Capping the first year of quarterly staff recognition awards, Vickie Tobias of Bath emerged as the 2013-14 Staff Member of the Year for Keuka College.
According to co-workers, Tobias has touched the lives of students and the careers of colleagues throughout Keuka College in a real and palpable way. As the database administrator in the Information Technology Services department, she helps keep the entire college plugged in, so to speak, and ensures day-to-day network demands continue functioning for optimal productivity.
Tobias was named the inaugural staffer of the year during Commencement May 25. The staff recognition award, given by the Staff Advisory Council (SAC), was set up to identify and celebrate staff members like Tobias who consistently go above and beyond the duties of their job and make outstanding contributions to Keuka College. The award recognizes four staff members each year, with one selected as the overall winner for the year. This year’s other quarterly winners included Brett Williams, digital media producer in the Office of Marketing and Communications, McKala Accetura, judicial coordinator and resident director of Strong Apartments, and Merrie Heins, assistant director of financial aid. Each quarterly winner receives a desk nameplate and reserved parking place for three months, following their award.
According to Casey Kendall, senior systems administrator in ITS, Tobias is “the most dedicated and professional employee with whom I have ever worked.” In a nomination letter, Kendall detailed how Tobias “puts in long hours and never asks for compensation, helping her peers succeed without ever asking for anything in return.” (more…)
If service is “the rent we pay to be on this earth,” then Lt. Governor Robert Duffy believes the spirit of service epitomized in the Keuka College Class of 2014 is what ought to be held up to children and others as an example.
In his address at the 106th Commencement today, Duffy cited the devastation caused by the storms and floods in Yates County a little over one week ago, and praised the students who volunteered time during the final week of classes to help people in their worst time of need. Nearly 200 College students and staff traveled into Penn Yan and Branchport after the flooding, cleaning out homes and businesses of those impacted and together contributing more than 1,000 service hours.
While the media grants attention to celebrities for little more than what they’re wearing or what event they attend “I would suggest that as opposed to the reality show, “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” maybe ‘Keeping up with Keuka College’ might be a better show,” Duffy said, to rousing applause.
As such, Duffy admitted there was little a typical graduation speech could offer this class in the way of advice: “Folks, there’s nothing I can tell you about what to do – you’ve shown what this world is all about and really, what this day is all about. You’ve proven that, not with words, but with actions. That, to me, speaks volumes of who you are, what you stand for and what this institution stands for.”
The sole suggestion Duffy offered was to create a life worth living, one to be proud of 20 to 50 years down the road, and to use a unique practice – writing your own eulogy—to structure it.
“Sit down and think – what would you want your family, children, spouse, friends, neighbors or coworkers to say about you at that time?” he asked. “Write those words out, then do your best to live that life … now. Live every single day like it’s your last month, and you will do extraordinary things.
“I think this world is ready for you,” Duffy continued. “It’s a tough world out there, but one that needs you, needs good, smart, driven people to come out and help change it. By how you carry yourself and really, with what you did in your spirit of service here in Penn Yan, I think this world, this state and this community is going to be in great shape.”
During the ceremony, Duffy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, presented by Ms. G. Jean Howard-Cherubim, his former Chief of Staff during his tenure as Rochester mayor. Howard-Cherubim was the first female African-American to serve in the Rochester City Chief of Staff role and is currently serving her second term as a member of the Board of Trustees.
An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was also presented to sculptor Dexter Benedict, professor emeritus of art, who served the College over a span of 32 years before retiring in 2010. Renowned regionally and nationally for his works, Benedict continues to create fine art through his Fire Works Foundry and Sculpture Studio in Penn Yan.
Also honored during the ceremony was Dr. Catherine Abbott, professor of mathematics, who was named Professor of the Year, and praised as “a dedicated educator who exhibits great enthusiasm for learning and a keen desire” for student success. According to students, Abbott makes courses “exciting and engaging” and always takes time to provide extra help. Indeed, one student cited wrote that were Abbot to be graded, she’d receive an A-plus. Meanwhile, Abbott is credited by her division chair for bringing about transformation of the mathematics department, which has grown during her time there to include three full-time faculty, two majors, and two minors. In addition to strong advising, Abbott regularly supports recruiting activities, and has provided invaluable leadership on faculty governance committees.
In additional activity at Commencement:
• An Award of Higher Education was presented to Oksana Kahl, Amanda Ward and Erica Webb, three students from the DRIVE (Diversity, Respect, Inclusion, Vision and Experiential Learning) program, a collaboration of Penn Yan Central School District, Yates ARC and Keuka College. In the program, Keuka College students serve as peer mentors to young adults with intellectual disabilities as they assimilate into the college environment and explore their personal goals.
• Vickie Tobias, database manager in Informational Technology Services, was named Staff Member of the Year in the award’s inaugural season.
• A new visual identity for the College was unveiled by Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, College president, who also praised the class of 2014 for bringing early credibility to the school’s new brand signature, “Believe in What We Can Do Together,” through flood relief efforts.
Dr. Anne M. Kress, president of Monroe Community College (MCC), will deliver the address at Keuka College’s mid-year conferral of degrees Sunday, Dec. 8.
More than 100 traditional and Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) students will receive degrees at the ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m. in Norton Chapel.
Since beginning her tenure at MCC in 2009, Kress has elevated the college’s role in several key areas—readiness for college, college completion, workforce development, diversity and sustainability—to better serve the needs of students and the community.
New initiatives launched under her leadership include an enhanced Honors Institute, which provides the most academically prepared students with a comprehensive program of study that includes undergraduate research, and more meaningful collaborations with area school districts in strengthening the K-12 pipeline and improving college completion rates.
A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Kress earned a doctoral degree in higher education administration, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English, and a bachelor’s degree with honors in finance, all from the University of Florida.
Her career spans more than 20 years as an administrator and educator in higher education. Kress is a member of the American Council on Education’s Commission on International Initiatives; the American Association of Community Colleges’ Commission on Academic, Student and Community Development; and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Higher Education Working Group on Global Issues. She also serves as a member of a State University of New York Innovation Team focused on advancing the “Seamless Education Pipeline” initiative in SUNY’s strategic plan.
In 2011, Kress was named a member of the Regional Economic Development Council by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Locally, she is a board member of the Rochester Business Alliance, Greater Rochester Enterprise and the United Way of Greater Rochester.
Other highlights of the ceremony include the presentation of the Adjunct Professor of the Year Award and a speech by Lakesha Carter, a Rochester resident who will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational management. College President Dr. Jorge Díaz-Herrera, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Robert Schick, and President of the Keuka College Alumni Association Jeremy Hourihan ’08 will also address the graduates.
Editor’s Note: When it comes to commencement, the address given by the invited guest typically garners the most attention. For example, Esther Yoder’s ’60 talk at Keuka’s 105th commencement was covered on online and in the area print media. However, there were some other noteworthy moments from May 26 and we’ll take a look at some of them here.
“Everyone has a duty to repair the world,” said Sophia Veffer, who delivered the baccalaureate address. “We share our humanity and we all want to live in a peaceful world.”
Veffer, past president of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo Board of Directors and current executive board member, said the main reason she gives lectures at schools and colleges is to spread the message not to be a bystander.
Citing the Holocaust and present-day genocides as examples, Veffer said bystanders are the most dangerous group because “they enable the perpetrators to commit their crimes by being silent. They make an amoral decision to tolerate the injustices in their society. “
Veffer urged the Class of 2013 and others who attended the service to “be vocal when you witness injustice and discrimination.
“Don’t say, ‘I, alone, cannot change the world.’ One person can make a difference, for example, Rosa Parks, who did not want to give up her seat on the bus and ignited the Civil Rights Movement. Even if nobody will listen to you, it makes you a better person that you tried to repair the world. It gives you self respect because you tried to make this global world a more peaceful world to live for yourself and other people. Each one of you can make a difference in your own way. Be a caregiver and be a caring and involved citizen and repair the world. What you do matters.”
In the past, said Veffer, one’s immediate neighborhood was very narrowly defined; it included their school, church, block around their home, playground, etc. That has changed.
“You are the generation that lives in a global society, where your neighbors may live in Rwanda or Turkey,” explained Veffer. “And you live in a very diverse world. You have to adjust to different life styles, different customs, different religions, etc. Your whole world is your neighborhood and as good neighbors, you have to stay connected and care for the welfare of each human being. You have to be participating and caring global citizens because what happens in one part of the world can affect us.”
Baccalaureate also featured On Love, the class poem written and read by Erica Ruscio; The Prayer, a song performed by Amanda Burlingame and Chelsea Sherwood; an Unity, an interpretive dance performed by Ashlee Eilers, Johnathon Pugh, and Elizabeth Vinette.
Professor of the Year
President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera described Professor of Psychology Mike Rogoff as “a dedicated educator who exhibits great enthusiasm for learning and a passion for helping students to be successful. His commitment to students has been evident over the years in his innovative teaching and in the individual assistance he provides to his students.”
Students routinely describe Rogoff, who came to Keuka in 1971, as “amazing,” “well-prepared,” “fantastic,” “challenging,” “genuine,” and “a great person.”
“In four decades of student-centered teaching, he has truly exemplified Keuka’s emphasis on the individual student,” said the president. “His particular attention to the well-being of first-year students deserves commendation. Over the past decade and more, he has made significant contributions to our retention efforts through his research analyzing student study habits. This work has been of enormous benefit to the College, to his colleagues on the faculty, and most especially to students, as he compiled, interpreted, and shared with colleagues the data he collected.”
In addition to his work in the classroom, Rogoff served as chair of the Division of Basic and Applied Social Sciences for many years.
“In this role, he managed a division of independent-minded colleagues in a persistent and often admirably tireless manner,” said the president. “In untold ways, he performed the day-to-day administrative work that kept a centrally-important division running.”
Most recently, his work on the ad hoc Curriculum Task Force “testifies to his continuing commitment to enhancing students’ educational experiences at Keuka,” added Díaz-Herrera.
Retiring Faculty Members
Vice President for Academic Affairs Anne Weed recognized:
Michaela Cosgrove, professor emerita of Spanish, who will be the focus of an upcoming feature story on Keuka College Today.
A sundial reflecting Keuka’s global impact is located in front of Dahlstrom Student Center.
Keuka College’s Class of 2013 will receive degrees at the College’s 105th commencement Sunday, May 26.
The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. on the Norton Chapel lawn.
Esther Yoder, a 1960 Keuka College graduate and former chair of the Board of Trustees, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Yoder, owner of Subway EAY Stores Inc. in Gainesville, Fla., was a member of Keuka’s governing board for the better part of the last 20 years, serving as chair in 2006-07 and vice chair from 2001 to 2006. She is now an emeritus member of the Board.
She chaired the Shaping the Future: One Graduate at a Time campaign, the most prolific fundraising campaign in Keuka history. She is one of only six people in Keuka history to receive the Norton-Blyley Presidential Medallion, which recognizes service to the College “above and beyond an extraordinary high standard,” and is a recipient of the Alumni Association’s Eleanor Judd Wilkes Service to Keuka Award.
Other commencement highlights include talks by Class of 2013 members Reis Cunningham and Martha Walker, and the presentation of the Professor of the Year Award.
In addition, six students from the DRIVE (Diversity, Responsibility, Inclusion, Vision, and Experiential learning) program will receive an Award of Higher Education.
In the program, Keuka College students serve as peer mentors to young adults with intellectual disabilities as they assimilate into the college environment and explore their personal goals.
DRIVE is a collaboration between Keuka College, Penn Yan Central School District, and Yates County ARC.
Commencement day activities will kick off with the baccalaureate service at 9:30 a.m. in Norton Chapel. Sophia Veffer, past president of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo Board of Directors and current executive board member, will deliver the address.