Science 1 Named for Alumna Janet R. Perna

Janet Perna with scholarship recipients
Janet R. Perna with recipients of the Janet Perna ’70 Women in Technology Scholarship
Janet R. Perna
Janet R. Perna

SUNY Oneonta’s Science 1 building will be named the “Janet R. Perna Science Building” in recognition of a distinguished alumna who has announced that she will give $5 million to the State University College at Oneonta Foundation.

The SUNY Board of Trustees approved the new name at its meeting today, making the action official in accordance with the State University of New York Naming Opportunities Policy and Procedure. SUNY Oneonta’s College Council made a motion to rename the building after Perna, Class of 1970, at a special meeting last week.

“This will be the largest charitable gift ever made by a graduate of SUNY Oneonta,” said college President Nancy Kleniewski. “Janet, who distinguished herself as IBM Software Group's highest ranking female executive before retiring in 2006, is a very generous person, having already given a half-million dollars for scholarships to women in STEM disciplines. We are immensely grateful to her for this impressive gift.”

Half of the $5 million gift will be allocated to unrestricted endowment, which funds many campus programs, including student-faculty research and creative activities, internship support, faculty development and board-designated scholarships. The other half will be restricted to the “Janet Perna ’70 Women in Technology Scholarship.”

“I am making this significant gift because I believe in the importance of a quality education to improving the overall socio-economic climate within the United States and worldwide,” Perna said. “Like many students who attend SUNY Oneonta, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. This gift will make it possible for others to have the opportunity to realize their dreams and aspirations.”

Science 1 building
Science 1 building

SUNY Chairman of the Board H. Carl McCall said, “Since graduating from SUNY Oneonta, Janet Perna has remained committed to the campus, helping promote its academic excellence and supportive environment for students. She continues to generously give her time and financial support. It is my pleasure to help recognize her many contributions today.”

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, “Janet Perna is a role model for all students, particularly for those pursuing a career in STEM, having managed one of the fastest growing database businesses in the industry at the time. It is an honor to celebrate her achievements by naming Science 1 building the Janet R. Perna Science Building.”

Like many students who attend SUNY Oneonta, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. This gift will make it possible for others to have the opportunity to realize their dreams and aspirations.
--Janet R. Perna

Science 1 is home to the college’s departments of Biology and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. It also houses numerous classrooms, laboratories, and the college’s planetarium.

While at SUNY Oneonta, Perna studied mathematics. Since then, her leadership has earned her numerous honors and awards, including her 2001 induction into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame, recognition by Information Week as one of the nation's "Top 10 Women in IT," and inclusion among the thinkers and innovators on Sm@rt Partner's list of "50 Smartest People."

Perna was instrumental in IBM's decision to acquire the assets of Informix Software's database business in 2001. The $1 billion acquisition doubled IBM's distributed database business and added some 2,500 employees.

Perna has done a lot for SUNY Oneonta, as well, according to Vice President for College Advancement and College Foundation Executive Director Paul Adamo. She served as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors for eight consecutive years until 2016 and, along with another College Foundation board member, co-chaired the successful “Visions—Solutions: The Campaign for Science and Technology,” which raised more than $6 million in gifts and grants to support the STEM disciplines at SUNY Oneonta.

“Philanthropy at SUNY Oneonta is manifest daily, ranging from endowed lectureships to campus beautification to alumni volunteerism, and Janet’s gift sends a powerful message to everyone,” Adamo said. “She invests in our college, believes in our vision of what we can become, and personifies what makes SUNY Oneonta special by weaving charitable giving into our institutional culture. … She is changing the lives of many of our students whose goal is a high-quality college education without large amounts of college loans.”

Perna believes in the College Foundation board’s vision to have a $100 million endowment for SUNY Oneonta, Adamo said. With approximately $58 million in place for institutional priorities such as scholarships, faculty development, student-faculty research, student travel funds and internships, the college is more than halfway there.

“Over the last 10 years, I have served on the College Foundation board and have been impressed with the professionalism and innovation of the College Advancement staff,” Perna said. “They have given me the confidence that this gift will be used wisely to achieve my objectives of helping young women achieve their goals in the STEM disciplines.”

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