Former Buffalo State College President Dr. Aaron Podolefsky died Thursday following a battle with prostate cancer. He was 67.
Podolefsky was the college's eighth president, taking over the post from Muriel Howard on July 1, 2010. He stepped down July 31 of this year citing his health issues.
“We are profoundly saddened by the loss of this cherished member of the Buffalo State family,” said Buffalo State Council Chair Howard Zemsky, in a statement. “Dr. Podolefsky was the embodiment of the welcoming, engaging, and collegial campus culture that defines Buffalo State. His wit, wisdom, and kindness will be immensely missed.”
Podolefsky arrived in Buffalo from the University of Central Missouri, where he was president and professor of anthropology. Before that, he held positions at the University of Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky University, West Virginia University, and Northwestern University.
In his three years leading the college, Podolefsky celebrated the opening of the new Student Apartment Complex, phase one of the Science and Mathematics Complex, the renovation of Rockwell Hall’s third floor, the renovation of the Campbell Student Union, and the new Technology Building, which will host classes this fall.
He also introduced the institution’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, Transforming Lives: A Campaign for Buffalo State, in 2012. More than $16.5 million of the $20 million four-year goal has been raised. The initiative includes new scholarships and learning spaces.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share our deepest sympathies regarding the passing of former Buffalo State President Aaron Podolefsky with his family, friends, and the greater college community. Aaron was a true educator, trusted colleague, and compassionate leader. His commitment to Buffalo State, to Western New York, and to the public mission of our State University was unwavering. Under his leadership, Buffalo State realized a renewed commitment to the arts, community, diversity, and student life. I know that Interim President Howard Cohen will help to guide the campus through this difficult time, and continue Dr. Podolefsky’s work in a way that honors his legacy,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, in a statement.
The author of many scholarly works, Podolefsky was a three-time graduate of Stony Brook University, earning master’s degrees in liberal studies and anthropology and a doctorate with distinction in anthropology. He also held a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from San José State University.
Podolefsky is survived by his wife Ronnie and his two sons, Noah and Isaac. The college says he died surrounded by family members after a "courageous battle" with the aggressive cancer.
Dr. Howard Cohen is currently serving as interim president of the college as the search continues for Podolefsky's permanent successor.
Funeral services are pending. A memorial service for the campus community will be held this fall.