American history is full of examples of people whose appearance, background, religion, sex, or race caused other people to discount them at the beginning, but who overcame that underestimation to make important contributions.
So said Dr. Christopher Leahy, professor of history and the 2014-15 Professor of the Year at Keuka College, in his keynote address Tuesday at academic convocation, which marks the official opening of the 2015-16 academic year. The ceremony includes a colorful processional with upperclassman bearing flags from around the world and faculty in regalia lining the sidewalk to Norton Chapel and applauding new students as they enter. This year, a record-setting number of new students experienced this symbolic rite of passage.
In Dr. Leahy’s address, the eight-year faculty veteran challenged students to resist the temptation to discount what someone else might teach them because of “superficial attributes.” He gave two examples from American history of individuals initially underestimated who defied expectations to make an undeniable mark: Al Smith, a NY State Assemblyman and four-term governor, and Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist and one-time Congressional candidate from Mississippi.
“People underestimated both Al Smith and Fannie Lou Hamer,” Dr. Leahy contended. “In Smith’s case, his colleagues in the NY State Assembly believed they had nothing to learn from a Bowery Irishman whose accent and (Catholic) religion were suspect. In Hamer’s case, her impoverished background, her race—and her sex—led white Mississippians to doubt her resolve and ability to effect change… Enough people doubted them, or told them they could not succeed, that they might have started to believe it themselves. Yet they did not.”
According to Dr. Leahy, Smith’s lack of formal education and Catholic background garnered condescension from Ivy League-educated legislators from elsewhere in the state, when he first won his Assembly seat in 1903. Yet Smith fought to prove himself, committing legislative bills to memory, sponsoring bills of his own, and leading the commission investigating the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Ultimately, Smith was elected governor of New York in 1917, served four terms and became the first Catholic to earn the Democratic nomination for U.S. President in 1928.
The granddaughter of slaves and child to sharecropper parents, Hamer became a vocal activist in the civil rights movement, literally singing hymns to scores of African-Americans riding buses to voter registration stations throughout the state. Famous for the line “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hamer endured an arrest, jail beating and other persecutions to rally African-Americans and white students in the North to support civil rights. Her work helped bring national attention to the Civil Rights Bill championed by Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1964. In addition to a run for Congress, Hamer also fought to win seats for African-American delegates of the Mississippi Freedom Party at the Democratic National Convention; stymied in 1964, she succeeded by 1968.
Dr. Leahy even shared a personal instance of underestimation: as a high school sophomore in Baltimore, Leahy complained to a friend after just one class that his new European history teacher, Dr. Dan Allen, was a boring government bureaucrat with a funny accent. But Leahy learned quite a lesson as Dr. Allen—who’d overheard the complaints —dismantled every presumption Leahy made, in the next class and over the course of the year.
An embarrassed Leahy was surprised to learn that Dr. Allen had a background in military intelligence with the U.S. Air Force, and spent four years working as the American embassy’s military expert in Czechoslovakia. Further, Dr. Allen was a friend of Dr. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the Georgetown University professor who helped shape American policy during the Cold War as Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Dr. Allen eventually became one of Leahy’s favorite teachers and inspired him to pursue a doctorate of his own.
Dr. Leahy closed with a 1910 quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that advocates credit be given to the individual who “strives valiantly,” in spite of coming short, “spends himself in a worthy cause;” and who ultimately experiences either the enthusiasms and devotions of high achievement or who “at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.’”
Brief remarks to welcome new students were also shared Tuesday by College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Alan Ziegler, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. The president encouraged students that the College will prepare them for the journey of their professional life, particularly through developing individuals who know how to apply digital technology within the context of their respective professions. The College’s Digital Learning@Keuka College (DL@KC) initiative includes a digital studies minor and incorporates digital literacy throughout the curriculum.
“My advice to you, Class of 2019, is to learn as much about this as you can. Learn to read and write code, the new literacy,” Dr. Díaz-Herrera challenged, posing questions aspects of DL@KC could answer within a number of academic majors. “You will learn that you have the power to do amazing things. When you graduate from Keuka College you will have that thread of digital literacy woven through all aspects of your education.”
Click here for more photos from Academic Convocation
Two Keuka College students recently received scholarships awarded by the Elmira-Corning branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Both students—Wendy Axtell and Joanne Seeley—are pursuing their bachelor’s degrees through the College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
AAUW was founded in 1882 to unite alumnae of different institutions for practical educational work. In accordance with the goal of working for broader opportunities for women, the Elmira-Corning Branch of AAUW offers annual scholarships to women pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Axtell is earning her degree in organizational management at Corning Community College, while Seeley is pursuing her degree in nursing at Arnot Ogden Medical Center. Both earned an AAUW Return to Learning Scholarship.
“These amazing women share a passion to learn, and have overcome obstacles to pursue their education,” said Liz Walton, who serves on the Scholarship Committee of the Elmira-Corning Branch of AAUW Board of Trustees.
While attending class, Axtell worked full time as an executive assistant at Market Street Trust Company. When her daycare provider could no longer care for her three children, she made the “difficult decision to quit her job and devote her time to being a full time student and being at home with my children,” she said. “Going from two incomes to one, and the cost of tuition, has forced some lifestyle changes.”
But her connection to Market Street Trust Company continues, as she has provided assistance to the organization with some of its projects. Axtell believes she is still backed by the company’s leaders and board of directors, “which is such an amazing feeling to have the support of an organization I worked for four years,” said Axtell, who is also grateful for the backing of her family. “I hope that when my degree is complete, I can return if an opportunity arises.”
And with one year of her Keuka College studies complete, Axtell said she is “more convinced than ever” that she chose the right path.
“In the midst of my managerial finance class, I was able to learn the pieces of an organization’s financials that I had not been previously involved,” she said. “As I gain knowledge of what will be important to me as a manager, this helped me realize what my value can be as a leader of an organization someday.”
Walton is as confident as Axtell is: “Any organization will be fortunate to have Wendy join them, and I am sure the choice will be all hers.”
In addition to a Return to Learning Scholarship, Seeley received the Zelda Sadinsky Scholarship, which was first awarded in 2005. Sadinsky raised five children, and then, in her 50s, went back to college and earned her bachelor’s degree.
While attending classes, Seeley works at the Chemung County Nursing facility and was recently promoted to director of nursing. She plans to continue her studies and earn a master’s degree in geriatric nursing.
“While I have gained a great deal of knowledge through experiential learning, I came to the realization that in order to inspire professional growth in those under my supervision I must model the actions I would like to see,” said Seeley. “A proficient nurse takes responsibility for ongoing personal and professional development, especially when the goal is to provide outstanding care. Based on that belief, I began the process of obtaining my baccalaureate degree in nursing. As a professional nurse, I have the responsibility to maintain professional strength, not only to those I care for—but also myself, my colleagues, and the organization which employs me.”
Added Walton: “Joanne has a real passion and drive for learning, and is invested in what she does. We should all feel a huge sense of relief knowing that Joanne is in charge, should any of us become a patient at the Chemung County Nursing facility.”
Editor’s Note: For adults interested in fitting a bachelor’s or master’s degree program around an already-busy work and home life, the Keuka College Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) may offer the shortest route to reach their goal. Here, five of our graduates describe the primary benefits of pursuing their respective degrees at sites across Western New York near where they live and work, and the steps they are taking into the future.
Why she pursued her degree through our ASAP program: Getting a master’s degree was one of my life goals. After a recent promotion into management at work, I knew that I needed to prioritize that. As a full-time professional, I needed a program that would fit my schedule, while providing a fantastic education. The Keuka College ASAP MSM program offered me exactly what I needed to achieve my goals.
Notable highlights of her KC degree program: Seeing my hard work come together into a data-driven paper for the Action Research Project (ARP) was a form of personal validation that I had not experienced before. I am also passionate about my job so having a project that contributed to what I do each day motivated me.
Personal benefits? The course work exposed me to ethics, leadership, and business law, which I have been able to translate into my personal life. I use the theory discussed in the leadership course almost every day, both at work and at home.
Next steps: I will continue in the same position, but through completing my degree, I see lots of opportunity for growth in my career.
Why he pursued his degree through our ASAP program: I have been an active instructor at the police academy since 2008, and thoroughly enjoy teaching. The next logical step was to obtain my master’s degree. Another reason I returned to college was the personal satisfaction of achievement, and the hope to inspire my five daughters to never settle or make excuses against hard work.
Notable highlights during the program: I received the 2015 Rochester Area Colleges’ Continuing Education (RACCE) Outstanding Adult Student Award. My Action Research Project (ARP) directly related to work I do instructing in defensive tactics and helped me to better understand and explain portions of the police recruit training curriculum.
Next steps: I am looking for positions as an adjunct professor at local colleges and also looking for a Ph.D. program.
Why she pursued a Keuka College degree through the ASAP program: This lifelong desire had been derailed by life’s challenges.
Notable highlights of her KC degree program: I have a higher standard in my personal work ethic now. Having six of my grandchildren at my graduation was another highlight. My grandson watched in awe. After the ceremony he told his mother he “came from a family of hard workers.” We now have a family benchmark: everyone has to have at least a bachelors’ degree.
What she most valued in her Keuka College education?: I had a stroke two months prior to starting the program so this was a challenge because my speech and mental capacity had been affected. Having supportive teachers who were willing to work with me after hours when needed was a huge benefit and it contributed to my success.
Why she pursued her degree through the ASAP program: After accepting a new position at work, I believed an advanced degree would help me excel and achieve future professional goals. I have always been interested in nursing education, and the Keuka College ASAP program offered that component which many other online and hybrid programs did not.
Notable highlights of her KC degree program: My Field Period™ allowed me to put to use many of the techniques and concepts we had learned in class. I learned a lot about the nursing academia field, and I made connections with experienced nursing instructors who were eager and willing to share their experiences and be a resource for me both in and outside of the classroom.
I was also inducted as a Nurse Leader to Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society
What she most valued in her KC education? The experience and professionalism of all the professors. They are all masters of their content areas and approachable, so I felt that I truly was learning from the best of the best. I also value the relationships forged with my cohort. I love that we all stay in touch and continue to support one another personally and professionally!
Personal benefits? The location and class times were easy for me to accommodate while working full-time and having a newborn at home.
Next steps: I have accepted a full-time position at Corning Community College as a clinical instructor and am very excited to start in the fall! The Field Period™ really helped me to realize that this setting was where I excelled. I am thrilled to be given this opportunity so soon after completing my degree.
Why she pursued her degree through our ASAP program: As a stay-at-home mother of three young children, I was motivated to brighten the future of our family and be a role model in continuing education.
Notable parts of her KC degree program: The social work values taught throughout the program were extremely valuable. Returning to school as an adult and a parent felt like a daunting task, but the ASAP program made it practical.
What she most valued in her KC education? Flexibility, awareness of working adults and family along with some wonderful professors.
Next steps: I recently completed my MSW in an advanced standing program and currently work at the University of Rochester as a psychiatric therapist.
Robert Schick, chair of the Keuka College Board of Trustees and president of the Lyons National Bank, will accept a $168,351 check on behalf of the College for energy and conversation measures undertaken in campus facilities. He will accept the check during the College’s June 24 Board of Trustees meeting.
The measures are part of a $4 million campus-wide modernization project that will reduce Keuka College’s environmental impact while increasing the productivity and comfort of students, faculty, staff, and guests to the campus. The upgrades will leverage new technology, including LED lighting and adaptive energy management strategies, and ultimately reduce Keuka College’s operational expenses by more than $6 million over 20 years.
As a result of the project’s plans, the College has earned the $168,351 efficiency rebate provided by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA).
“Environmental sustainability is an important component of Keuka College’s long-range strategic plan,” said Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College. “We are committed to investments in sustainable technologies, and this project will reduce the main campus’ carbon footprint by more than 14 percent each year.”
“The 14 percent reduction is equivalent to 709 metric tons of CO2, the same emitted by more than 79,700 gallons of gasoline,” added Jerry Hiller, vice president for finance and administration.
Keuka College’s leadership team evaluated numerous investment options, ultimately selecting the best blend of financial and technical performance. Funding for the project was obtained through a financing program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development assistance program.
The project will be delivered by Trane and includes new natural gas-fired heating plants to service 12 buildings, several high-efficiency heating, ventilating, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, exterior LED lighting, complete renovation of Harrington Hall’s comfort systems and a comprehensive, web-based energy management platform to maximize performance and efficiency.
KEUKA PARK, N.Y.— Marching forward fearlessly into the future are several young men and women recently awarded diplomas from Keuka College. They hail from a host of different majors and home countries. Their interests are as varied as their personalities. But they all have two distinct qualities in common: a Keuka College education and the professional life-learning experiences of the annual Keuka College Field Period™, a 140-hour personalized experience that may take the shape of a professional internship, a cultural study, artistic endeavor, service project or spiritual exploration. Here, each one shares the primary benefits of his or her collegiate experience:
What she’s up to now: Graphic designer for the Elmira Jackals East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) hockey team.
Notable parts of her KC journey? Designing her own minor after falling in love with graphic design her sophomore year.
“Designing a minor in digital design and having the skills in Adobe design programs helped me stand out on campus and at Field Period™ sites. I wouldn’t trade my Keuka College education for anything because of the personalized attention that I have received from professors and staff. I had amazing experiences here that helped me earn awards, scholarships, and my degree.”
Where she’s headed next: Roger Williams University for a master’s degree in forensic psychology.
“I will forever be grateful for the education I received and the people I met while a student at Keuka College. One of the greatest benefits was Field Period™. I gained a lot of great experience and made professional contacts that are extremely valuable.”
What she’s up to now: Cost accountant at G.W. Lisk
How’d she get her job? “I started as a math major, but after completing my first Field Period™ at G.W. Lisk, I changed my major. I loved it at Lisk: the atmosphere, the work, everything. I returned to Lisk to work summers and breaks, so I have been working there part-time for the last four years.”
Best part of her KC degree program? “Each Field Period™ was a huge learning experience, and each experience helped shape my goals and dreams. It is by far the most valuable aspect of my education at Keuka College”
What he’s up to now: Working for Catholic Charities of Oswego. Oh, and campaigning for a seat on the Oswego County Legislature.
Notable parts of his KC journey? Played baseball for the Wolfpack, which taught him how to manage his time and multitask. Completed Field Period™ internships at the offices of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Rep Dan Maffei (D-NY), and the NYS Democratic Committee.
“The Field Period™ is what sets Keuka College apart. I was able to build real-life connections starting my freshman year. The Field Period™ allowed me to cultivate meaningful relationships and helped me reaffirm that politics was my passion. I am very grateful.”
Where she’s headed next: Rochester Institute of Technology on a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in computational finance. She’ll learn how to analyze big data through math, finance, and programming. Ultimately, she wants to enter the insurance industry.
Notable parts of her KC journey? Multiple extra-curricular activities and earning a Judith Oliver Brown scholarship that helped pay for two Field Period™ experiences abroad.
“By coming to Keuka College I received more than just valuable education—I also received a promising future. I could not have done it without the help of my supportive professors. If there were one thing I encourage future students to take advantage of, it would be the small class sizes and interpersonal relationships. Develop these professional relationships because they will help you succeed.”
Where he’s headed next: Marywood University for a master’s of social work degree.
Notable parts of his KC journey? Brandon was named one of six 2015 Student Social Workers of the Year for the Genesee Valley division of the state National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
Notable people? “Professors Stephanie Craig and Jen Mealey supported me and encouraged me to do my best. They’re absolutely wonderful people and wonderful social workers and I don’t know where I’d be without them, to be honest.”
“In grad school, I have to complete a 518-hour internship, but I’m so ready because of Field Period™. I’m definitely prepared academically and I’m not worried about the internship at all.”
Where she’s headed next: Duke University Graduate School on a $28,000 fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. in bio-organic or synthetic organic chemistry.
Notable parts of her KC journey? A co-publishing credit for a research study published in the Journal of American Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS), an article “Why People Mistrust Science” published in local newspapers, and a 10-week study of enzyme kinetics at the University of Buffalo through a program funded by the National Science Foundation.
Best part of her KC degree program? “I really appreciate the size of Keuka College and the hands-on experience I gained. I’ve been able to work with professors one-on-one or in small groups for independent studies and research projects. They know me and care about my interests and where I want to go. Field Period™ was instrumental in helping me figure out what I want to do. I was able to gain experience both in a career I realized I didn’t want to go into and one that I do want to pursue.”
What she’s up to now: HR Coordinator for Biogen Idec, a Fortune 500 biotechnology company in Boston.
Notable parts of her KC journey? Two paid Field Period™ experiences in different branches of Biogen Idec paved the way for a job offer before graduation.
“Keuka College offered so many outlets for developing myself in a multitude of ways. Field Period™ scholarships enabled me to engage in a life-changing spiritual/cultural journey in Thailand, and the emphasis the College places on experiential learning through Field Period™ helped me land my dream job at a Fortune 500 company.”
Where she’s headed next: Pace University in NYC for an MBA in marketing management.
Notable parts of her KC journey? Two Field Period™ experiences at the Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Tokyo, Japan offices of Dentsu, Inc. – the fifth-largest ad agency in the world.
Best part of her KC degree program? “Keuka College provides an environment that encourages you to discover the world through hands-on experience, which is a better fit for me than only sitting and listening to lectures. I’m so thankful for the support from not only my friends around the world, but also the faculty and staff at the school. My professors not only cared about my performance in class, but also helped me figure out my next steps and how to achieve my goals.”
What she’s up to now: Working with families and children as a family advocate at Peace, Inc., where she conducted a Field Period™ during her sophomore year.
Best part of her KC degree program? “I have come to realize how great Field Period™ actually is. In the end you walk away with so much experience and even potential jobs. I am grateful to the professors I had — they truly care about their students and how they are doing. The small classes and great teachers were the reasons for my success at the College and I am thankful to have had the experience I did!”