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Former Harpur administrator dies at 86

A longtime state political official who was credited in playing an instrumental role during the early years of Harpur College died September 21, at age 86.

Michael Scelsi, who served as President Glenn G. Bartle?s executive assistant and handled public information before becoming assistant to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, died at his home in Manchester, Vt.

A native of Endicott and graduate of Louisiana State University, Scelsi worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitations Administration and its successor agency, the International Refugee Organization in Munich.

In 1952, Scelsi joined Harpur, which had two years before been transformed from Triple Cities College when SUNY voted to accept the institution as a member. By 1953, Harpur had become the only liberal arts school within the SUNY system. "Dr. Bartle tended to be a compassionate fellow and Mike was rather tough and saw that things were done as they should be," said Aldo Bernardo, distinguished service professor emeritus of Italian and comparative literature. "He was decisive and forceful and had his priorities because we were trying to build an institution."

Scelsi became Rockefeller's appointment director during the 1960s after serving as executive director of the New York State Republican Committee. Rockefeller later appointed him civic commissioner.

Scelsi later served as U.S. representative to UNICEF and executive director of the Tolstoy Foundation in Rome. He was inducted into SUNY's Council for University Affairs and Development's Hall of Fame in June.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Nina, a son, daughter, granddaughter and four brothers. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, in care of the Brewster Funeral Service, P.O. Box 885, Manchester Center, Vt. 05255.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08