SUNY Cortland presented its 38th annual College-Community Appreciation Award to Joseph “Joe” Reagan on Sept. 7 during a ceremony in the Corey Union Function Room.
Reagan, the owner of Royal Motor Co. in Cortland and a co-founder of the Cortland Regional Sports Council, was honored for his generosity with both time and money in supporting the local community.
The College-Community Appreciation Award recognizes local citizens whose efforts have directly benefitted SUNY Cortland.
“What we try to look for is somebody in the community who has done some extraordinary things, not just for the college but also for the community,” said Thomas Gallagher, chair of SUNY Cortland’s College Council, which sponsors the award and annual, invitation-only dinner and award ceremony. “Joe Reagan has gone above and beyond all of that. He’s just an outstanding individual.”
“I believe if you’re a businessman in the community, you have a responsibility to give back. You don’t just take,” said Reagan, Royal Motor Co.’s chief since he bought the group in 1992. After graduating from Hobart College, he worked for a Binghamton auto group before he returned to run his company and live in Cortland.
Year after year, Reagan’s companies underwrite local groups supporting veterans, volunteer firefighters, hospital cancer services, hospice, food pantries, animal shelters and selected national charities — so long as the proceeds return to Cortland. His favorite cause, Meals on Wheels, received almost $50,000 in the last two years.
Reagan’s dedicated, behind-the-scenes work on community development as well as his support for many local charities through his business have helped make Cortland a safe, attractive and affordable college town as well.
In 2004 Reagan co-founded, with SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum and other local college and community leaders, the Cortland Regional Sports Council (CRSC), which has a mission to promote Cortland County for sports-related business, events, competition and education.
“The business model was to bring outside tourists into the community,” Reagan said.
Reagan served the first six years as president and remains on the board. Since its inception, the CRSC has been responsible for a major influx of eager outside athletes and fans and more than $75 million in economic development funding.
“Joe provided the leadership, guidance and energy in those founding years,” said Machell Phelps, executive director of the CRSC since its start. “His insight and support have provided the cornerstone of what we’ve been able to bring to Cortland for sports tourism.”
In 2011, the CRSC took over hosting the Empire State Senior Games from the state of New York.
“This brought an entirely new element to the organization,” Phelps said. “With the board’s backing, the CRSC has been running the games, bringing in over 1,200 athletes each June to compete.”
Recently, the CRSC was instrumental in the development of the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex, bringing the partnership of Prep Baseball Report to the community, she said.
“We’ve been hosting the NYSPHSAA Girls Lacrosse and Soccer Championships for years and recently brought in the NYSPHSAA Boys Lacrosse Semi-finals,” she said of these high school competitions.
The council charted an especially big tourism and economic boom during a succession of years when the campus hosted the New York Jets for their summer training camp from 2009 to 2014, except for 2011 due to the NFL lockout.
Reagan has been a long-time supporter of the university’s annual Red & White Golf Classic, which is run jointly by SUNY Cortland Athletics and Alumni Engagement, said Jaclyn Lawrence, SUNY Cortland associate director of athletics.
“Outside of the tournament, in general Joe has always been a follower and supporter of our programs and department,” she said. “He is genuinely always happy to help others.”
“I like to try to donate to (causes) where there’s volunteers within their organization,” Reagan said. “Because those are the people who are giving up their time to help their community. It’s one thing you can’t get back.”
Born and raised on Floral Avenue in Cortland, N.Y., one of Reagan’s fondest youthful memories is practicing lacrosse on SUNY Cortland’s back fields and sometimes sneaking into Lusk Field House on the campus where his father worked as an electrician.
Later, as a Hobart College varsity lacrosse player, he helped his team to four consecutive Division III national championships from 1980 to 1984, meaning that Reagan’s team beat their rival Red Dragons four years in a row.
Now he’s giving back to a beloved hometown institution.
“The stuff I do I don’t really do because of the economic reasons but for improving our community and the organizations that support it,” said Reagan, a former Boy Scout Citizen of the Year who is a member of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s about the quality of life.”
Reagan and his wife, Laurie, have been married for 34 years. They have a son, Colby; a daughter, Bailey; and one grandchild.