Dr. Timothy E. Sams Appointed President of SUNY Old Westbury

Dr. Timothy E. Sams, a veteran administrator with a track record of student-focused leadership and success, has been named president at SUNY Old Westbury by the State University of New York Board of Trustees.

Portrait of Dr. Timothy E. Sams
Dr. Timothy E. Sams

The appointment is effective on or about January 11, 2021. He succeeds Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, who retired at the end of August 2020 after nearly 21 years leading the college.

“Assuming the presidency of SUNY Old Westbury is an honor and the highlight of my career and I am proud to follow President Emeritus Butts in this capacity,” said Dr. Sams. “I have spent three decades seeking to transform student’s lives through access, excellence, success and impact. Old Westbury’s mission to cultivate critical thinking, empathy, creativity and intercultural understanding, to endeavor to stimulate a passion for learning and commitment to building a more just and sustainable world, is perfectly aligned with my worldview. I can imagine no better place for me to be a president.”

Dr. Sams brings 29 years of higher education experience to SUNY Old Westbury, with demonstrated leadership in improving student success, particularly for students from disadvantaged and marginalized communities. He brings to the College an emphasis on institutional excellence, inclusive innovation and strategic change management.

“Dr. Sams has dedicated his adult life to creating dynamic academic and social communities that support the development of college students,” said Mili Makhijani, chair of the SUNY Old Westbury College Council. “His career-long commitment to student engagement and advocacy matches strikingly well with Old Westbury’s ongoing emphasis on student equity and success, as well as its historic commitment to empowering students, especially those from underserved backgrounds, to excel as leaders both in their careers and in the communities in which they live and work.”

He currently is vice president of student affairs for Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. At Prairie View, he has showcased his deep commitment to excellence, student support, and inclusivity through the creation of the university’s residential college, emergency resource center and LGBTQ+ Resource Center.

This recent work builds on past experiences at respected institutions across the country. As the senior vice president for student development at Morehouse College, he held a portfolio that included Student Services, Enrollment Management, Campus Safety and Athletics, among other units.  As vice president for student life at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he led such services as Residential Life, Health and Mental Health Services, the Campus Center and Career Services. He is also credited as inaugurating the Student Life Office at New York University-Abu Dhabi and, for 13 years, led the Black Cultural Center at Swarthmore College. 

Dr. Sams’ career accomplishments include reaccreditation and two strategic plans, student success, efforts to increase student and staff diversity, and elevating residential college models at three institutions. He helped create the nation’s first ROTC Center of Excellence, a campus-based PrEP program, a J-Mester program, a bridge program, an undergraduate completion program, an experiential learning and cultural immersion program in Ghana, West Africa, two major LGBTQ support initiatives, a student emergency resource center, and a $1.5 million federal community intervention grant.

Dr. Sams is from Syracuse, New York. He earned a bachelor’s degree in History and Sociology from Union College in Schenectady, New York, a Masters in Africana Studies from the University at Albany, and a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University. He is an MSI Aspiring Leaders Fellow and recipient of the 2020 Champions for Student Success Award from American Campus Communities.

The appointment concludes a 10-month search process that included an 18-member search committee representing a wide range of campus and state constituencies. RPA Inc., an executive search firm with an expertise in higher education, assisted in the process.

“SUNY Old Westbury benefits from an engaged faculty, a community who cares for its students, and stakeholders who fully understand the educational gem that it is and can further become,” said Dr. Sams. “Together with them, and with support from the SUNY Board of Trustees, the Chancellor and the College Council, we will continue to elevate the college and thereby transform even more students' lives and impact the world. I cannot wait to get to work.”

Teresa A. Miller, SUNY senior vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and chief diversity officer, has served as officer-in-charge at SUNY Old Westbury since Dr. Butts’ departure in August.

"SUNY Old Westbury has a strong foundation and is poised to excel under new leadership,” Dr. Miller said. "The campus is eager to welcome Dr. Sams. As I continue my role at SUNY, I look forward to working with him to advance the College, its mission and its students.”