Samuel Stanley, Jr., M.D., a physician, researcher, and scientist, most recently served as president of Stony Brook University, and he impressed the MSU search committee and board with his combination of research credentials and land-grant university leadership experience.
Announcing Stanley’s appointment in May 2019, Board Chair Dianne Byrum described him as “an empowering, compassionate and thoughtful leader, who will work tirelessly alongside our students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and broader Spartan community to meet the challenges we face together and build our future."
Inside the Search
In August 2018, MSU trustees appointed an 18-member search committee, co-chaired by Byrum and Melanie Foster, Trustee.
The Storbeck Search team began their work by helping the committee solicit input through 22 campus-wide sessions and an online submission form where community members shared their ideas on the characteristics they desired for MSU’s 21st president.
Mary A. Finn, Director of the School of Criminal Justice and a faculty representative on the search committee, described the process: "The university community was afforded numerous opportunities to inform the search committee of the qualities and characteristics it sought in the next president. This community input informed the position description and guided review of the candidate pool. . . . Meetings were facilitated to permit each committee member the opportunity to participate in interviews of candidates and to speak to the qualifications of candidates to serve as president. The board was present to listen to the search committee’s discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of candidates. The process was successful in yielding an outstanding finalist."
Byrum was impressed by the extraordinary pool of candidates that the Storbeck team developed: “Dr. Stanley was chosen from a diverse pool of candidates, and both traditional and nontraditional candidates were represented.”
Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, agreed: "We had a remarkably strong pool of candidates, and it was the experience of a lifetime to meet some of the of the top leaders in higher education and hear their vision for our university."
After the search was concluded, Byrum commented, "This was a challenging search for our university, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice of President Samuel Stanley. Working with Shelly, Tom, and Susan, we conducted a confidential search and had the unanimous support of both our 17-member Search Committee and full board. I have no doubt that their team played an invaluable role in our success.”
A Candidate with Key Qualities
“Our stated goal from the beginning was to find the best president for MSU at this time. We achieved our goal with great attention paid to the qualities and characteristics most desired in a new president,” stated Byrum.
“These key qualities include being a good listener and an experienced leader; having a focus on student success and well-being; demonstrating a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; possessing a background in research and scholarship; understanding Title IX issues; having experience in shared governance; and demonstrating an enduring commitment to excellence.”
Responding to his appointment, Stanley told the board of trustees and the presidential search committee, “MSU is an extraordinary institution. The pioneer land-grant university. One that helped define that noble mission and one that accomplishes the difficult feat of providing students affordable access to excellence. And that’s an excellence that shines across the whole university.”
From 2009 until 2019, Stanley served as the fifth president of Stony Brook University, one of the nation’s leading research universities and, like MSU, one of just 62 members of the invitation-only Association of American Universities (AAU). Stony Brook, a flagship campus of the State University of New York, is recognized for its innovative programs, groundbreaking discoveries and integration of research with undergraduate education.
A Seattle native, Stanley has a bachelor of arts degree in biological sciences (Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Chicago. After earning his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1980, he completed his resident-physician training at Massachusetts General Hospital. He went to Washington University in St. Louis in 1983 for a fellowship in infectious diseases in the School of Medicine, eventually becoming a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Molecular Microbiology in recognition of the collaborative nature of his research.
As a highly distinguished biomedical researcher, Stanley was one of the nation's highest recipients of support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research focusing on enhanced defense against emerging infectious diseases. He is an expert in the biological mechanisms that cells employ when responding to infectious agents such as parasites, bacteria and viruses — a process commonly called the inflammatory response. In 2006 Stanley was appointed vice chancellor for research at Washington University, serving in that position until he was appointed president of Stony Brook University.
As board chair of Brookhaven Science Associates, which manages Brookhaven National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, Stanley joined the leaders of a select group of prestigious academic institutions, including Princeton, Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago, responsible for the operations of a national laboratory.
He has served on a number of boards, including the Board of Directors of the AAU, the NCAA Board of Directors and NCAA Board of Governors, and the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which advises the United States government on issues related to the communication, dissemination and performance of sensitive biological research.
A Focus on Faculty, Students, and Economic Development
At Stony Brook University, Stanley focused on obtaining the resources necessary to enable Stony Brook to attain the next level of excellence. He was a champion of the NYSUNY 2020 legislation that helped Stony Brook hire more than 240 new faculty over five years. In 2018, under Stanley's leadership, Stony Brook concluded a record-breaking capital campaign, raising more than $630 million.
“He was tremendously successful as a fundraiser at Stony Brook and that was an attribute that will certainly be of value at Michigan State University,” said Foster.
Stanley steered philanthropic resources toward faculty and significantly increased the number of endowed professorships at Stony Brook. A champion for Long Island's economic development, he served on Governor Andrew Cuomo's Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, working to improve Long Island’s economy with a special emphasis on supporting projects related to the smart grid, energy storage, renewable energy, information technology and biotechnology.
Fred Kowal, president of the United University Professions, which represents faculty and staff at about 30 campuses in the State University of New York higher education system, including Stony Brook, told The Detroit News, "[Stanley] was an incredibly strong advocate for bringing in diverse faculty and staff, but even more so: He supported programs to bring in students from under-resourced communities.”
While at Stony Brook he traveled with students to Albany and Washington, D.C., to advocate for increased state and federal funding of student financial aid.
"He just had a deep-seated commitment to having the university serve the purpose of economic and social justice," said Kowal. "That was just one of his values."
Katherine Rifiotis, Past President of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, served on the presidential search committee and was impressed by Stanley's accomplishments with student success: "He worked comprehensively to effectively eradicate the retention and graduation gap across students of different backgrounds. [He] has a proven record of prioritizing student input and fostering good relationships with student leaders to address pressing needs of the campus community."
Moreover, "he truly grasps what it means to foster accountability and work to earn the trust of a community, understanding that integrity and other institutional values must emanate from the top."
Of the move to MSU, Li said, "We're excited about the opportunities that a large research institution brings — the opportunities to be part of global solutions and meaningful impacts."
In November 2019 Byrum noted that Stanley had already had a positive impact on MSU. “The University needed a tested leader, and he has made the transition well.”
Leaders in Higher Education Search
Committed to the mission of higher education, founder Shelly Storbeck and our Storbeck Search team of partners and associates have assisted a number of complex research universities and university systems in identifying new presidents and chancellors. These institutions include the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Partner R. Thomas Fitch, Ph.D., along with Jim Sirianni, Ph.D., Partner, and Julie E. Tea, Partner, recently concluded the search for the next chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, leading to the selection of Sharon L. Gaber.
To learn more about our search work on behalf of research universities, liberal arts colleges, and more, we invite you to view all of our active searches, as well as all of our completed searches, sortable by institution type, role, and region.