May 7, 2015

Robert Roach Jr. ’96 to Receive Distinguished Alumni Award

Robert Roach Jr. ‘96, general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, will address the SUNY Empire State College Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies class of 2013.

Robert Roach Jr. ’96, general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Photo/IAMAW

(NEW YORK – May 7, 2015) Robert Roach Jr. ’96, general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, will be recognized as a recipient of SUNY Empire State College’s 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award.

“Continuing my education at SUNY Empire State College expanded on the skills I needed to get to where I am today,” said Roach. “The knowledge I gained is with me every day, whether I’m fighting for working families at the bargaining table, testifying on Capitol Hill, or directing finances for one of the largest and most diverse labor organizations in the world. I’m honored to be receiving the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award from my alma mater, SUNY Empire State College.”

“Robert Roach began a career in organized labor many years ago in the airline industry by standing up for fellow union members at the local level,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “In the decades that followed, Robert took on greater responsibilities at the local, regional and national levels. Today he is not only a leader with the national machinists and aerospace workers’ union, but also is highly regarded among organized labor’s leaders across the country. We are proud to have Robert among our most distinguished alumni and pleased to honor him at our event celebrating black history.”

Roach will be presented with his award at SUNY Empire State College’s Celebration of Black History and Alumni Awards event to be held in New York City at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art’s Great Hall, 6 p.m., Thursday, May 7.

About the Distinguished Alumni Award

The college’s Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes and honors alumni of the college who have distinguished themselves in any field of endeavor since graduation. The criteria for the award include distinguished service to her or his craft or profession, or distinguished service to a local community, the state, nation, or in world affairs.

About Robert Roach Jr. ‘96

On Jan. 1, 2012, Robert Roach Jr. was appointed the 11th general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

As general secretary-treasurer, Roach is responsible for directing the finances of the International Union, ensuring the IAM stays financially strong. He serves as co-chairperson of the IAM National Pension Fund and the IAM Health and Benefit Trust Fund.

Roach started in the IAM as a ramp serviceman for TWA in 1975 and was a member of Local Lodge 1056 in New York. Soon after, he transferred to Local Lodge 1445 in Newark, N.J.

Roach began his long and distinguished service to fellow members as a shop steward at Local Lodge 1445 and then became a trustee, vice president and president. He was elected District Lodge 142 trustee and became chairman of the district’s human rights committee in 1992.

Roach was subsequently appointed to several national service positions and as general vice president of the transportation department, he regularly testified before Congress about aircraft maintenance oversight, aviation safety and security, bankruptcy reform, employee pensions, industry consolidation and the state of the airline industry.

Roach also has served on committees of other national labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO, and currently serves as a member of the board for the Union Label and Service Trades Department.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Labor and Management Relations from SUNY Empire State College’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies and is both a graduate of the Labor Liberal Arts program and is currently enrolled in the Martin and Laurie Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution program at Cornell University School for Industrial and Labor Relations.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 73,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at



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