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Jun 29, 2010 7:06 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Stony Brook Southampton Dean Mary Pearl resigns

Jun 29, 2010 7:06 PM

Stony Brook Southampton Dean and Administrative Vice President Dr. Mary C. Pearl, just two months away from seeing the campus she’s nurtured for 18 months scaled back and stripped of some of its most unique programs, is leaving the school. Her last day is today, Wednesday, June 30.

Dr. Pearl, a conservationist, took over management of the Shinnecock Hills campus in February 2009. In April, Stony Brook University announced it would close the dorms there and relocate the environmental sustainability curriculum from the three-year-old satellite campus to the main campus in Stony Brook on August 31, citing financial reasons.

It has since been exploring ways to “re-purpose” the 81-acre site and is putting together a task force to assist in that process.

Dr. Pearl said that she made the university aware of her intentions to leave in early June. She had been set to take a post at the main campus, overseeing students and programs that had previously been housed in Southampton, but opted not to see that through.

“I just decided that I’m happiest at work when I feel that I’m being challenged and all my best skills are being used, and running a center at the Stony Brook campus wasn’t the best use of my skills,” she said this week.

Dr. Pearl oversaw the latter part of Stony Brook Southampton’s growth from a pioneer student body of 200 in 2007 to an anticipated total enrollment of 800 in the fall of 2010, as well as the honing of several unique sustainability programs. This spring, she said she learned about the massive cutbacks to the campus in a meeting on April 6, just one day before Stony Brook University made a formal announcement.

She presided over the school’s first and last graduation ceremony on May 20.

Dr. Martin Schoonen, a professor of geochemistry who served as the interim dean of Stony Brook Southampton until Dr. Pearl took the reins, will now take Dr. Pearl’s place running the Center for Sustainability on the main campus, according Dr. Pearl.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel Stanley confirmed on Tuesday that Dr. Schoonen will take over the program.

“Mary brought energy and enthusiasm to her role as administrative vice president and dean of Stony Brook Southampton, and she will be missed,” Dr. Stanley said. “We wish her well on all of her future endeavors.”

Immediately after she leaves her post, Dr. Pearl will travel to Argentina with her family for a couple of weeks, she said. After that, she will take a course at the Southampton Writers Conference with Roger Rosenblatt, a renowned writer and longtime resident of Quogue.

As for her career, Dr. Pearl said in a June 17 e-mail announcing her resignation to Stony Brook Southampton faculty that she will “pursue leadership opportunities in higher education or the non-profit world.” Before heading up Stony Brook Southampton, she served as executive director of the Wildlife Trust in New York.

Dr. Pearl said she currently rents a home in Shinnecock Hills but will reside in New York City full-time beginning in August.

She said she could not discuss the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton due to a legal agreement with the university.

Dr. Stanley is in the process of convening a task force to help determine the future of the campus, according to Lauren Sheprow, a university spokeswoman. It will be co-chaired by Stony Brook University Provost Eric Kaler and Diana Weir of Wainscott, the executive vice president of the non-profit Long Island Housing Partnership Inc. and a member of the Stony Brook University Council.

The task force will meet monthly, with the possibility of more frequent meetings as plans draw closer to finalization, Ms. Sheprow said. The goal, she said, is to have a plan in place by early fall.

Any proposal for the Southampton campus must “be consistent with the academic mission of Stony Brook University,” Ms. Sheprow said, as well as help meet the educational needs of the East End of Long Island and be “fiscally responsible.”

Stony Brook University has stated that it was losing some $10 million per year running Stony Brook Southampton as a small residential campus geared toward environmental studies.

Dr. Pearl said she likes the idea of the Southampton campus being used as an all-arts college in the future. That proposal would play to the college’s reputation for its graduate writing program and annual Southampton Writers Conference, which dates back to long before Stony Brook University took over the campus from Long Island University in 2006.

She said she also looks favorably on the idea of a tribal college run by the Shinnecock Indian Nation at the site, noting that there are many people of Native American descent in the Northeast who would otherwise have to go to the western part of the country for a tribal education. The Shinnecocks floated the idea in June, shortly before they secured federal recognition as a tribe, but the proposal remains highly tentative.

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Stony Brook is just as ugly to people it is supposed to serve as LIU was.
By Tree Man (19), Southampton on Jul 3, 10 7:14 PM
At least she didn't sell out by running some shell of a program at the main campus just to fulfill a contract and help the President save face. Some things are more important than money. Good for you, Mary Pearl, for going out on your own terms.

Stony Brook surely will have some obnoxious plans for Southampton. Then a new President will come on in 5-6 years and throw everything out and come up with a new committee with more obnoxious plans.

The problem with Stony Brook is that ...more
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Jul 3, 10 9:40 PM
I just dont understand how this president can come in, throw everything out, destroy all that has been created there, lie about it being due to "financial reasons", & get away with it. We shouldnt be talking about "re-purposing" the property for future uses. It already had an excellent use as an environmental college & was about to show a return on the investment. We should be stopping this president from throwing it out.
By js (44), NY on Jul 13, 10 8:32 PM
I agree with Mr Suffolk. Also, everybody is talking about the property. But what about the 800 students whose lives & educations have been disrupted - in some cases devastated - solely because the new president doesnt think the environmental programs are "academically significant" and he wants that property for his favored interests - biomedical research with private corporations for profit. The elimination of this college had nothing to do with funding. How the students are being tossed aside ...more
By js (44), NY on Jul 13, 10 8:05 PM
The task force deciding the future of the campus will be co-chaired by Diana Weir of Wainscott, the executive vice president of the non-profit Long Island Housing Partnership Inc. and Stony Brook University Provost Eric Kaler who also happens to be the vice president of Brookhaven Labs. Housing & Brookhave Labs. Interesting.
By js (44), NY on Jul 13, 10 8:14 PM