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.
Spurred on by a desire to help nearby neighbors recover from the devastation of Tuesday night’s storm, dozens and dozens of Keuka College students and staff got to work Wednesday clearing out muddy debris in the village of Penn Yan.
A morning email alert sent to all members of the campus community served as a call for volunteers. Due to travel warnings in effect, the College announced shuttle runs every two hours to safely transport any willing workers to posts in town. Rev. Eric Detar, the College chaplain, said he and two other staffers rode in on the first shuttle at 11 a.m.
About a dozen volunteers – mostly students – arrived on the 1 p.m. shuttle but after additional emails from the vice presidents of student affairs and academic affairs encouraging student and faculty support, more volunteers arrived at the shuttle pickup area outside Saunders hall. So many showed up to work, the original schedule was scrapped and shuttles started running every 30 minutes.
“I bet we’ve had between 75-100 volunteers help out,” Detar said by phone about 4:15 p.m. from his post on Main Street. “There’s 10 students walking by me right now, covered in mud.”
The first local business to receive help was the Once Again Shoppe, where volunteers salvaged what they could from thousands of dollars worth of damaged toys stored in the consignment shop’s basement. The toys were earmarked for the annual Christmas for the Needy annual benefit drive – a hallmark in the Penn Yan community – and most of them had to be thrown away in giant dumpsters, Detar said. After the damaged goods were removed, volunteers used Shop-Vacs and shovels to tackle the mud.
“It was just so sad to see all the hard work get ruined, because [Christmas for the Needy] is a huge part of this community,” said Mitch Leet ’16, who has served two years as a community service advocate for the College, and just this year, coordinated the campus’s Angel Tree gift drive. “We were asking people what others could do to help them replace this inventory.”
Detar said College relief efforts were concentrated mostly on local businesses, with College volunteers laboring to removing debris from flooded basements and other low-lying storage areas hit hard by the storm. Workers came to the aid of those at Calvary Chapel of Penn Yan, Deano’s Outdoors store, and the Penn Yan Diner, where some nine feet of water had rushed through the basement, Detar said. The diner is operated by College alumnae Carrie Ahearn.
“Right now, they’ve got an assembly line sending stuff up – it’s mud and trash – from the basement to the dumpster,” he said. “We’ve been working in Long’s bookstore, too, and there’s tons of stuff that needs to be thrown out. Plus, we’ve had students walk through the streets with grocery carts, distributing bottled water and snacks. They’ve talked to some families and helped them a bit.”
Leet and a handful of other student volunteers wound up at the Sampson Theater, where some sets were so waterlogged, “they had to be trashed. It was just awful – people were sinking through the floorboards. The theater wasn’t in great condition to begin with and now this.”
Freshmen Rachel Hurley and Laura Alderson, both occupational science majors, reported for service around 3 p.m. and were also part of the group helping clean out the theater. The two found themselves in a nearby barn, helping unload pickup trucks carting wet wood and salvaged set pieces from the theater into temporary storage.
Hurley said seeing photos online of the devastation prompted her to action. Much of this storm damage reminded Hurley of the flooding many in her hometown of Sayre, Penn. experienced about three years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, she said. At that time, much of the Southern Tier, including cities like Binghamton and Owego, N.Y., were under water for weeks. Alderson’s hometown lies in Warren Center, Penn. and she said she felt awful for those in Penn Yan who could not even leave their houses because the mouths of their driveways were washed away in the storm.
“I feel like I’ve taken advantage of all their amenities at Tops or other stores and now I actually get to give back and help them out,” Alderson said. “On the way back, we were riding in the back of the pickup truck and there were several citizens in Penn Yan sitting on their porches, waving to us and calling out ‘Thank you kids, so much!’ It was precious.”
Closer to campus, the handful of volunteers Leet served with Wednesday wound up at a West Lake Road home, assisting an older couple whose garage had filled with debris as water rushed down the steep hills across Route 54A and through their backyards.
“The water is not rushing as much now, but there are still ‘waterfalls’ coming down in some places, and the road was just filled with debris. We had to hold hands to get across it, and I forgot for a second we were walking in the middle of a road because there was so much water,” Leet said, adding that the couple asked for help documenting the damage for insurance purposes. “They just had mud everywhere in the garage. I took pictures of everything.”
Despite the devastation, working together with fellow students to help neighbors in need, helped Hurley bond with those in the campus community, she said, adding how many faces she was happy she recognized today.
“I think that we realize we can all come together to help people out,” Hurley said.
Community service is a hallmark of Keuka College with numerous clubs and groups conducting service projects and fundraisers throughout the academic year. The College even hosts an annual county-wide day of service, in conjunction with the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, known as Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates (CSCY). The strong focus on community service has helped earn the College a spot on the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past seven years.
Detar said College relief efforts would continue Thursday and officials were waiting to hear if support would also be needed at Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport, which had reportedly been hit hard as well. Additional emails from campus officials indicated volunteer service shuttles will again run every half-hour, starting at 9 a.m. with the final shuttle returning to campus at 5 p.m.
Install a specialty digital printing press that could produce high-quality wine labels in batches of less than 10,000. Recruit young professionals to join the Penn Yan Rotary Club. Design a new brand strategy for a food service supply company with 75 years of local history. Introduce a video game for individuals with autism through a kickoff event where the crowd will source (fund) the project. Market Hunt Country Vineyard wines to prospective new customers. Promote a study-abroad program to campus students with a video.
These are just some of the recommendations that students in a Keuka College graduate program presented Feb. 20 and 21 to local merchants and business leaders as part of Dr. Yang Zhao’s Marketing for Managers class.
The students met with leaders of local companies or non-profit organizations to assess the needs of the respective businesses, then worked in small teams to develop marketing plans to address the primary issues. Each team conducted research, interviews, surveys, and financial analysis to develop recommendations for their clients. The students then created a formal marketing plans showcased them in Powerpoint presentations during the final week of the eight-week course.
The eight-week course is part of a one-year program where students earn a Master of Science degree in management with a focus on international business (MSMIB). The MSMIB is similar to an MBA, but with more practical application. Enrollment features a mix of American, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Lebanese students, as well as one from Lesotho.
According to Fredric Tassone of Syracuse, whose team prepared a plan to help the Penn Yan Rotary Club recruit six new young professionals each year, conducting surveys was the hardest part. However, after analyzing the data the research uncovered, the team recommended the club target new members in the 23-35 age range, one of three market segments they identified, and of the three, the one most likely to have the time and interest to join.
“We gave them the most feasible option, since they don’t have a lot of money to advertise, and with their networking focus, that’s probably the best way to build up the club,” Tassone said. (more…)
Where can a Keuka degree take you? This is the second in a series of snapshot profiles on members of Keuka’s Class of 2012.
Matt McFetridge ’12 graduated cum laude with a degree in political science and history and has been accepted to Tsinghua University (pronounced “Ching Wah”) in Beijing, China, where he will pursue a master’s degree in international relations, starting in September. Tsinghua is considered the “Harvard” of Chinese universities. The degree will be an extension of what McFetridge learned in Keuka classes, where he always tried to find a way to connect the material to China. Primary among his independent educational experiences was the semester-long study he conducted in 2010 as an exchange student at the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (YUFE) in Kunming, one of Keuka’s partner universities.
Most doctoral history programs require some kind of “language influence,” he said, and exposure to the Chinese language as well as an up-close-and-personal view of activities in the capital city that serves as the hub of U.S.-Chinese relations will give him a distinct advantage.
“It’s a little less orthodox, but for what I want to do, it’s a step up and it may open doors not only to teach at a college, but perhaps lead to a job as an analyst, with the government or a think tank,” McFetridge said.
To explore what might be in your future with a Keuka degree, request more information.
Greg Shoff has had more than a little experience helping people.
A military veteran, Shoff served six years with the U.S. Coast Guard in places such as Florida, Mississippi, Oregon and Washington, often providing disaster relief after hurricane season, helping to rebuild schools and community centers, or assisting mobile medical teams with setting up clinics.
Often, Shoff found himself working with at-risk or troubled youth from families in hard-hit communities, showing them “how to use certain tools, to look out for someone else and connect with that community instead of feel [pushed] away,” he said.
“You recognize that communities need an extra hand with youth at times, and a few of us would always link up with the kids and work to show them what it means to give back,” he said.
Shoff never expected to do what he calls “the humanitarian side” of social work in the Coast Guard, but his passion for it led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field, which he will receive Sunday from Keuka College. Along the way, the Penn Yan resident earned a special distinction, receiving a student Social Worker of the Year Award from a regional chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. (more…)