The SUNY Cobleskill community mourns the loss of Dr. Stephen “Doc” Mackenzie, Distinguished Service Professor and a member of the College’s Animal Science program for nearly 40 years. Mackenzie was a much-beloved face on the Cobleskill campus, familiar to generations of students. He was an inspiration to so many of his friends, colleagues, and students, and his legacy will be felt long into the future.
Mackenzie was a renowned scholar, author, and educator, who shared his knowledge and expertise in the areas of canine behavior and training with students at SUNY Cobleskill and across the nation. He was referred to by his peers as a “giant in the field” whose influence extending beyond the classroom. Notably, local and state law enforcement teams, as well as national canine organizations, benefitted from his guidance and instruction.
“Doc’s gregarious presence endeared him to all who had the pleasure of sharing his company, be they human or canine,” said Dr. Marion Terenzio, president of SUNY Cobleskill. “As we grieve this great and sudden loss, we also reflect with an appreciation for the gifts Doc shared with us, and for the many lives he touched. Our thoughts now turn to Doc’s family, his many close friends and colleagues across this campus and beyond, and his students.”
Last year, the College celebrated Mackenzie’s career as he was awarded SUNY’s Distinguished Service Professorship Award. The award recognized his immeasurable contributions to the school, including his lead role in establishing the Canine Training and Management bachelor-degree program, the first and only one of its kind in the nation. The program meets the needs of the growing canine care and use industry, and the rapidly changing national security needs post 9-11.
One of Mackenzie’s most significant contributions to the field of canine training was his emphasis on the use of non-compulsive methods for aggression-control training, providing a more humane training alternative – positively rewarding desired behavior – to some traditional approaches. In 2017, he was recognized by the North American Police Work Dog Association as Master Trainer of the Year, for his commitment to the pursuit of excellence in canine training.
“I speak for many of our faculty members in saying that it was a privilege to work and to learn from a faculty member of his stature – one who served with integrity, humility, and grace,” said Dr. Susan Zimmermann, provost of SUNY Cobleskill. “He had a natural talent as an educator, and his far-reaching impact within law enforcement and higher education speak to the passion he had for his work, his canines, and his students.”
“On our campus, Doc was more than a colleague to many of us. He was a friend and mentor who we will all miss tremendously,” said Dr. Timothy Moore, dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources at SUNY Cobleskill. “He worked tirelessly to enrich our programs, and to say he was a positive influence on thousands of lives is an understatement. We are all better educators and better people for having known Doc.”
Exemplifying his progressive vision of canine education, Mackenzie recently developed an agreement to train dogs housed at a local animal shelter, at once providing applied learning opportunities for SUNY Cobleskill students and increasing the chances of adoption for dogs in the program. At the time of his death, Mackenzie was working with campus residential life staff and external partners to develop a puppy-raising program on campus. The partnership represents a significant commitment in support of the work of an organization training canine companions for the nation’s military veterans.
In addition to his many roles as educator and trainer, Mackenzie served as a Deputy Sheriff for the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years, and as their K-9 handler and trainer for seven of those years.
Gifts in Doc’s memory may be made to the Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Endowed Scholarship in Canine Training & Management or the Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Canine Equipment Endowment. Gifts can be mailed with the endowment name specified payable to SUNY Cobleskill Foundation, 106 Suffolk Circle, 228 Knapp Hall, Cobleskill NY 12043. Online giving is also available at www.cobleskill.edu/give.