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Discovering Periodic Table Elements Throughout Penn Yan

Keuka College Associate Professor of Chemistry Andrew Robak has used fine art and photography to educate others about the intricacies of science, and his latest student collaboration showcases another new perspective.

In 2012, Robak collaborated with Kat Andonucci ’13 to produce “The Art of Chemistry,” a unique exhibit featuring chemical experiments often photographed by Andonucci at slow speeds or in low light to highlight the array of colors, shapes and textures within a variety of chemical solutions, reactions and even optical illusions. This time, Robak’s collaboration with biology major Phil Longyear ’14, a Rushville resident, explores the variety of natural elements from the Periodic Table found in and around the Penn Yan area.

Dr. Robak, left and Phil Longyear '14, right, on Main Street, Penn Yan.

Together, the duo visited manufacturing plants like Abtex and Ferro, artisan studios and even retail shops such as Pinckney’s Ace Hardware to document in photographs the elements in their natural or manufactured forms. The resulting images —with each name, two-letter scientific abbreviation, and a brief description of its characteristics and uses —are now on display in many storefront windows along Main Street, Penn Yan, effectively turning Main Street itself into an art gallery for “Elements of the Finger Lakes.”

Nearly 60 elements of the Periodic Table’s full 118 elements were found; the full collection of images can also be viewed at the Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library on the campus of Keuka College. An opening reception will be held from 4 – 5:30 p.m. at Milly’s Pantry, 19 Main Street on Wednesday, June 10. Milly’s is one of many local shops featuring works from the “Elements of the Finger Lakes.” The exhibit will continue through July on Main Street and through August on campus.

A welder at Coach and Equipment works with special tools, producing plasma from the reaction of (O) oxygen with the fuel in the tool (most likely acetylene gas).

“The project really helps people understand what chemical elements are, where they come from, how we use them and where they are [found],” Longyear said. “I like the fact that it will bring science to the masses in a way that they can understand.”

According to Longyear, the “field trips” he and Robak took last fall to companies like Ferro or Coach and Equipment proved how common many of the elements truly are. Ferro, the former Transition Element Company (TransElCo), manufactures an array of pigments, powders used to make computing materials, polishing applications for lenses, polymers, plastics and more. Coach and Equipment produces small to mid-size transit buses using elements including lead (Pb), Fluorine (F), lithium (Li) and argon (Ar) in its engineering process.

At Ferro, workers take basic elements like carbon (C), titanium, (Ti) and tungsten (W), and refine them for an industrial use. So the up-close-and-personal views offered at Ferro for the exhibit educate participants beyond just a logo or company tagline, Longyear said.

“This is more than the sign on the front and [the product] that comes out the door. This is what’s in-between and that was really interesting,” he described.

According to Robak, a project such as this serves to merge science with the community. Not only will participants learn a little more about chemistry, but they’ll learn more about the community where they live and work too.

“The Periodic Table can be hard to relate to … but in its simplest sense, it’s a list of the essence of every material that we can touch, see or interact with in our daily lives,” Robak said, adding that many people may not realize just how many elements could be in their own homes, too.

A classic Periodic Table wall chart, found at Ferro.

“This project would not have happened without those willing to let us ask questions, give tours or shoot photography inside their businesses,” Robak said, noting that many company staffers actively tried to find elements in use or suggest others for Robak and Longyear to document. Community participation for the exhibit has also been high, Robak added, thanking the numerous business owners along Main Street who agreed to display the poster-size images in storefront windows or indoor displays. A trifold brochure will also be available at many participating businesses so pedestrians can learn about the project as they stroll Main Street.

Dr. Robak examines a brick near the kiln at Peter Knickerbocker's Spider's Nest Pottery Studio.

Artisans such as Pete Knickerbocker of Spider’s Nest Pottery or Keuka College Professor Emeritus Dexter Benedict of Fireworks Foundry were also part of the exploration. Benedict sculpts works of bronze, using oxygen (O), aluminum (Al) and lots of copper (Cu) in the process. Meanwhile, Knickerbocker makes use of elements including cobalt (Co), iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), and also copper (Cu) in his pottery.

“I had no idea that a potter could tailor and design not only his or her own glazes, but the clay itself, and (Pete) was able to manipulate those elements in order to set himself apart in his field,” Longyear described.

While Longyear served as primary photographer, a few elements, such as hydrogen, posed a challenge to shoot because they can only be seen when reacting with another element, he said. In those cases, it was a challenge to “tell the story,” he said.

But Mother Nature also offered a few elements as well, which the duo incorporated into the project, including images of bones for calcium, the night sky (space) for hydrogen, and a sunset at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge to represent helium, Longyear explained.

“Every day we use elements from the earth. You can look at the Periodic Table and see a number and a name, but if you really dig into it, it’s really cool,” Longyear said.

March 20 is Advance Sign-Up Deadline for CSCY Volunteers

One of the youngest CSCY volunteers in 2014

By Victoria Grisdale ’17

KEUKA PARK— Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates (CSCY) is now less than one month away, and with April 12th fast approaching, area residents are encouraged to sign up soon to participate in this annual service event. Organized by Keuka College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, CSCY is the day each year in which volunteers team up across the community on behalf of the county’s non-profit organizations. In the last 17 years, work sites have included youth camps, churches, cemeteries, libraries, fire departments and more.

Last year, a number of Keuka College students in various clubs, organizations, and sports teams —as well as individuals from the communities of Penn Yan, Branchport and Dundee — came out to help rake, clean, paint, and plant whatever was needed at 20 different non-profit work sites across the county.

One of those volunteers, Mike Wainwright ’15 worked alongside classmates Sara Sloan ’15, Haley Jordan ‘15 and Eric Saltrelli ‘15 at the ARC home on Hamilton Street last year and said they helped clean up garden beds and lay sod for spring, receiving a very warm welcome. Wainwright said he has participated every year and it has been a great experience seeing more and more students volunteer each year.

Mike Wainwright '15 helps rake up sod at the ARC home in 2014

This is a great, supportive community that is always a part of the College, whether it is at sporting events or by hosting Field Period™ students,” he said. “I’m excited to go back this year and put a smile on someone’s face for something as small as fixing the yard where the snowplow scraped it up.”

Wainwright added that in addition to getting out in the community, CSCY provides a good opportunity to “roll up your sleeves and spend time with friends.”

Sweeping up at the Izaak Walton League clubhouse

Katie Talbot ‘17, a co-captain on the Keuka College women’s soccer team worked alongside teammates raking and mulching trails in the Teamworks! Adventure Complex on the hill behind the campus.

“It was a rewarding experience that helped bring our community together,” the sophomore said. “I’m looking forward to helping out again this year and spending the day getting to know the community better.”

To that end, volunteers are urged to pre-register online at by Friday, March 20 to guarantee a free CSCY T-shirt and submit a request for any round-trip transportation needed to work sites on the day of the event. While walk-in volunteers will still be accepted the day of the event, March 20 is the cutoff to reserve transportation and guarantee an event T-shirt.

One of the sponsors of the event, AVI Fresh, will provide a free lunch in the Geiser Refectory in Dahlstrom Student Center between 11 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. for all volunteers checking in to receive work assignments the day of the event. The kickoff ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. and will include Keuka College’s new mascot, Kacey the Wolf.

Students in the Penn Yan Central School District will be receiving brochures to take home to their families to encourage participation, thanks to the generous support of school district leaders and the ARC of Yates print shop, which donated printing services to help spread the word.

One of the many 2014 CSCY service teams

Elsewhere in the community, the Ferro corporation has issued a “corporate challenge” to other area businesses to empower teams of company employees to volunteer during the event this year. Ferro is recruiting its own company team of volunteers for CSCY and is urging other businesses to do the same. In prior years, teams from the Eaves Dental Group, the District Attorney’s Office and others have participated on behalf of local companies to support the county-wide event.

Non-profit agencies also have until March 20 to submit a request online for volunteer services as a designated work site this year. The form can be accessed online at:



‘This World is Ready for You’

New York Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy

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.”

Senior Class President Darrcy Matthews

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.

Dr. Anne Weed, vice president for academic affairs, presents Prof. Benedict with a doctoral hood.

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.

View More Photographs from the 106th Commencement

KC Volunteers Help Penn Yan Neighbors

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.

(Photo by staffer Justin Krog)

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.

A shuttle filled with volunteers takes off from campus at 3 p.m.

“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.”

A student volunteer hauls salvage out of the Once Again Shoppe (Photo by M.A. Leet '16)

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.

(Photo by M.A. Leet '16)

“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.”

(Photo by staffer Justin Krog)

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.”  

Volunteers clear out sets and props from a muddy Sampson Theatre (Photo by M.A. Leet '16)

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. 

Rachael Ford'16 and other students help salvage set pieces at Sampson Theatre (photo by M.A. Leet '16)

“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.

Flood damage along West Lake Road (Photo by M.A. Leet '16)

“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.”

College staffer Chevanne DeVaney, right, and Tracy Iversen '16 carry damaged goods out of the garage of a home on W. Lake Road. (Photo by M.A. Leet '16)

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.

Penn Yan Academy students assist a W. Lake Rd. resident carrying damaged furniture out of a garage. (Photo by M.A. Leet '16)

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.

Photo by M.A. Leet '16

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.

Partnering with a Purpose

MSMIB Team Star presented a plan for Penn Yan Rotary Club. Left to right, Hui "Spencer" Shen, Fredric Tassone, Sida "Panta" Liu, Club president Robert Schwarting, and Lin "Molan" Zhang

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.

Illustration from an MSMIB presentation to benefit Keuka's Center for Global Education.

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…)