Sands Family Foundation’s $3 million gift largest in FLCC history

Drawing of building
A concept drawing of the Sands Center for Allied Health

The Sands Family Foundation will donate $3 million to Finger Lakes Community College to more than double its nursing program.

The gift, the largest in the college’s history, will cover nearly half the cost of an expanded wing at the main campus in Canandaigua to be called the Sands Center for Allied Health.

The expansion will enable the college to gradually double the number of students it accepts into its registered nursing (RN) associate degree program. Currently, FLCC has 80 openings for new students each fall.

Older woman posing with two grown sons
Mickey Sands, with her sons, Robert and Richard, in front of a portrait of her husband, Marvin Sands

“With a growing need for nurses in the Finger Lakes region, this generous gift from the Sands family will help FLCC fulfill a critical community workforce need,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “The Sands Center of Allied Health will put many more nursing students on a pathway to providing valuable health services to people right here in New York.”

FLCC will also launch a licensed practical nursing certificate program (LPN), which can be completed in one year. The college anticipates scaling up to as many as 56 LPN openings per year within three years.

Objective 3 of FLCC’s strategic plan calls on the college to meet the needs of high demand sectors in our region. This gift allows FLCC to more than double its nursing program to address the local shortage of health care workers.

“Nurses provide the foundation for the excellent health care we enjoy in the Finger Lakes region,” said FLCC President Robert Nye. “We are grateful to the Sands Family Foundation for its significant investment in the people who will maintain that high level of care for years to come.”

“Medical institutions play a major role in the social and economic vitality of communities. The Sands family is proud to support FLCC’s efforts in elevating their nursing program to attract more nurses who will support our excellent hospitals in our surrounding communities,” said Richard Sands, co-chairman of the Sands Family Foundation.

Thompson Health will partner with FLCC to provide instructors for both the RN and LPN programs.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to grow the number of LPNs and RNs in Canandaigua and across our entire region,” said Michael F. Stapleton, Jr., Thompson Health’s president and CEO. “We are pleased to provide program instructors for this high demand program, and we’re grateful to the Sands Family Foundation for their continuing generosity and commitment to the long-term health and vibrancy of our community.”

The New York State Labor Department projects the need for registered nurses in the Finger Lakes region will rise from 13,250 in 2016 to 15,660 by 2026, an 18.2 percent increase. It projects an increase in the need for LPNs from 4,270 to 4850 over the same period, an increase of 13.6 percent.

Entry into FLCC’s nursing program is competitive, with only about 15 percent of applicants admitted each year.

“We are looking forward to being able to say yes to many more of our applicants, starting in 2021. This means more students finding good jobs when they finish here,” Nye added.

The entry-level salary for registered nurses in the Finger Lakes region is $54,890; for LPNs, it is $35,380, according to the state Labor Department.

Construction of the Sands Center for Allied Health at FLCC is scheduled to begin in mid-to-late 2021. The project will open in stages through the 2021-2022 academic year.

The new wing will be a renovation and addition at the back of the main campus building. It will include a certified nurse assistant lab, patient bays for hands-on instruction for nursing students, classroom and meeting space, and faculty offices. The project also includes a health and wellness center for students.

Nurses and nursing students on risers at graduation
About 70 students graduate each year from FLCC’s nursing degree program, which prepares students for the national exam for registered nurses. The Sands Family Foundation donation will give the college the capacity to double its numbers over the next several years. Graduates are shown at left with the advancing freshman at right and FLCC President Robert Nye at the podium during the 2019 Nursing Advancement Ceremony.

Additionally, the new wing will include a lab for instruction with holography. FLCC is currently piloting the use of holographic visors that allow students to view three-dimensional images of organs and systems in Human Anatomy and Physiology, a required course for nurses.

The Ontario County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to amend its capital improvement plan tonight (Thursday, Dec. 5) to include the $6.8 million expansion.

In addition to the Sands Family Foundation’s gift, the FLCC Student Corporation has pledged $250,000, and the FLCC Association will contribute $200,000. The Student Corporation is funded with student fees; the Association provides food service, housing and other auxiliary services to the college. The state will provide a match of $3.4 million.

The Sands Family Foundation is a private family foundation which awards grants in support of education, arts and culture, healthcare, and other charitable causes. Its officers include Robert and Richard Sands, the sons of Marvin and Mickey Sands. In 1945, Marvin Sands founded the Canandaigua Wine Company, which later grew to become Constellation Brands.

In 2009, Constellation Brands donated $1 million toward the expansion and renovation of the main campus, which was completed in 2013. The college named its main campus road Marvin Sands Drive in recognition of the gift. The Sands Family Foundation donated an additional $500,000 to the project in 2011.

Author: Lenore Friend

Lenore Friend is the director of public relations and communications at FLCC and the college's liaison with Finger Lakes TV. Contact her at (585) 785-1623 or