Thanks to his eighth-grade English teacher, General Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learned that conduct was part of his grade in life. That teacher was the late Marion Cutler, a 1952 Keuka graduate.
“Ms. Cutler taught me the difference between capability and conduct,” said Pace.
Years later, serving as a Marine in Vietnam, pausing to consider his conduct prevented Pace from ordering an airstrike that would have decimated a village of innocent women and children.
“Take time to set your moral compass,” Pace urged Keuka graduates during the 103rd commencement Sunday. “You will be morally challenged when, emotionally, you are least prepared to deal with it. Decide for yourself what you and will not do … so that when a challenge does come, you take the three to five seconds to think through (it).”
After giving him a “D” in the first quarter of his eighth-grade English class for “always mouthing off with some kind of joke,” he said, Cutler’s face would pop into his head in later years when tempted to say something inappropriate.
“The way you conduct yourself impacts everybody around you,” said Pace, who was awarded an honorary doctorate Sunday, along with the late Cutler, who died in March. Pace accepted his award “on behalf of the 2.4 million (soldiers) in our armed forces that make days like today possible.”
The Sunday ceremony was the final one for College President Joseph G. Burke, who is retiring after 14 years. Burke was awarded the title President Emeritus by Melissa Brown, Class of 1972, and chair of the College’s governing board.
Other commencement highlights included:
An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was presented posthumously to Marion Cutler. Cutler was one of General Pace’s favorite teachers growing up in New Jersey. The two exchanged letters often after Pace assumed his Joint Chiefs’ responsibilities and remained close up until Cutler’s death in March.