Rich Coyne ’07 spent his first year as a college student at Stony Brook University.
He decided to transfer to SUNY Cortland for its smaller class sizes and better access to faculty as well as a chance to play football for the Red Dragons.
Little did he know at the time that it was a decision that would shape a career in higher education. Coyne was named SUNY Cortland’s vice president for Institutional Advancement earlier this month, a role in which he will provide vision and leadership for the offices of Alumni Engagement, Communications, Development, Marketing, Foundation Financial Services, Advancement Information Services and the Cortland College Foundation.
“When I’m working with donors, I want them to know that I’m committed to the university,” Coyne said. “Being a graduate is a reminder to donors that I’m a Cortland guy. I’m here for the long haul and I care about the future of the institution. That’s why I decided to stay here and continue to grow here professionally.”
Coyne replaces Peter C. Perkins, who retired in June 2023 after having led Institutional Advancement since 2015.
After earning a master’s degree in management from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2009, Coyne learned that Cortland was hiring a full-time general manager for the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House.
“I saw an ad for the job and it was like it was written for me,” Coyne said.
Over the past 14 years, Coyne has served in several positions in Institutional Advancement, including major gift officer and later as senior gift officer. He was promoted to associate vice president for Institutional Advancement in 2020.
He was recognized with a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service in 2023. Coyne has served on several campus committees, including the Risk Management Assessment Team, the Campus Beautification Committee, the President’s Advisory Council and is a member of the Cortland Auxiliary Services Board.
Coyne has guided several major initiatives in recent years, including planning for Cortaca Jug games at MetLife and Yankee stadiums, the largest gatherings of Cortland alumni in the university’s history and an opportunity to elevate the reputation of the institution on a mass scale. He worked to create a Student Emergency Fund, which has raised more than $400,000 to support students facing unforeseen financial hardships, as well as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund that has raised more than $90,000 to date.
Throughout the All In: Building on Success comprehensive campaign that concluded in 2022, Coyne was a key player in helping SUNY Cortland raise more than $30 million for students and key institutional priorities.
He is also passionate about supporting undergraduate research through summer fellowships and events like the Michael J. Bond ’75, M.D. Alumni/Undergraduate Science Symposium that connect students, faculty and staff. Thanks to Coyne’s work with generous donors, funding is also available for Cortland students to attend regional and national conferences that give them a chance to learn from experts and present their work to new audiences.
“When people think about Cortland, they might not think about undergraduate research, but I’d love to be able to help change that tide,” Coyne said. “There are these truly special applied learning opportunities for our students within their career paths all across campus.”
Coyne is also particularly proud of his past work in connecting with alumni and friends of the university to support and create scholarships that both benefit students and bring together Cortland’s graduates. A chief example is the William F. Pittorino ’85 Humanitarian Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of a former SUNY Cortland football player who passed away after a battle with cancer in 2018. The scholarship is awarded to service-minded physical education students with demonstrated financial need.
Pittorino’s friends formed new bonds together after his passing and they’ve regularly come together to meet on campus or online to reminiscence and trade old stories. It’s the perfect mix of scholarship support, engagement and building of school spirit that Coyne hopes to continue in his role as vice president.
“Having Cortland serve as the space that brings them back together, it’s a testament to their experience as students,” Coyne said. “For them to have this bond, rooted in relationships that were formed decades ago, is what makes Cortland so special. It is a place where they want to honor Billy’s legacy and pay it forward.”
In 2017, Cortland unveiled a Red Dragon sculpture in front of the Stadium Complex. It was an event that remains one of Coyne’s proudest moments. He teamed with donor Mike Vela ’88 and artist Scott Oldfield ’06 to make the idea come to life. The sculpture has become a striking piece of public art, a marketing tool and a symbol of Red Dragon spirit.
“When someone comes here as a prospective student and takes a photo in front of it and four or five years later takes another photo when they graduate, that’s really powerful to me,” Coyne said. “It’s about building a sense of school pride and community throughout your time as a student, a sculpture can help accomplish that.”
In addition to leading the offices of the Division of Institutional Advancement, the vice president is tasked with enhancing the university’s image and developing and building relationships with communities including alumni, parents and benefactors.
Coyne is looking forward to working with many more members of the Cortland community and encourages individuals to reach out to his office with questions and ideas for future partnerships.
One of Coyne’s initial aims in his new role is to better connect and promote the work of the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors, the Alumni Association Board of Directors and the offices of Institutional Advancement.
“Across the board, from engagement, marketing and communications perspectives, it’s a responsibility that we continue to pound our chest, if you will, about the outstanding education provided by Cortland and its tremendous value in terms of affordability,” Coyne said. “You sprinkle in all of the cultural, social and athletic experiences and it’s clear that we offer the total package.”
“Institutional Advancement plays a critical role in helping to attract students to Cortland, keeping alumni, parents and our campus constituents - faculty, staff and emeriti - engaged with the university, whether that’s giving back of their time or making financial contributions if they’re able.”