Few college dropouts go on to become college presidents but one who did spoke at Keuka College’s mid-year conferral of degrees today (Dec. 9).
Of course, Dr. Carole A. McCoy eventually received three degrees—including a Doctor of Public Administration— and in 2007 became president of Jefferson Community College (JCC) in Watertown.
Since then, McCoy has led the campus through the development of a new strategic plan, facilities master plan, and feasibility study for the implementation of student residence halls. She also played a key leadership role in creating the partnership between JCC and Keuka that provides North Country residents the opportunity to pursue Keuka bachelor’s degree completion programs through its Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
Keuka President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera referred to McCoy as “one of our state’s most dynamic and visionary community college presidents.”
Not bad for someone, who in 1973, “was a college dropout working as a directory assistance operator.
“Always believe it is never too late to change,” said McCoy. “I attended college one year and never felt that I fit in or saw the purpose of getting a degree. I was in my late 30s when I achieved my baccalaureate degree, in my 40s when I completed my master’s degree, and slightly north of 50 when I finished my doctorate.”
While conceding there is some risk associated with change, McCoy said there is risk with not changing as well.
“Complacency is a big risk,” she explained. “It seems like almost every day we read about the number of high-tech jobs that are going unfilled in the United States because we don’t have workers with the needed skills. And how many jobs no longer exist because they become obsolete? Complacency is not a good thing.”
She also urged the Class of 2012 to “find something you can be passionate about. Passion for something is what gets you up in the morning and has you excited about your day. Passion sustains you when you are having a rough time. Passion is about what’s in your heart. We make small decisions from our heads, but our big decisions, our life decisions, the decisions that really matter need to come from our hearts. Over my career, I have changed jobs several times because I was still seeking that one thing I could be passionate about for the rest of my life.”
That one thing was being president of JCC.
“Consider the words of Mark Twain, who said, ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,’” said McCoy. “I lead a community college because I am committed to providing a college education to anyone who can possibly benefit from that education. For me, community colleges are the epitome of democracy. We transform lives through learning. The day I understood the mission of the community colleges was the day I knew why I was born.”
Palmyra resident Randy Kuhn, who received his Master of Science degree in criminal justice administration, also spoke at the ceremony. An officer with the Newark Police Department, he received a bachelor’s degree from Keuka in 2010.
Another highlight was the presentation of the Adjunct Professor of the Year Award to Gary Prawel, who began his Keuka career as director of campus security and served as the first director of ASAP’s criminal justice program. Prawel has taught criminal justice in ASAP since the program’s beginnings in 2001 and teaches Introduction to Sociology and criminology courses in the traditional program on a regular basis.
The director of the ASAP criminal justice program —Richard Martin—nominated Prawel for the award. He wrote that “Gary takes personal ownership of each student in the class. Their success is his success and their failure is his failure. He believes strongly in the American justice system and considers it a privilege to be able to continue to have a hand in teaching the future of that system. His successes are evident in almost all of the police agencies in Monroe County, as those in command positions of the county’s law enforcement agencies have been taught by Mr. Prawel at one time or another.”