RIT's Provost Dr. Stan McKenzie
After over four decades of service to RIT, Dr. Stan
McKenzie is retiring from his position as Provost.
McKenzie began his career in 1967 as an
instructor and after rising through the ranks,
was appointed provost in 1994. President Destler
has called the man an “RIT institution” who has
played “a major role in the advancement of the
university into the ranks of the nation’s largest
and finest private universities.” In recognition of
his years of service, McKenzie will be speaking
at Commencement this year. Reporter sat down
with Dr. McKenzie to talk about his tenure at
RIT, post-retirement plans, and appointment as
Commencement speaker this year.
Reporter After over four decades of service,
what do you consider your greatest accomplishment
throughout the years?
Stan McKenzie I really made Shakespeare a
subject of conversation on campus... that was
my first 30 years. People knew about Shakespeare,
knew about my classes, they were trying
to get into the classes, I was known as The
Shakespeare Man. There’s a whole new generation
of students now. I’m hoping in the next two or
three years, that’ll come back again.
R I’ve heard that as a professor, you used to
throw parties in your hot tub during finals.
Is this true?
SM I have a Jacuzzi. My final exams were
very informal... Back when we had an 18 year
old drinking age, people would bring wine,
beer, whiskey, whatever to the exams...
There were occasions where people wrote their
exams in the Jacuzzi... Sometimes we ended
up, at 4 in the morning, going to Jay’s diner...
But then I got older, I can’t stay up that late
anymore, and the drinking age went up...
Looking back now, I was probably not as responsible
as I should’ve been.
R If you ask just about anyone on this campus
what they know about Stan McKenzie, one comment
you’re sure to get is that you’re always in
a good mood. How do you maintain that after
all these years?
SM Every day, driving into work, I’m smiling,
I’m laughing, I’m thinking of people I’m going
to see that day... I’ve seen people where something
happened to them when they were in their
thirties, and they just held a grudge and were
angry at the Institute for the next 30 years...
It’s just not worth it if you don’t like what you’re
doing... I’ve said all along, particularly when I
got into administration, ‘You can’t take yourself
too seriously.’ I’m not the President of the United
States, I’m not a US Senator... those people
have real problems... this is pretty low on the
R In what capacity do you expect to be involved
at RIT post-retirement?
SM This fall, I’ll be doing Shakespeare Comedies,
and then next year, I will probably do three different
things: Shakespeare Tragedies, I could do
Mark Twain, or I could do J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll probably
do two out of those three... If they want me
to serve on some committee or head something
up, [I will], but I’m not going to be here during
winter and spring quarter.
R If there were one thing you could change at
RIT, what would it be?
SM The only thing I would change, because it
affects morale and student attitudes, would be
the weather. The Rochester winters are just
miserable, and spring is so late getting here...
There really isn’t very much else that I would
change at all, given where we’ve come from,
the growth that we’ve had, the quality of the
student body keeps going up... It would be nice
if we had a multi-billion dollar endowment,
that we could cap enrollment growth,
have higher quality students, and have more financial
aid. That would all be terrific, but I think
we’re on a great path.
R What do you consider your greatest failure
while at RIT or as provost?
SM I can answer that one of two ways. I never
established a scholarship record myself.
I’ve got two or three publ ished ar t icles,
and they’ve been printed a lot... I would have
liked to do more scholarship... but I don’t regret
the things I did instead... I still have a book that
I want to write, in my mind, on Shakespeare.
I don’t know if I will, but I want to. There are
always individual decisions that you wonder
about... you can’t help but second guess decisions,
but you move on... I lost a dean that I
wished I hadn’t lost.
R When you were asked to be commencement
speaker, what was your reaction?
SM I was tremendously honored... I know I’m
like number 42 [on the list]. We had some good
people we were trying to get, and different
things happened... Somebody said to President
Destler, “Why do we have to bring in an outsider?
Why don’t we ask Stan to be the commencement
speaker? He’s been here forever.”
The response that I got from faculty and staff,
those next three days, was just unbelievable.
Everybody would say, “That’s fantastic, it’ll be
the best commencement speech we’ve had.” I
still have to write the damn thing, I don’t know
if it’s going to be any good or not.
R How did you respond to the recent criticism
regarding your being asked?
SM I read Casey [Dehlinger]’s article first [“They
Can’t All Be Clintons, April 18 issue of Reporter],
and he was trying to say it’s not about Dr. McKenzie,
it’s about having the retiring provost...
Clearly, it wasn’t personal. The article was really
pretty well written... but it was hurtful...
I had a hard day on Friday. On Saturday, I told
Bill I should probably just gracefully step aside
and turn the time over to the college delegates...
By Sunday, I had enough laugh lines that I’ll get
back during the talk.
R When President Simone retired, he and his
wife got the administrative circle outside dedicated
in their honor. After 41 years, do you have
a spot on campus you’re eyeing?
SM No, no, no... Phi Kappa Tau fraternity...
[already] has a patio they call the Stan McKenzie
Patio. I’ve made arrangements for my pension
plan to revert to RIT after my son dies, and that
will fund some scholarships, and there’s a McKenzie
Writing Prize that we just gave last week...
I’m not looking to have any buildings or spots of
grass named after me, or anything like that.
R Is there anything else you’d like to say
SM I’m really looking forward to commencement,
and I’m particularly looking forward to
teaching in the next few years. So if you have
any interest in Shakespeare, sign up!