Avery Point director ready for sea change

Michael Alfultis, seen here in a 2010 file photo, said he thinks the combination of his military, maritime and higher education backgrounds made him a good candidate for SUNY Maritime College.
Michael Alfultis, seen here in a 2010 file photo, said he thinks the combination of his military, maritime and higher education backgrounds made him a good candidate for SUNY Maritime College. Day file photo

Groton — Michael Alfultis will leave his position as director of the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus to become the new president of the State University of New York Maritime College.

Alfultis said when a colleague asked him if he could nominate him for the job, he thought, “Why not?”

“I love my job at Avery Point,” said Alfultis, of Waterford. “So if I did or didn’t get the job, it really would not have mattered.”

But Alfultis, 53, got the job when the SUNY board of trustees, meeting in Buffalo Tuesday, made his appointment official. He will resign from UConn July 10 and start at SUNY Maritime College July 14.

Alfultis said he learned May 16 that he was selected but couldn’t say anything until Tuesday’s official announcement. He is grateful that he found out in advance because he was able to share the news with his father, Harold, who died unexpectedly three days later.

“His words to me were, ‘Wow, wow, wow,’” said Alfultis. “It was a poignant moment for me and the last conversation with my dad.”

Alfultis started at Avery Point in the summer of 2010. He was a marine science professor and captain who retired from the Coast Guard Academy on Aug. 20, 2010, after more than 28 years of military service.

He graduated from the academy in 1982 and returned there in 1989, having been selected as a member of the permanent commissioned teaching staff. He later received a doctorate in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island.

Alfultis said he believes the combination of his military, maritime and higher education backgrounds made him an attractive candidate for SUNY Maritime.

Alfultis said he is proud of the relationships he established during his four years at UConn. He said the campus is becoming a more attractive option for parents and students who are looking at the best ways to spend their education dollars.

“It all starts with the faculty,” said Alfultis. “We had an increase in hires, which attracts more students. People are getting smarter and are staying at home to reduce student debt, and Avery Point allows people to do that.”

He said the campus not only offers a top marine science program but also graduate and professional programs in nursing, education and engineering that are increasing in popularity.

A new $9.7 million student center opened last summer. This summer, $10 million from the university’s NextGenCT funding will be used to demolish two vacant buildings that divide the Avery Point campus in two. Built in the 1930s, the former Coast Guard Research & Development Building Barracks and Mess Hall total 460,000 square feet. The last of the Coast Guard units based on the campus moved to New London in 2009.

“The possibilities for the future of this campus are endless, once this demolition takes place,” said Alfultis. “My dream for Avery Point is for a new academic building. I think that would attract more students.”

“Next Generation Connecticut” is an initiative to significantly expand UConn’s science, technology, engineering and math programs and to make the research university a leader in these disciplines over the next decade. The General Assembly approved more than $1.5 billion in bonding and $137 million from the state’s General Fund for NextGenCT. Avery Point is slated to receive $25 million of that.

State Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, along with other local legislators, worked on getting Avery Point included in the NextGenCT funding. The original funding proposal included no specific allocation for the southeastern Connecticut campus.

“Mike has been an exceptional leader at Avery Point,” said Maynard. “I have never worked with someone who is more dedicated to improving the quality of life and education for students. He provided the vision for the future and I provided the pestering.”

Alfultis says he plans to move to New York while his wife, Kimberly, who works for the state of Connecticut, will stay behind.

“The first two years will be crazy busy,” he said.

He has been charged with replacing a 500-foot, vintage World War II training vessel at Maritime College. The school has set a goal of five years to do so.

On the Maritime College’s website, the college touts Alfultis’ 20 years of experience and 13 years of progressive academic administrative responsibility at both military and civilian institutions of higher education.

“Dr. Alfultis has more than 20 years of leadership, teaching, and mentoring experience from a distinguished Coast Guard career and several military and civilian institutions of higher education,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “He is ideally suited to lead the students, faculty, and staff at SUNY Maritime College. I look forward to working with him.”

Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokeswoman, said Alfultis was a valued member of the university community.

“It’s bittersweet to lose Mike, given how much we value him and what a dedicated advocate he’s been for Avery Point, its students and its programs,” Reitz said. “At the same time, the UConn community is so excited for him that he’s been selected the president of SUNY Maritime College. He’s made a lasting impact at UConn and we’re sure he’ll do the same there, and we wish him great success.”

An announcement sent Wednesday to faculty and staff from the Provost’s Office said a nationwide search for the new campus director would start this summer. In the interim, Marcelle “Marty” Wood will serve as director of the campus. Wood retired from UConn in 2013, most recently having served as assistant dean in the School of Engineering.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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