A career in public service
It is with sadness that the College shares news of the passing of U.S. Representative Maurice D. Hinchey (D-Hurley) '68 (English) '70g (Education), on Nov. 22, 2017. He was 79.
A dedicated public servant and lifelong supporter of public higher education, Hinchey is among the most distinguished alumni of SUNY New Paltz.
Hinchey served in the New York State Assembly (1975-1993) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1993-2013). A leading progressive voice in the state Legislature and Congress, he focused particularly on the environment and education and earned a reputation as a hard-working and effective advocate for the middle class. His strong leadership in these areas had significant impact on the Hudson Valley and on SUNY New Paltz.
Through the years, Hinchey was a frequent guest and visitor to his alma mater. At the December 2005 Commencement ceremony, he was presented with the Presidential Medal, the highest honor the campus can bestow on an individual. At the May 2013 ceremony at New Paltz, Hinchey was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters, the highest honor that the State University of New York can bestow.
“New Paltz gave me the opportunity to make choices that I was unable to make before I was a student here. It gave me a good, solid liberal arts education.”
– Maurice Hinchey ’68, ’70g
"In 1975 when Hinchey assumed office, I became his first intern. It was from that point forward that he had become a mentor, a friend, but more than anything in politics and government, an inspiration."
– Kevin Cahill ’77 (Political Science) NYS Assemblymember 103rd District
“We mourn the passing of Maurice Hinchey who applied his New Paltz education to improving his community, his state, and his nation ― but most especially the lives of his constituents. His advocacy and support of SUNY New Paltz burnished our reputation, bolstered our resources, and helped us to better serve our students, the region, and the state.”
– President Donald P. Christian
Raised in Manhattan and Saugerties, N.Y., Hinchey joined the U.S. Navy immediately following high school. He served for several years on the U.S.S. Marshall, a destroyer in the Pacific. After an honorable discharge, he was a laborer for several years in a Hudson Valley cement plant before pursuing college. While attending New Paltz, Hinchey supported himself as a toll collector on the New York State Thruway.
Hinchey was elected to the State Assembly in 1974, and then to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Hinchey represented New York’s 22nd Congressional District (formerly the 26th district), which spanned eight counties, including Ulster. His service included membership on the House Appropriations Committee, the House Banking Committee, the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and related Agencies and the Subcommittee on Defense. Hinchey was also one of only 10 House members to serve on the bicameral Joint Economic Committee.
Hinchey’s dedication to these issues stands out against his vast body of work as a legislator, and created direct benefits for his constituents in the Hudson Valley.
In 2005, the Congressman secured a legislative appropriation in the Energy and Water Bill for the modernization and development of environmental science laboratories at SUNY New Paltz and Ulster County Community College.
In 2011, Hinchey fought to protect federal college student aid funding through the federal Pell Grant program, which at the time was relied on by roughly 2,000 New Paltz students. He also cosponsored the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, to provide grants up to $5,000 to support international study.
Hinchey also helped secure funds that enabled the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz to have 45 Hudson River School paintings from the permanent collection of the New-York Historical Society restored. The paintings, including works by Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, George Inness, and others, were then exhibited at The Dorsky in 2009-10. The display was part of the "Art and the River" project, which included other events that coincided with New York State's "Hudson 400" celebrations.
As a state Assemblymember, Hinchey was instrumental in creating the Hudson River Valley Greenway in 1991, and in 1996, after his election to the U.S. Congress, he sponsored legislation to create the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. These programs encourage the preservation of our region's resources while also supporting responsible commercial development.
Hinchey worked to position upstate New York as a leader in the clean energy revolution. He helped establish a number of sustainable start-ups, such as The Solar Energy Consortium (T-SEC) in New Windsor, N.Y., which has created numerous opportunities for SUNY New Paltz students to collaborate with solar industry experts.
He was instrumental in achieving advances for the recycling movement, as an early supporter of original Bottle Bill, which created the first bottle and can deposit to incentivize recycling behavior.
As Chair of the state Environmental Conservation Committee, Hinchey led the investigation into the toxic waste contamination in the western New York community of Love Canal. The investigation helped change the way the nation deals with toxic industrial waste.
He fought to hold General Electric accountable for cleaning up 1.3 million pounds of PCBs they had deposited into the Hudson River.
Hinchey also led broader efforts to prevent abusive corporate practices, and strongly supported tax cuts for middle class families and small businesses.
A lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Hinchey also supported the vast network of rail trails that link communities, generate tourism and encourage people to enjoy the Hudson Valley’s abundant natural recreational opportunities.