Louise M. Conley enjoys a good challenge. She also enjoys her visits to SUNY Cortland, specifically the attitudes of the students she encounters.
Combine the two and you have the makings of the College’s historic 2/27 Challenge.
Conley will pledge $10,000 to SUNY Cortland students for scholarships, research opportunities and extracurricular pursuits if at least 227 people step up to the plate with a gift of their own — for any amount — Thursday, Feb. 27. Donors will have 24 hours to complete the challenge, which is the first single-day initiative of its kind organized by SUNY Cortland and The Cortland Fund.
“Why am I so willing to do this?” Conley asks rhetorically. “You have to understand that while I was growing up I heard so much about Cortland, especially from my mother.”
Plenty has been written about the chair of the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors and her deep Cortland roots. She is the granddaughter of Francis J. Cheney, the second principal of the Cortland Normal School, and the daughter of graduates Rollin McCarthy ’16 and Clara Cheney ’17. A licensed psychologist from Princeton, N.J., Conley has offered countless hours of her time to SUNY Cortland and a transformational amount of financial support, including a million-dollar gift to endow the Louise M. Conley Chair in Educational Leadership.
This time around, it’s more than her family’s longtime connection to the College or a competitive spirit that has prompted her giving — namely students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. “The students are very pleasant,” says Conley, a former schoolteacher and high school guidance counselor. “They’ll say hello to you just in passing. To me, their friendliness seems to reflect the happiness of the school.”
Conley says she will be happy to pay up on her end of the 24-hour, $10,000 challenge if it means encouraging a greater number of alumni and friends of SUNY Cortland to give.
“Anything I can do to make it more appealing to give,” she says. “I’ll do that.”