on making the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association a more financially stable operation by negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the College. Now Alumni Affairs Office staff are far less dependent on the vagaries of sponsorship fees and programs to retain solvency.
Under his leadership, the Cortland College Foundation launched the College’s ambitious $25 million Educating Champions: The Campaign for Cortland, despite the fact the nation’s economy was just then entering its worst slump since the Great Depression. Franco’s unwavering confidence in the generosity of the College’s alumni, friends, faculty and staff, and corporate donors was validated at the kickoff of the campaign’s public phase last September, when he announced the campaign had already raised $20 million. Another year remains to reach the goal.
He oversaw the successful completion of an initiative to permanently endow the Parks Alumni House at $1.7 million so future alumni are able to use and enjoy the 29 Tompkins St. facility far into the future. The Educating Champions campaign encompasses a similar, $1.5 million campaign to ensure that future generations will have access to the Center for Environment and Outdoor Education at Raquette Lake.
Within the Student Affairs Division, Franco spearheaded programs relating to student orientation, student housing, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, and residence life. In 1976, Franco’s first year as director of residence life, the program started the SUNY Cortland Residence Life Conference, which annually attracts hundreds of student affairs participants from colleges throughout the Northeast.
Franco provided leadership as the campus converted its residence halls from relying completely on SUNY for funding into a self-sustaining enterprise relying totally on room fees for maintenance and support.
A 1972 graduate of SUNY Cortland, Franco was president of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association from 1986 to 1988. He also served on its board of directors and its Finance and Long Range Planning Committees.
A native of Herkimer, N.Y., and a graduate of Herkimer High School, Franco earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from SUNY Cortland, in 1972 and 1975, respectively. He obtained an Ed.D. in higher education administration from Syracuse University in 1989.
At SUNY Cortland, Franco served from 1991 to 1996 as president of the Auxiliary Services Corporation, a private, not-for-profit organization that operates the College Store and provides food service for the campus. Franco was president of the SUNY Housing Administrators Association, and was president, vice president and secretary of the Council of Chief Student Affairs Administrators Association.
The chair of the Cortland Regional Medical Center Board of Directors from 2009 to 2011, he also was vice chair, treasurer and secretary during his 13 years of service on behalf of the local healthcare provider. Franco is a long-time Rotary Club member and a former United Way of Cortland County board member.
He is married to Donna Still Franco ’73, M ’76, a retired reading teacher from the Cortland City School District. They live in Cortland and have three grown sons, Stephen, Bradley and Brian; and five grandchildren.