Mike Rogoff’s college career got off to an inauspicious start.
He blew up the chemistry lab at Hofstra University.
“I started my college career as a pre-med major because I planned to become a psychiatrist,” explained Rogoff, Keuka College’s 2012-13 Professor of the Year who delivered the keynote address at academic convocation today (Aug. 27). “Things went pretty well in my biology courses, but chemistry was another story. I was barely making it through chemistry lecture with a D- average but the big problem came when I blew up the chemistry lab.”
No one was hurt, but “‘Big Boom Boy’ got bounced from pre-med,” recalled Rogoff.
But then he “bounced back.” Rogoff changed his major to psychology and the rest is history.
“It’s great if you start with a major that fits you right away and you stay with it throughout college,” said Rogoff, who joined Keuka faculty in 1971, “but don’t feel like a failure if your first major just doesn’t fit your talents and interests. These changes help you build your personal and professional identity. They help you find out who you are, what you’re good at, and what you really want to do.”
Rogoff credited one of his teachers (Dr. Vane) and adviser (Dr. Cohen) for helping him “grow into my new major” and building his “confidence as a learner.
“I needed that support,” he said. “I didn’t feel good about myself when I bombed out of pre-med. As a matter of fact, I felt downright stupid. But my adviser helped me flip things around. He reminded me that I had done pretty well in my biology courses even though I had a hard time in chemistry.”
According to Rogoff, he also got a lot of support from the upperclass psychology majors, and by the time he finished at Hofstra, he was on the Dean’s List and admitted to all seven of the graduate schools to which he applied.
“Not too shabby for the ‘Big Boom Boy,’” quipped Rogoff, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Cornell University.
Said Rogoff: “My main message here is that you’ll have the same opportunities as you grow into your career. Here at Keuka, you’ll have access to many circles of support and that will help you continue to develop your competencies and interests. You’ll continue to gain insight into who you are, what you can do, and what you want to do.
“Let us help you accomplish your dream,” added Rogoff. “Let us help you develop your competencies, and let us help you build your support and bounce-back skills. Increasingly, you’ll be able to put into place the circles of support. You’ll be able to help others build resilience. All of this can help make the world a better place.”
Academic convocation marked the official opening of the 2013-14 academic year and College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Robert Schick, chair of the Board of Trustees, welcomed new students to campus.
Schick urged the students to get involved.
“Make a new friend every day: another student, faculty member, any of the staff of the College. Immerse yourself into the very fabric of the College by joining clubs and participating in sports as a participant or fan.”
Friendship was also on the president’s mind. He told the students they could “expect to make plenty of friends, many of who will become lifelong friends. You can definitely expect to make memories that will last a lifetime.”
He also said they can expect to make a difference—both on campus and in the larger community.
“Community service at Keuka is important,” he said. “Last year alone, our students devoted more than 60,000 hours of service.”
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.
Mike Rogoff, that’s who.
The professor of psychology has received word that his biography was selected for inclusion in the 2011 edition of Who’s Who in America.
Rogoff’s listing in the publication notes his faculty status at Keuka, his involvement with the Assessment of Learning Styles and Study Skills, his leadership with the United Way of Northern Yates County, and other activities.
Marquis Who’s Who has been recognized as the standard for reliable and comprehensive biographical data since 1899.
Rogoff was previously listed in Who’s Who Among American Teachers.