New York State Assemblywoman Barbara S. Lifton, who has assisted and advocated on behalf of SUNY Cortland and also higher education in general, received the College’s Presidential Champion of Excellence Award during SUNY Cortland’s undergraduate Commencement ceremonies on May 12.
Lifton has supported key policy initiatives important to the College and secured millions of dollars in funding for campus projects and programs. She was only the fourth person ever to receive this honor.
The award is given at the discretion of President Erik J. Bitterbaum to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the pursuit of excellence at SUNY Cortland. The medal, which expresses the College’s admiration and appreciation for extraordinary service and leadership, was given to Brian G. Murphy ’83 in 2012, Louise M. Conley in 2016 and State Sen. James Seward in 2017. Both Murphy and Conley are former chairs of the Cortland College Foundation.
Since being elected in 2002 to represent the 125th Assembly District, which includes SUNY Cortland, Lifton has played an important role in obtaining more than $100 million in funding for construction and renovation projects across campus. This commitment to improving SUNY Cortland’s academic spaces resulted in state funding for the College’s three-story education building and Child Care Center, the development of the Professional Studies Building and the renovation and expansion of the Bowers Hall science complex.
Lifton’s support for SUNY Cortland’s Student Life Center helped revolutionize campus life. Since its opening in 2015, the one-of-a-kind facility has become a symbol for the high quality, active student lifestyle available at SUNY Cortland, enhancing its recruitment and retention efforts. An average of 2,000 students — just under a third of the student body — make use of the facility each day.
Lifton, a Democrat, was also instrumental in securing a $300,000 grant that created the downtown innovation center of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, a project central to the revitalization of the city’s center and an important part of SUNY Cortland’s efforts to help students turn academic theory into practice. This dedication to both SUNY Cortland and the city was recognized when she received the College-Community Appreciation Award in 2008.
As a SUNY Geneseo graduate, former teacher and member of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, Lifton has been an effective fighter for the interests of college students and academic institutions. In 2012, she was given the annual “Friend of SUNY” award by United University Professions, the union representing SUNY faculty and staff members.