Staffer Named ‘Honorary Alumna’

Staffer Named ‘Honorary Alumna’

05/15/2018 

Robin Wheeler Baroni embodies the spirit of the Red Dragon family.

As the Alumni Engagement team coordinator, she has been the friendly and warm person who has greeted attendees from the registration table at the last 18 alumni reunions.

She has been the helpful individual working with members of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association and taking notes at their quarterly board meetings.

And this summer, she will become an honorary alumna of SUNY Cortland.

Wheeler Baroni will be honored during Alumni Reunion 2018 as an honorary Red Dragon, after being nominated by current association board member and former Student Government Association President Ronnie Genee ’03, a former intern in the Alumni Engagement office.

“There’s a very unique feeling that our alumni have for Cortland,” Wheeler Baroni said. “It’s home. It’s comfortable. It’s community. It’s friendship. And it’s love. And you have to always keep that close to you as well because if you don’t, then you can’t convey that to our alumni when you see them one-on-one, in groups.”

Wheeler Baroni ended a 12-year career with Smith Corona when Cortland’s typewriter factory closed down in 1995. She joined Alumni Engagement as a secretary in 1998 and immediately began taking on increasingly greater responsibilities. She was promoted to her current role several years later.

Wheeler Baroni, who will retire in May, credits two role models for the institutional advancement professional she became.

Douglas DeRancy ’75, M.S.Ed. ’86 was the executive director of the alumni operation for 26 years until his retirement in 2012. Nancy Sandstrom preceded Wheeler Baroni as office manager.

DeRancy hired her, and Sandstrom encouraged her to seek and accept the promotion to office manager several years later. Her growing role led to her job title change to team coordinator in 2015.

“Doug had enough confidence in me to allow me to bring so many different tasks into this position,” Wheeler Baroni said. “He’d say to me ‘If you can handle it, go ahead.’ I decided I’d prove it or I’d try to.”

Gradually more and more financial management duties came her way. Wheeler Baroni took on increasing responsibility for serving as association liaison with SUNY Cortland C-Club Hall of Fame organizers. She worked closely with the Alumni Association Board of Directors to plan each Alumni Reunion and joined them for annual retreats at the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education at Raquette Lake.

It felt natural to Wheeler Baroni. SUNY Cortland had, after all, always been a part of her life. Her father was Robert Wheeler, the late computing center director emeritus, and her childhood memories are steeped in College tradition. Her husband is Timothy Baroni, SUNY Cortland SUNY Distinguished Professor emeritus, biology, and a strong Alumni Association supporter.

Wheeler Baroni learned about her honorary designation at her last Alumni Association board meeting.

“At the last meeting, when they presented the award to me, I was overwhelmed,” Wheeler Baroni said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”

So have the thousands of SUNY Cortland alumni who have engaged with Wheeler Baroni in an effort to deepen their connection with their alma mater. A genuinely compassionate person, she felt it was part of her job to do all she could to support alumni who were unhappy or disappointed.

“It’s about keeping that old relationship alive,” she said. “It’s finding an old article or old photo and making a copy of it and sending it to them. Their whole life started here. It’s how you’d want to feel coming back to a place you grew up in.”


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