For the first time since 1996 a family with school age children is living in Lucina, the home of the Keuka College president. And for the first time since 1983, and the third time in the college’s history, this leader is a woman.
Amy Storey and her family, Alan, Phillip, and Amelia, moved into their on campus home from Palmyra over the summer, and they are enthusiastic about being a part of the Keuka Park, Penn Yan, and Yates County community.
This weekend, they and the Keuka College campus will host the annual Green & Gold Weekend, and they are looking forward to sharing the fun with the community at large.
“To me it’s very important that the community participates in Green & Gold Weekend and knows that they are welcome so we can all experience together the power of being a commuinty that cares about one another,” says Storey, later adding, “We exist — we were founded to support this community and we will do that. It’s very important to me.”
She knows something about community support, and says the Penn Yan and Keuka Park communities are unique. Since she was appointed to the president’s post last year, the campus has been stunned by two tragedies. July 28, Trevor Irby, a 2017 Keuka graduate, was killed in a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif. On Sept. 8, a Keuka College student died on the campus as a result of suicide.
Storey says the community and college demonstrated the way they will rally together when something bad happens. “The outpouring of support during both of these tragedies has been amazing, and it isn’t something that happens everywhere,” she says. After the Sept. 8 death, more than 800 students, faculty and staff met in Norton Chapel to look for ways to support the student’s family.
The funeral director in the student’s hometown told her he’d never seen anything like the support from the Keuka College community. “Trustees gave generously to support the funeral expenses,” she says.
President Storey intends to work to strengthen connections between the college and the greater community, by working with Keuka Park neighbors, the Penn Yan Central School District, and other organizations.
“I want people to know that I’m committed to doing what’s right for the community and making sure that the college is supporting the community and we’re not operating like an Ivory Tower,” she says. She looks forward to participating in as many community events as possible, and will look for ways to expand connections through the Community Associates Board.
Making connections with the community is just one of the major issues on her list of priorities.
“Being a college president in upstate New York is challenging,” she says. Declining public school enrollments translate to declines in college enrollments just based on demographics. Add the national debate about the value of higher education complicated by higher debt loads, and the competition private colleges face because of the Excelsior Scholarships that allow students to attend a state college tuition-free, and a small private college like Keuka has a real challenge.
“If you look back you see why the Truman administration, for example, invested so heavily in higher education. It’s because it really supports the American dream. To me the best way to address issues of poverty and opportunity is through education. I’ve seen it happen. It happens here frequently.”
Something else she has seen happen at the Keuka College campus is transformation of the people who are elevated through the education they work for.
“Almost all of the students who come here are Pell eligible... so they not only change their fate, but the fate of their family and then they go back to their communities and they really contribute at what I would say is a high level. It’s difficult for me to engage in the debate about the value of higher education because I feel our country depends on it,” she says.
Keuka College’s enrollment stands at 1170 on campus with 700 across the state who are degree completers or adult learners at a community college, and another 1,000 in Asia.
While a long range plan unveiled in 2011 included a goal to increase enrollment to 1700, college leaders have determined that target isn’t reasonable because it would require adding space for athletics, dining, and labs. “It (growing) would not be an advantage to our current students,” she says.
While maintaining enrollment numbers at the Keuka Park campus is a major focus, college leadership is also working to maintain its presence in Asia. Although China has expelled more than 250 institutions of higher learning, Storey feels Keuka College’s programs are safe, explaining,”Joe Burke set this up in a way that was palatable to the Chinese Ministry, so it’s really a good model.” She says there is still a demand in China for a U.S. degree, but adds, “I think it would be a mistake to assume the Chinese people will still feel favorable toward the U.S. long term if this (disruption because of what’s going on between U.S. and China governments) goes on for a long time. So we’re exploring other opportunities in Southeast Asia. There are some emerging countries that are looking for U.S. partner institutions.
She says working with Vietnam officials is relatively easy. “Our partners are amazing. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City, both partners were just ranked on a global list for quality.”
Storey previously served as the College’s Vice President for Advancement and External Affairs. Prior to her arrival at Keuka College in 2013, Storey was the Regional Director of Development for the University of Rochester from 2007-13. She also served as Director of Development in the School of Management at Binghamton University, and in positions at Merrill Lynch, Employee Benefit Services, and the investment management company Manning and Napier.