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Alumni Spotlight 

Robert A. “Rob” Smith, ’90, is a native of Queensbury and recently announced his intention to run for Warren County Family Court Judge. Rob currently works as a senior court attorney for Warren County Court Judge John S. Hall, Jr. He says his decision to run was largely inspired by his late mother Joann, who loved kids and she was “one of the reasons I’m taking the next step. She passed away almost 15 years ago after a short courageous battle with cancer…She will always be a tremendous inspiration to me.”

Rob Smith and his wife Wanda.

Rob earned a business administration degree from SUNY Adirondack and a bachelor’s degree in economics from SUNY Albany. He is an honors graduate of Albany Law School and began his legal career working for the late Richard J. Bartlett, at the firm of Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, PC in Glens Falls. Rob later took employment with attorney Stan Pritzker, now a justice on the New York State Supreme Court.

We caught up with Rob at lunch at The Docksider on Glen Lake.

Q: Why did you choose to start your education at SUNY Adirondack?

A: After graduating from Queensbury, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had three careers in mind – an elementary school teacher, a lawyer, or an FBI agent. The FBI involved legal issues, so I thought I could become a lawyer and then move into the FBI with a law degree. It also just sounded cool to me at the time.  On the other hand, I always loved kids and loved working with kids. When I graduated high school, the Queensbury School District had possibly one to two male teachers in the elementary school. I felt that the school needed more male teachers, and would be a good way to find a job relatively easily just out of college.

SUNY Adirondack was affordable and close to home. I didn’t have that need or desire that most kids have to get away from my parents and hometown. I loved the area. I also came from a family of five kids. My parents just couldn’t afford to pay for the rising costs of college, even back then. My parents worked very hard to provide for us, so I was not going to burden them with my education expenses. I also wasn’t sure what I wanted to become. So my thought was this: Why waste the money when I’m not sure what I want to do? One of the best parts about the school was the college’s open door policy – that is, if you wanted to speak to a professor, the door was always open. I had a much different experience at SUNY Albany – there were 50 to 200 people in one class, and you always wound up speaking to teaching assistants. 

SUNY Adirondack is a hidden gem in this area.  It really bothers me that the college is still looked at as “Bay Road Tech,” or a place where kids go because they couldn’t get into a “real college.” But it was very good to me, and for me. To date, it’s the best schooling I’ve received. I hear kids say, “I’m just gonna go to (SUNY Adirondack)” and I stop ‘em and I say, “If you are unsure of what you want to do, this will be the best decision you’ll ever make for your education. Period.” My oldest son will be taking classes there next year.

Q: Who inspired you at SUNY Adirondack?

A: I can honestly say I didn’t have a bad professor here. Drew Bonacic was a good professor and he dealt with students well. John O’Kane and Richard Tarantino, instructors in the criminal justice program, were great teachers. John was retired from the NYPD and Dick was a Glens Falls City Court judge – he taught a lot of classes and guided me toward a law degree. Tarantino preached that a law degree was self-sustaining, and made me understand that it was better to get the degree while you’re young rather than try later when life becomes a little more complicated.

Q: What motivated you to transfer to SUNY Albany, and then move on to Albany Law?

A: I was fascinated by economics and understood it well. By the time I graduated from SUNY Albany, though, I had made up my mind to take Mr. Tarantino’s advice and go to law school. My uncle, G. Emmett Smith, went to law school and I followed in his footsteps.

Q: What has changed in the practice of law since you earned your degree?

A:  I have worked for the Warren County Court System for most of my legal career, so my opinion will lean more towards what I see the courts doing. The court system today recognizes the need for treatment. It has finally realized that it’s cheaper to treat someone as opposed to incarcerating them. Judges also recognize the need to get a real understanding of why people are appearing before them.  Mental health is another area that needs immediate attention.    

Q: You were instrumental in creating the first Treatment Court in Warren County, right?

A: Yes – Warren County Court Judge John Austin and I created the first treatment court. We worked in collaboration with our District Attorney, Kate Hogan, Director of Probation Robert Iusi, the defense bar and various treatment agencies to create the first felony treatment court in Warren County’s history. It was a felony treatment court, designed for recidivists who continue to commit crimes due to substance abuse related issues. The idea behind the court was quite simple: Help these people with their addiction and decrease the likelihood of them committing new crimes. If you cure the addiction, you stop the criminality. I am proud to say that we have had a lot of success in that.

We’ve had over 200 graduates of the Treatment Court and approximately 75 are currently in the program now. But it’s not easy. A person really has to want to make the necessary changes in order to graduate. It’s very intensive and takes one to three years to complete. There’s a lot of random drug testing, a lot of meetings, and scheduled court appearances.

Family court has an adult family treatment court and a juvenile treatment court that were both modeled after ours. Although these programs have not seen as much success as ours, I do believe that my extensive knowledge and experience in this area can turn those programs around.  Understanding the nature of addiction and obtaining the proper treatment is critical in assisting addicts to live more productive lives, and more importantly, maintain healthier and safer relationships with their children, family members and other members of society. Unfortunately, substance abuse issues are all too prevalent in many Family Court cases. After hearing the speakers at the recent “Hometown v. Heroin” presentation at SUNY Adirondack, I am convinced that a juvenile treatment program is critical in halting the spread of drug and alcohol use among our youth. I would take the necessary steps to regenerate the somewhat “defunct” Juvenile Treatment Court Program in Warren County. 

Q: Why did you decide to run for Family Court Judge?

A: The main reason is quite simple: I really enjoy helping people solve problems and working with kids. I have worked with kids, in some capacity, my entire life. I have coached hundreds of kids in our community in various sports. I am a board member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and was recently assigned a new “little.” Seeing the impact that I can have on a child’s life is very gratifying to me. Being as involved in the community as I am, however, has also allowed for me to see the many different family dynamics that exist, and the many problems associated with those dynamics. Families are struggling, and if I can provide them with a map to a safer and healthier place, then I feel that it is my obligation as a member of this community to do so.

I have also seen far too many cases come to county court where the individual has an extensive family court file. These individuals have now graduated from PINS and Juvenile Delinquency proceedings to adult felons. Part of me wonders if something is getting missed. Having two Judges will allow them each to spend more time with each file and hopefully stop this trend.

I also believe that my knowledge and experience with treatment court can have a tremendous impact on many of the families and kids in Family Court. You have to understand, the Treatment Courts in the Warren County Court System can have a positive impact not just on the participants, but their families and our community as a whole. The problems in Family Court – substance abuse and addictions – are similar to those in other courts. If you can beat the addiction, life becomes as little less chaotic. It effects positive change.

I have 16 and 14 year old boys.  Raising kids today is so different than it was even 10 years ago. I think Family Court needs a Judge who is young enough to understand today’s kids and families and strong enough to handle the issues. I feel I have both qualities. 

Q: One of the biggest reasons you are embarking on this campaign is in memory of your mother, Joann.

A: My mom passed away 15 years ago. She’s one of the reasons I’m taking the next step. She loved kids. Both she and my father continue to have a tremendous impact on my life and how I view things.                     

Both of my parents grew up in Glens Falls, my mother on Third Street and my father on Cherry Street. My father lost his dad when he was 6 years old. He was a worker and helped take care of his mom at a very young age. He has one of the brightest minds and a memory which I envy. He worked seven days a week to provide for his family and showed me how important it was to take care of your family.

My mom grew up in Glens Falls and loved kids. I am confident that is where my love and passion for kids comes from. She always tried to see the best in everyone, and instilled that belief in me. She understood that things aren’t always what they appeared to be, and always tried to not judge a book by its cover.

My mother was very handy and loved to reupholster furniture. I remember her and I driving around Glens Falls one day and she saw a ratty old couch sitting on a curb. When she stopped to look at it, I was embarrassed. Then she started to explain to me why she had stopped.  She said, “You look at this piece of furniture and you see a ratty old couch. I look at it and see the study frame that’s hidden underneath. It’s the frame that makes the couch, not the cloth.” We ended up taking that couch home. Mom re-upholstered it and made it brand new again. That was always one of her many talents, taking something old and making it new again.

I view kids and people in a similar light. I don’t judge people because they dress differently or look different than I do. I try to see the good in everyone and try to bring the best out of everyone. It is one of the reasons why I love coaching kids.  Perhaps my ideas and suggestions can take these broken families and kids and make them new again.

I’m hoping my story will send a message to kids in the area. I started from simple beginnings, went to SUNY Adirondack, and now I’m running for Family Court Judge. The sky’s the limit.

For more information on Rob Smith, go to or visit his Facebook page at RobSmithforJudge.

(This story was published on July 15, 2015.)


Interview with Malcolm Orton, '71, who retired in 2010 after a 40-year career in high school chemistry education. "I have nothing but the fondest of memories from my time at SUNY Adirondack."

Malcolm Orton, ’71, retired in 2010 after 40 years of teaching high school chemistry in Vermont and Colorado. A 1968 graduate of South Glens Falls High School, Malcolm grew up in Wilton on a strawberry farm and eventually went on to earn advanced degrees at SUNY Plattsburgh and Wesley College in Boston. But he credits SUNY Adirondack chemistry professor Peter Tarana with pushing him and encouraging him to do his best, and his memories of how Tarana mentored him influenced his own teaching style.

“Peter was as instrumental in my career as anybody,” Malcolm says.

Malcolm and his wife Janet, a retired English teacher, live in Boulder, CO. We caught up with Malcolm in a recent phone call.


Q: So, you grew up in Wilton on a strawberry farm?

A: Yes – with no running water. I graduated from South High in 1968 but I went back in the summer to clean up some of my classes. I started at SUNY Adirondack in the fall of 1969 and graduated with an associate degree in chemistry. I later earned a B.S. degree in chemistry and a master’s in chemistry education from SUNY Plattsburgh and, decades later, a master’s degree in computer education from Wesley College in Boston through an outreach program while I was living in Boulder.

Q: You cite Peter Tarana as an influence and recently visited him.

A: I was back in town for my brother’s 80th birthday recently and I contacted him. I wasn’t sure he would remember me but he and his wife did remember me. It was great to catch up with him after 45 years. You really don’t know how somebody has influenced you until many years later.

Q: What was it about Pete that got you interested in teaching?

A: Well, I decided to go to SUNY Adirondack because I had to live at home and it was the only place I could afford. I scrounged up rides several days a week, and Pete would drop me off after chemistry labs on his way home. He lived in Ballston Spa at the time and the chem lab ran from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and it was on his way.

Q: You were a work-study student at the time?

A: I worked as an aide in the chemistry lab. I was working in the prep room in the back, and he would ask me to go out into the lab and help students working in the lab. I liked helping those students and it kind of clicked – I would rather be out in the lab helping students than in the back doing prep work. That got the ball rolling.

While I was at SUNY Adirondack, both parents had died in separate incidents. What stuck with me then, and what continued to stick with me throughout my career, was what a caring and compassionate man Peter Tarana was. I had nothing going for me and I had nothing. He was a very, very nice person. He did a lot to help push me up the road. I thought about him and modeled my teaching style after his.

Eventually, I got jobs and taught in schools with kids of similar backgrounds as mine – and I gave kids a break that needed a break. That’s the influence Peter had on me.

Years later, I won a teaching award and I’ve spoken at several graduations, and in those speeches I’ve always given a shout out to Pete Tarana and referred to him and the help he gave me in pushing me along. Without his encouragement, I’m not sure I would have made it in the teaching world.

Q: Your first teaching job was in Vermont and your upbringing on the farm paid off, right?

A: My first four years of teaching was at a school outside Burlington. I was one of the finalists for the position. It was between me and a person with a Ph.D. in chemistry. The principal told me he needed someone with a background in farming, and he was more interested in my farming background, since I grew up on a strawberry farm. He said, “I need somebody who is willing to relate to farm kids, getting up early in the morning and doing chores and the long hours for maple sugaring.” He hired me on the spot.

Q: You relocated to Boulder and you’ve made it your home now.

A: Boulder is a wonderful place to live. It was great when I got here and now that I’m retired we’re enjoying all the area has to offer.

Q: Why did you retire?

A: I think as the years went on, the education bureaucracy got to the point where teaching became too much bureaucracy and all about standardized testing and meeting the standard. It’s now a moving target. You were teaching to the standard – “What number? What number?” they say. Teaching to the number of the standard was more important than the quality of teaching.

I spent a lot of time instituting a tech-based curriculum and web-site based testing. It took a lot of time, money and effort for me to get a computer on every kid’s desk. But it got to be too much. I thought I’d get out – it’s just changed too much.

Q: What advice would you give to prospective science, math and technology teachers now?

A: Back when I started teachers had more respect, but it’s a wonderful time to be in education with all the resources you have now. In the late 1960s, there was no such thing as a calculator – we all had slide rules. There were no Xerox machines. There are wonderful resources that technology brings. It’s a wonderful career.

I tell my student teachers: Don’t get too consumed in bureaucracy. Teaching is teaching and science is science. I’m helping a guy now who is a Ph.D. and wants to get back into teaching.

I say this: You walk into your classroom every morning and there are green buttons and there are red buttons. Don’t push the red buttons. There are problems you have with students, with testing, with bureaucracy – just deal with it.

Q: And you are an advocate of the community college education model.

A: Yes. I would encourage everyone, if they need an education, to go the community college route. I went to four major universities, and the quality of the education in those places was not as good as the education I got at SUNY Adirondack. I never would have developed a relationship with a professor like Peter Tarana at a large university, either. I have nothing but the fondest of memories from my time at SUNY Adirondack.

Q: Now, in your retirement, you are a cycling enthusiast, which is an interest you share with Peter.

A: Oh, yes - I’d like to have him hooked up on the cycling tour. I’m a big cyclist – my wife and I did the route for the Tour de France. Janet is a retired English teacher and our family is her and I and our golden retriever.

I got married for the first time when I was 44. She was my number one, but I was her number two.


Malcolm Orton welcomes contact with other classmates and professors. Please contact him at:

(This story was published May 19, 2015.)


Interview with Sheridian "Sherry" Aiken, '81, Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.

"The college is key to the success of our area."

Sheridian “Sherry” Aiken, ’81, is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a France-based company. Saint-Gobain locally has facilities in Granville and Hoosick Falls. She has been with the company for 20 years and is responsible for providing training and development along with growth opportunities for employees, as well as standard human resources services for 320 employees combined at the two plants.

Sherry was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but was raised in Corinth, NY. After graduation from Corinth Central High School, she lived in England with her mother’s family to explore opportunities in another country. She returned to the area after six months. She began her career at SUNY Adirondack in 1979 and earned an associate degree in business administration. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from The College of St. Rose and a master’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh.

Sherry resides in South Glens Falls. Her husband and daughter are also SUNY Adirondack alums.

We spoke with Sherry by phone in early April.

Q: Were you born in the area?

A: No, I was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but we moved here when I was about four or five years old. We lived in Corinth and I graduated from Corinth Central High School. I decided to go to England after graduation to visit family and work.

Q: How did you decide on human resources as a career?

A: Well, I kind of fell into it. I was hired by James River Corporation (now SCA Tissue in South Glens Falls) as a receptionist in the Human Resource Office. My direct supervisor really mentored me and supported my quest to learn.  Both my bosses were good and I learned a lot about the HR field from them. During this time, I said to myself, “I think I like this field,” so I went back to SUNY Adirondack as a returning adult student in 1979.

I joined Saint-Gobain in 1995 and worked at the Granville plant until 2011 as the Human Resource Manager and sometimes Safety Manager. In 2011, I graduated with my master’s from SUNY Plattsburgh and was promoted to Senior Human Resource Manager and given responsibility for both the Granville and Hoosick Falls facilities for Saint-Gobain. I was able to hire two human resource generalists who report to me, and I share my time between both facilities to this day.

I was certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources in 2004 from the Human Resource Certification Institute (HCI).  In November of 2014 I received my Green Belt certification through Solving Effeso and Saint-Gobain.

Q: Many of our returning adult students have to juggle family and work obligations. Did you have many of the same issues?

A: Oh, yes. My first job was for the Boy Scouts of America at the Mohican Council office. I was a secretary and receptionist. I had a job at the old Joy Store in South Glens Falls. When I was first going to SUNY Adirondack, I was working full-time and taking a full-time course load. I had three jobs – I was also working at a diner as a short order cook.

Q: Who from SUNY Adirondack inspired you?

A: When I first started taking classes, I was thinking about secretarial science, but I soon found I didn’t like it – but I learned to type!  Typing has been a great skill to have throughout my career.  When I switched to business administration, Nick Buttino was so full of energy, even at classes at 8 o’clock in the morning. I took an 8 a.m. course, and he was always so pumped up. He was teaching the law of diminishing returns to college students at eight in the morning, I will never forget it. Nick was very helpful after I left SUNY Adirondack. I got help from him on my bachelor’s degree when I was at St. Rose taking additional economics classes.

Chandler Atkins and Dr. Joe Jacobi were other instructors who were instrumental and very helpful. I took several classes from both and throughout my career I have reached out to Chandler for support.   I think all the instructors were extremely fair and supportive – that’s especially critical if you are a returning adult student.

I felt then and still feel now that a business degree at SUNY Adirondack provided me a great foundation and a great start in the workforce.  It still stands true for students today.

Q: How has Human Resources changed in the years you’ve been at Saint-Gobain?

A: Well, I think the main thing is the way in which services are managed. Now you are asking employees to manage their own health benefits. We do a lot of third party and outsourcing for training, benefits, and payroll. You’re just managing things in a different way. We have four generations of employees in the company, and some of the more mature employees need assistance in getting used to technology – new employees expect self-service and instant access – and the world has changed. It’s gone global and there is a lot of tech-based resources from training to payroll, on-boarding and recruiting.

Still, at the core of it, you are helping people. We’re always finding ways to say yes instead of no. My role today is to look strategically and develop generalists to run the plants. There is always an opportunity to improve. The company is good to me, but there is still a lot to be done.

SUNY Adirondack is part of our success. We’ve worked with (SUNY Adirondack Workforce Development Coordinator) Leza Wood to provide training for our people. The college is key to the success of our area, and it serves a critical need. I mean, without it, Albany is the closest city for some of those training opportunities as well as education for employees.

The establishment of the Regional Higher Ed Center is critical because people don’t have to drive so far. That partnership with other higher level colleges is needed and that connection is undersold, in my opinion. Many employers, like us, provide tuition assistance to their employees.  What a win-win for everyone.

(This story was published April 16, 2015.)


Interview with Andrew Holcomb, '14, who plans to pursue a degree and career in music education and piano performance at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

"I learned to work with people and gained many skills that helped with my success in music and leadership, thanks to the entire music faculty, which I still consider to be like a family."


Andrew Holcomb, ’14, earned a dual degree from SUNY Adirondack in liberal arts humanities/social science and music and graduated with honors as part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Now his musical talent as a pianist has taken him to the prestigious Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, where he has been studying music education since the fall.

Andrew, a Granville native who was active also in student government at SUNY Adirondack, says his father Paul Holcomb, ’88, steered him toward SUNY Adirondack, where Andrew says he matured as a student and a person.

We spoke with Andrew during a visit to SUNY Adirondack’s campus in early March.


Q: What led you to enroll at SUNY Adirondack?

A: I initially enrolled as an art major at a four-year school in Albany, but I was having health issues due to stress, and I was down in the dumps. Creativity felt like something that was forced out of me, and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

I eventually realized I was immature and, at times, very irresponsible. Certain professors there told me how much potential they saw in me as an artist and they recognized the talent I had as a student. But during my time there, I just couldn’t pull myself together. I had no organizational skills, I was terrible at planning, and I didn’t take the schoolwork seriously.

My interest in music was more of a dormant thing – my grandma showed me the keyboard during my senior year of high school and taught me what “middle c” was. I hit one note, and I would say that’s what started it.

When I was at an all-time low, a close friend at the time sat me down to listen to him play piano. Miraculously, the anxiety I had seemed to disappear from my body. From then on, he would occasionally play for me when I was feeling stressed, and I then began to start listening to piano music all the time. Over time, I slowly started falling in love with it because of how it made me feel. For some reason, it took away any emotional pain I felt. It simply made me happy.

Q: Your father Paul encouraged you to enroll, right?

A: Yes, he was a 1988 graduate. SUNY Adirondack was closer to home and I was able to work as a work study student. He was successful here and said the school was affordable and offered a lot of degree programs. I earned six scholarships during my time there, and met some truly inspirational people.                  

Q: Who here inspired you to pursue your music degree?

A: I took my first piano lesson during the first week of classes in 2011. I had actually been trying out one of the pianos in a practice room a few weeks prior to fall classes and (music adjunct) Miriam Enman heard me and walked in. She was very encouraging and supportive, and would end up being my instructor during my time there. But I had a lot of support from people in other areas, also. I was eventually elected vice president of Student Senate and then president the following year. The faculty advisers and Student Activities staff were very welcoming. I felt more involved in student life on campus. I felt I was doing something with my life, more than just playing and enjoying music, and not only was I developing myself as a musician, but also as a person.

Q: You said you had the musical and academic talent already, but you needed to find a purpose and channel those energies.

A: I got a second chance and took advantage of it. I realized that musically, there was something there, and I was by no means an academic failure. The first thing that happened was that I was getting all the skills I wish I had acquired in my first year of college. Then I realized that my music performance skills and leadership skills in student government worked hand in hand – they worked symbiotically with each other. Lots of life skills came with studying music – putting in the time and practice in studying music carried over into working with student government, and consequently, how to maintain a high GPA despite stressful workloads.

Working with Student Senate was like working as a section leader in the SUNY Adirondack vocal ensemble. I was on this journey of gaining knowledge and the experience helped me tremendously. I became very introspective and the experience was changing me day by day. I learned to work with people and gained many skills that helped with my success in music and leadership, thanks to the entire music faculty, which I still consider to be like a family.

I was a different person in my second year here and my instructors saw that. I was gaining confidence in all areas of my life – getting on stage was as terrifying as public speaking, and I was learning to handle that stress.

Q: Is there an accomplishment at SUNY Adirondack that you are particularly proud of?

A: I was a member of the Faculty-Student Association board, and we worked with the Greater Glens Falls Transit System to allow students free transportation on the GGFT System. It was a great accomplishment and it was total team effort. I’m very proud of that achievement.

Secondly, with the help of Micah Scoville and a few close friends, I was able to re-establish the Music Club on campus and to serve as a proponent of engaging people on campus about the Music Department and what classical music is about.

Q: How was your first year at SUNY Potsdam?

A: Extremely eye-opening! I have never been happier. I even joined a music fraternity there, and it’s helped to focus my outlook on how I want to use music to help people. Our Theta Iota chapter president, John Alecci, mentioned this bit of philosophy to me: “I equate mystery not with the unknown but with the yet-to-be-known.” It really is about the journey and not necessarily the destination.

Q: What are your future plans?

Right now I’m majoring in music education and plan to earn a performance certificate or degree if I can audition into the program. I’m focusing on a piano pedagogy concentration and I want to earn an art degree as a minor. Plus, I’d like to earn a master’s degree and perhaps a doctorate in music. I plan on making performance and the study of piano a lifelong passion.

Q: How has your experience at SUNY Adirondack changed your life?

A: As I said, this whole experience has been more like a journey for me, more than anything else. I’d rather start from nothing and chase a lifelong dream than to fall so far from a perfect place.

My goal in music is to maintain a high level of performance, no matter what – to evoke feelings from the audience from the performance I give on stage. I view every performance as a bond between performer and the listener.

All of my experiences make me a better person – I feel like I grow and learn more about myself through music. And I’ve learned it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

(This interview was published March 19, 2015.)


Interview with Bonnie Derby, ’86, a CPA and CFE who earned a business degree at SUNY Adirondack and recently retired from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“It doesn’t matter if you went to Harvard or SUNY Adirondack. If you put yourself out there, you can have it.”


Bonnie Derby, ’86, is a shining example of a person who decided to take a leap and hope the net would show itself. Because she worked hard and took a chance, she got the opportunity to see the world.

Bonnie earned a business degree from SUNY Adirondack and eventually earned a degree from SUNY Plattsburgh. She is a CPA and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) and continues to work for an international organization traveling to trouble spots around the world to make sure proper financial controls are followed. She retired from the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2012 but continues to work to make sure U.S. aid is distributed fairly and properly. Her work has taken her to Africa, the Middle East, Belgium, Burma and Haiti, among other locales.

She and her husband Lloyd (also a SUNY Adirondack alumnus) have three adult children and eight grandchildren, and she says he has one of the best retirement perks ever: He gets to tag along with her on her trips abroad.

We spoke to Bonnie last fall from her home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during a break in her travels.


Q: You were born and raised in Hudson Falls and now you are traveling the world making sure people account for every penny of U.S. foreign aid they spend. How did that journey begin?

A: I was born in Glens Falls and graduated from Hudson Falls High School in 1969. I worked as an assembler at the General Electric mill in Fort Edward – I would work six months and then be laid off for six months. That was my life. I was taking night classes part-time at the college and GE paid me to take the classes. I left GE before they could lay me off permanently; right before the company moved the capacitor business to Mexico.

I got interested in accounting at SUNY Adirondack, and one of my professors – Martha Searleman – encouraged me to get a four-year degree because the difference in career potential between having a four-year degree as opposed to a two-year degree was substantial. She was so encouraging that I gave it a shot.

Three fall semesters I drove all the way up north to attend classes at SUNY Plattsburgh, and didn’t go in the spring semesters because of the weather. I went Tuesdays and Thursdays - I left home at 5:30 a.m. and drove north, went to classes, and drove home the same day and got home at midnight. I really don’t know how I did it - I had the best little guardian angel. Everything from that point on directed me.

Q: How did you get your job with the GAO?

A: One day, I was in the student lounge at Plattsburgh and saw a notice on the bulletin board from the U.S. General Accounting Office {now the Government Accountability Office} looking for interns to serve in the Albany office. Even though I wasn't sure what GAO did, I felt that I needed to get a leg up on the traditional younger students and an internship was one way to do so. So I applied and got an interview. During the interview I was asked if I knew what GAO was – it’s an arm of Congress and a research organization and responds to Congressional requests. I told the interviewers that working for GAO certainly sounded better than working for the Internal Revenue Service, whom I had also interviewed with. I asked what they thought I should do if I was offered a position with the IRS. They said “Put ‘em on hold.” So I took the GAO position.

I interned with GAO in 1987 and 1988, and graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1988 with a B.S. in accounting and a minor in economics, AND graduated cum laude. I worked for the GAO in Albany until that office was closed in 1994. I was in public accounting for a while until I got a call from a headhunter to work in Washington, D.C. to lead a team on the consolidation of the first set of financial statements in the House of Representatives. So we moved to Fredericksburg and I commuted to Washington. I spent a year on that job, was recruited by the House of Representatives and became the Accounting Director at the Finance Office and eventually went back to the GAO headquarters in D.C. until my retirement in 2012.

Q: But that’s just the beginning of the story, right?

A: It’s funny – each piece of this journey resulted in the next step.

One day shortly before 9-11 I was called into a meeting with my director. She said “I don’t want you to feel you have to do this, but if you are interested, I’d like you to take my place at a meeting in Brussels.” It was a meeting of the Internal control sub-committee for the INTOSAI – International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions. GAO is the U.S. Supreme Audit Institute. INTOSAI sets international auditing standards. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I had no idea how my life was about to change. I was terrified and excited.

So I took her place in Belgium, and we met in the former king’s palace at a huge table. Each seat had a flag representing the country representative. It was so intimidating. But that experience led me to other places.

Q: Didn’t you have dinner with a leader of a Middle Eastern country?

A: Well, once I went to a meeting in Oman with my best friend, also from Hudson Falls. We were in the hotel when we heard a knock on the door. A man was in the doorway with a silver platter and he said, “The King would like you to join him for dinner.” When he left, we just jumped up and down and said, “He doesn’t know we’re from Hudson Falls!” So we had dinner on the beach with the King of Oman! I never ever forget where I came from. I pinch myself all the time that all of this really happened to me.

I tell you, I was fortunate to have had to get a government passport for that first meeting in Brussels; it got me entry into some many great adventures. I got to go to Africa and examine HIV clinics. Women walk miles to these clinics. In Burma, we backpacked for a week into remote villages with the Save The Children Foundation. I was in Haiti after the earthquake. Wherever there was a natural disaster from 2002 through 2011, I followed it.

I probably have the best job in the whole world. I work with interesting people who risk their lives to better the lives of others. I just keep learning.

Q: You’ve undertaken a wonderful journey and the best part is you get to take your family members along.

A: My husband Lloyd earned two degrees from ACC, worked at Ciba-Geigy, and then opened his own business – he’s now retired. But he has a wonderful retirement perk: He gets to tag along with me and see the world. This year, one of my grandsons is getting a passport. He can tag along with me on my next trip.

Q: Is there anything you’ve learned on this ride?

A: We all need to be sensitive to people in need. I was blessed with this job and I’ve seen some horrible devastation. It’s wonderful to see how grateful people are to get help.

As far as my education is concerned, I just took a chance. All the cards were against me, but if I can do it, anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter if you went to Harvard or SUNY Adirondack. If you put yourself out there, you can have it. You only live once that I know of.

One last thought: although I believe in taking opportunities when they come along, there was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I passed on. Right after my retirement from GAO, I was interviewed by and subsequently received a written offer from the government of the United Arab Emirates to design and manage a forensic audit unit within its Supreme Audit Institute, I could have been living on the beach in Dubai, but I chose to live here in the U.S. and watch my grandkids grow up.

(This interview was published February 12, 2015.)


Interview with Drew Schiavi, Class of 2003, who joined cable sports giant ESPN in 2012 as an associate director after seven years as technical director at WRGB in Schenectady: "Kevin Ankeny always preached this: You get out of it what you put into it."

If you’re a sports fan, perhaps you’ve dreamed of working for ESPN

Drew Schiavi, ’03, is living the dream.

Drew is a graduate of SUNY Adirondack’s Radio & Television Broadcasting program and is an associate director for the Bristol, CT-based cable sports giant. He joined ESPN in 2012 and is assigned to produce pieces for college football half-time shows and wrap-up shows, as well as for the various iterations of SportsCenter, ESPN’s signature program.

Drew grew up in Malta, NY, and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2001. He earned an A.A.S. in Radio/TV Broadcasting from SUNY Adirondack in 2003 and a B.S. from SUNY Oswego in 2005. He’s been married for three years to Randi Schiavi, a full-time nursing student at Tunxis Community College in Connecticut.

We spoke to Drew by phone in mid-November, just as the college football and National Football League seasons were kicking into high gear.

Q: First question: What exactly is an associate director?

A: An associate director is primarily a set-up man for the director. It’s my responsibility to protect all of the sponsorship elements. I’m responsible for getting “color shots” – cheerleaders leading, fans cheering, and such – from the game sites and pre-producing those segments so we can deliver them to the talent at the proper time.

One of the popular pieces I work on is “The Final Verdict.” It’s a popular pre-produced segment featuring (ESPN college football announcers) Rece Davis, Lou Holtz and Mark May. We produce the segments and then get them ready for other shows for air.

Q: How did you find your way to ESPN?

A: After I graduated from SUNY Oswego, I spent seven years at WRGB in Schenectady as a technical director. It was a great experience but I couldn’t go any farther up the ladder at WRGB. I needed a taller ladder to climb. Channel 6 had a total staff of about 150 people, while ESPN has a staff of seven thousand.

Anyway, I had a college roommate who worked at ESPN, and he hooked me up. I joined as a network control operator in 2012 and became an associate director in June of 2014.

Q: Where are you on the ESPN ladder right now, and how far up can you go?

A: Well, I’m an associate director, and then you go to director and then coordinating director then supervising director. At that point, the titles get a little foggy after that. But everybody knows who the boss is – the one with the big office.

Q: How hard is it to put together the pieces you produce?

A: It takes 15 to 20 people to put together the college football halftime package, not to mention the studio crew. And the interaction with the talent is great, but the level of interaction with the talent depends on which show you do. It’s easy to talk with the SportsCenter crew because we’re sitting in the same production pods and we have more personal interaction with them.

With the College Football show, the talent comes in at about 11 a.m. on a Saturday. I come in at 5 p.m. and they are already out there. Holtz, May, Brian Griese, they’ve been on the air a while…and Scott Van Pelt or Rece comes in to anchor.

Q: Who inspired you at SUNY Adirondack?

A: Kevin Ankeny (director of the broadcast program), without a doubt. He was, and is, a one-man promotional department for the program. He’s incredibly intelligent and preaches that if you’re willing to work for it, it can be done.

You’ll hear a lot of advice from people who say, aww, it’s hard to get a job in the field, everybody wants to be there, all the checklist stuff. But it can be done in spite of the advice of others, and I’m proof of that.

When I entered the program, I thought I was going to go into radio. I was smart kid but radio mostly appealed to me. I loved music and I liked people, so I gravitated toward radio. But the more TV classes I took, the more I liked television. And once I transferred to Oswego, I took more classes with a concentration in TV.

Q: So is Al Roker (the TODAY Show weatherman and SUNY Oswego alum) the icon up there that he appears to be?

A: It’s funny – they had a lot of SUNY Oswego alums come in and talk to the students, but Al was not on the list. The program liked to taut alumni in other fields, like one alum who was the Vice President of Fox News. They did engage a lot of alumni, though, including my now-ESPN colleague Steve Levy. Levy was such a presence in hockey broadcasting that they named the press box in the college hockey arena after him. Oswego was one of the few colleges to regularly broadcast its hockey games.

Q: Let’s get down to business. So - should college football players be paid?

A: I understand the stipulation that student athletes should be paid in big-time programs. These guys should get something when hundreds of millions of dollars are being earned on their likenesses. They are turning hundreds of dollars into hundreds of thousands of dollars for the big football schools. But the idea that (former Ohio State University star quarterback) Terrelle Pryor can’t give an autographed jersey in exchange for a tattoo is ludicrous. And this idea about an underpaid workforce seems unfair. But to offer the players contracts? No.

Q: What do you think about the idea of a college football playoff to determine the eventual national champion?

A: This is important stuff, but the NCAA is particularly myopic on this issue. Have they looked at the success of the men’s basketball Final Four in March? They should apply that same thinking to football.

I would prefer eight or 16 teams in a playoff, if it’s structured the right way. A 16-team playoff would be ideal. The champions of each of the 10 major conferences would get automatic bids, and then there would be six at-large bids. Whatever happens, though, it’s good for ESPN, since we have the rights to the playoffs for a while.

Q: What impact has social media had on sports coverage, and on the product you put on the air?

A: Well, social media has its place. It’s both helpful and intrusive. See, in the old days, you put on a sports show, and you hoped it was good, and then you waited for the overnight ratings to see how you did, or you read the next day’s reviews in the paper. Now, though, the feedback is immediate.

The programming is global but you have to keep it insulated. You can’t cede creative control of the show to the viewers. Someone has to make these creative decisions. But instant feedback can lend immediacy to the show.

Q: What advice do you have for young people looking to forge a career in broadcasting?

A: Kevin Ankeny always preached this: You get out of it what you put into it. The time you put in working with the equipment, the better off you will be. It’s going to take more than the baseline effort to be successful. At the completion of this program, you should be ready to go into the workforce.

Another thing Kevin said stuck with me, too: Ask for double what you want, and you’ll get half of what you ask for.

Finally, let me say this: Dedication is required. When I left SUNY Adirondack, I didn’t want to go to Oswego. I really felt I was ready to go into the workforce. The funny thing is, I started directing Oswego’s hockey broadcasts, and the things I learned at SUNY Adirondack applied directly to what I was doing at Oswego.

PLEASE NOTE - The opinions expressed by Drew Schiavi in this interview do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the employees or owners of ESPN Inc., the Walt Disney Company or the Hearst Corporation.

(This interview was published December 15, 2014.)


Interview with Larry Pringle, SUNY Adirondack Class of 1972, who has spent 45 years in education teaching science to junior high, high school and college students in Western Massachusetts. - "SUNY Adirondack took a smart talking little brat and kicked him in the butt and made something out of him."

Larry Pringle, ’72, has taught science and math to junior high, high school and college students in the Springfield, Massachusetts area for 45 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Larry is a native of Kingsbury and attended SUNY Adirondack from 1964 to 1966 at the college’s Hudson Falls campus. The self-described “wise-ass punk little kid” earned an associate degree from SUNY Adirondack, a B.S. in science from Castleton State College in Vermont and two masters degrees, one from Westfield State and one from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, both in Massachusetts.

He and his wife Danusia, a retired math teacher herself, live in Belchertown, Massachusetts and have three adult children.

We caught up with Larry by phone on an afternoon in early November when he wasn’t in the classroom.


Q: What motivated you to attend SUNY Adirondack?

A: I graduated from Hudson Falls High School when I was 16. My dad worked at the G.E. plant in Fort Edward and my mom worked in the G.E. office. I thought I would take a year off and then go work at G.E. But my parents didn’t want anything to do with that. By April of my senior year, I hadn’t applied to any colleges. But my parents did not agree with that plan so they drove me to Plattsburgh and Potsdam to see the campuses there.

At the end of the trip we got back here and we pulled into the old campus in Hudson Falls. We got out of the car and they marched me up to the front desk and my parents said, “Sign him up for September!” (Laughing.) I have not regretted it. It was the best two-and-a-half years of my life up to that point. It made me grow up. I was a wise-ass punk little kid.

Q: Did you have a direction in mind when you enrolled here?

A: I started in engineering, but my math skills were not up to par. I switched to a liberal arts degree but took science and math courses. I eventually earned my associate degree. I finished the degree in 1966, but I didn’t sign up to get my diploma until 1972. In the 1960s, we were hippies and protesters and it was not the thing to do to walk in graduation. But in my early adulthood, I thought, that place meant a lot to me and I’d really like to get a diploma from there.

I really wanted a taste of college life, to live in a dorm, so I transferred to Castleton State where I earned by bachelor’s in science. Castleton State was about the limit that my parents could afford.

I started a master’s degree in secondary school administration from Westfield State (now Westfield State University) while I was teaching in Springfield. I was about two years into this program when I was accepted into a master’s program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. For a two year period, I was teaching full-time and taking classes at WPI one night a week and at Westfield another night. I also held down a second job and it was during this time we had our first child.

Q: Who inspired you at SUNY Adirondack?

A: There were three faculty members who really made a difference: Don Rumsey, Norm Enhorning and Milton Crater.

Don was a professor of engineering and he was very professional. You did not deviate from his instructions. You did things his way.

Norm Enhorning and Milt Crater were history professors. Milt was a lunatic but he was very well-versed in his area. He wanted me to pursue a career in history. Ultimately, I didn’t, but it was because of him that I read a lot of history. I also took some chemistry classes from Hal Burrell.

I learned a lot about Revolutionary War history from Professor Enhorning. A former colleague of mine is a big Revolutionary War historian and re-enactor who happens to live in Lexington, Massachusetts. He can point out points of interest and battles fought that April 15 shot for shot. I’d like to get him and Norm together and just let them go at it.

The faculty was like a big family back then, and let me say this: Those people were not afraid to use a little discipline on you. They made a big difference in my life.

Q: Have you been back to the campus since 1972 when you signed up for your diploma?

A: Not in a while. My mom still lives in Vaughn’s Corners – she’s 95. I would like to come down to campus and look through the buildings. I still want to learn from others. I’d like to talk to some of the chemistry instructors and ask, “How are you doing things?” It still fascinates me.

Q: Your teaching career in Massachusetts spans 45 years. How did you go from teaching junior high students to community college students?

A:I started teaching in Springfield at the junior high school in January of 1969. I taught at Springfield for 35 years, from 1969 to 2003. General science, physical science, chemistry and algebra – I think my ACC teachers would be spinning in their graves if they knew I taught algebra. (Laughing.)

In 1988 I started teaching as an adjunct at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) nights and summers.

My decision to switch from nights and summers to a part-time day schedule at STCC was sort of made for me. I was at STCC one day and the chemistry department chair dragged me into her office, pointed to a class schedule on the wall for the fall of 2003 and she said, “There’s your schedule for the fall.” So I took an early retirement from Springfield schools and I’ve been at STCC ever since.

Q: You must have seen and experienced a lot in your years in the classroom.

A: In 45 years of teaching, I have seen the best and worst of students. Many of my students have gone on to careers politics and have become great citizens of their communities. The captain of the local detective squad and a number of police sergeants are my former students. On the other hand, 11 of my former students are serving life sentences without parole.

Q: What’s the worst trend you’ve seen your teaching career?

AThere are three that come to mind: The suffocating reliance on high-stakes standardized testing. The idea that education/teaching should follow a business-like plan like we are making some type of widget thing-a-ma-jig. And a well-meaning but misplaced idea that it is wrong to do anything that would negatively affect the student’s self-esteem. We are graduating students from both high school and college who are full of faux self-esteem and little usable knowledge and/or skills.

Q: Any retirement plans?

AI have no desire to stop teaching – I love it. As long as I have something to offer students, I’ll keep doing it. I keep joking with my colleagues that one day, a student is going to walk into their offices and say, “Professor Pringle just keeled over and died.” They’ll have to pry the dry-erase marker from my cold, dead hands.

But I look back at two of the institutions of higher learning I attended – ACC and WPI. Between those two places I learned a ton of stuff. But SUNY Adirondack – well, they took a smart talking, snot-nosed little wise-ass brat and kicked him in the butt and made something out of him.

You can contact Larry at He would like to hear from anyone who attended SUNY Adirondack during 1964-1966.

(This story was published November 17, 2014.)


Interview with Becki Cramer, SUNY Adirondack Class of 2013, and Director of Communications at the New York State Recreation and Parks Society, based in Saratoga Springs. - "I learned that I could learn how to do things."

Becki Cramer, ’13, is a Saratoga County native and Director of Communications for the New York State Recreation and Parks Society, a non-profit organization based in the Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, NY. The NYSRPS promotes quality recreation and park opportunities for New Yorkers through education, training, and technical assistance for local and state governments.

Becki Cramer, Class of 2013

Becki is responsible for the group’s promotion, outreach and marketing strategies for programs, services, publications, and membership relations, development and retention.

A graduate of South Glens Falls High School, Becki was a stay-at-home mom and came to SUNY Adirondack as a returning adult student. She earned a Communication and Media Arts Certificate at SUNY Adirondack and was the student speaker at the college’s commencement ceremony in 2013.

We spoke to Becki by phone during a typically busy day in late September.

Q: What brought you to SUNY Adirondack?

A: I went through a divorce – a major change in my life – and I needed a way to support myself. I raised two sons and I was a stay-at-home mom for all those years. I was employed as a trainer for people with traumatic brain injuries and focused specifically on communications disorders. I needed to change the direction in my life and so I enrolled in the Media Arts program at SUNY Adirondack.

As I progressed through the program, I discovered I had the ability to learn things that were hard and complicated. I was not computer savvy at first and could do nothing on the computer, but I learned that I could learn how to do things.

Q: Was there anyone here who inspired you and challenged you to grow?

A: Kevin Ankeny (the director of the radio/television program) is an awesome guy. I learned a lot in his Mass Communications classes and learned a lot about video and audio production. I’m getting ready to produce webinars for the Society, and his video production classes paved the way for that success. A lot of what I learned came from him.

Nick Paigo (the Technology Division chair and graphic arts professor) helped me learn about Adobe products, and I’m using that education in editing publications and the Society magazine.

(English professor) Lale Davidson was instrumental as well: I took a speech class from her and she gave me the confidence to talk to our membership and visit with our patrons.

I remember my time at SUNY Adirondack as being a great time. The students, the teachers – I have nothing but fond memories at SUNY Adirondack. I’m very grateful for the experience I had.

Q: How did you come to join the Recreation and Parks Society?

A: I saw a job posting for Director of Communications and thought it was a perfect blend for both my old and newly acquired skills. I loved being outdoors and the position aligned with my values. It was an agency I felt good about and promoting.

We think it’s important to include everyone in thinking about the use of green space. We want to redefine what ‘recreation’ means; it’s not just about sports. We strengthen communities by giving people the ability to recreate together.

I feel honored to be a paid staff person with this organization. People here are committed to doing what they can to bring health and wellness values to parks and recreation areas. I’m excited to be part of an organization where people are committed to promoting positive change in their communities through recreation.

I want to keep growing and learning. I’ll stay here as long as I can continue to grow and be challenged.

Q: Given budget considerations and space limitations, how are local governments addressing the need for green space and other parks and recreation opportunities?

A: Recreation and parks departments are becoming more innovative in reaching out to bring people together. For example, we are bringing more art and theater offerings to parks. Parks appeal to a broad variety of people and we want to appeal to a different demographic, and not the ones we normally appeal to. At some point, we realize how vital green space is to the health of communities. We’re moving towards the point where doctors will write prescriptions for people to get outdoors into the green space for their health and well-being.

Q: What concerns you about the future of parks and recreational areas?

A: My main concern is that recreational areas and parks will not receive the attention or value they deserve from municipalities, and that the responsibility for recreation in of some of the green space areas will be shifted over to the municipal Department of Public Works. When municipalities look to cut costs, parks and recreation budgets are the first places to be cut, and most parks and rec budgets are operating on a shoestring anyway. Most parks and recreation jobs are not considered civil service job, and those jobs are gone in a minute.

Generally speaking, DPW crews can make the areas safer and the departments are concerned with safety, but there’s more to recreation than just keeping parks safe. A certified recreational professional brings a lot to the table and can enhance and engage the community.

Q: What other obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?

A: It took me two years to complete my Communication and Media Arts certificate. I call it my “ABM Degree”: All But Math. I am a numerical dyslexic – my condition is called dyscalculia and it’s a learning disability. I am proficient with words, but numbers float around in my head. I have difficulty with spatial relationships and can’t express in numerical terms just how far away things are. I can’t organize sequences of numbers in my mind. But that’s okay because I am very proficient in working with words.

Q: What’s next for you, personally or professionally?

A: If I could wave a magic wand, I’d see myself on the Outer Hebrides (an island northwest of Scotland), working on a photo journalism book. Part of the goal of my going back to school was to become a better photographer.

I’d like to study the traditional crofting lifestyle there – sustenance farming. It’s a lifestyle that’s disappearing, but it’s been in existence for hundreds of years.

Q: Lastly, what’s your favorite form of recreation?

A: I like being outdoors in the woods with my camera. And I like canoeing. My favorite lake is the next little lake I discover.

(This story was published October 14, 2014.)


Interview with Steve Mann, SUNY Adirondack Class of 1992 and PGA Head Professional at Wollaston Golf Club, Milton, MA  - "I feel blessed and fortunate to make a living in and around this sport."

Steve Mann, Class of 1992, is entering his 14th season as the PGA Head Professional at Wollaston Golf Club in Milton, Massachusetts. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of SUNY Adirondack’s Lyman A. Beeman, Jr., Golf Tournament on Friday, May 30, at Hiland Golf Club in Queensbury, Steve will return to the area to give players a free short game clinic on the practice green near the 1st tee from 11 a.m. to noon.

Steve Mann, Class of 1992

Steve earned an associate degree in business administration and marketing from SUNY Adirondack in 1992, but did not play on the college golf team: he was a golf professional by that time and was ineligible to make the team. He grew up in Queensbury and now lives in Metro West Boston with his wife Glenna and children Tyler and Brooke.

We spoke with Steve by phone during a typically busy day in mid-April:


Q: When were you aware that golf was going to play a huge part in your life?

A: I was introduced to golf at the age of six by my father and cousin. I got my first golf lesson from Tom Haggerty, the Head Pro at Glens Falls Country Club.  Haggerty, along with longtime Head Pro Tom Smack at The Sagamore Resort, were the two professionals I looked up to. Everyone I’ve worked with in the business has inspired me in some way. I feel blessed and fortunate to make a living in and around this sport.

My first professional job was as assistant pro at the Country Club of Troy. I took a number of assistant jobs after that and finally became the first PGA Head Professional at Olde Kinderhook Golf Club in Kinderhook, NY. That was a great job because I absorbed a lot of knowledge about golf course design and routing of the golf course, and it helped me in my next job at Wollaston.

Q: Have you played with any current touring pros?

A: When I worked at Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey and Wannamoisett CC in Rhode Island, Billy Andrade and Brad Faxon would come in and give clinics and do fundraisers. I’ve been blessed to play a few rounds with a number of pros celebrities. I played with Ian Baker-Finch, who is now a golf commentator for CBS and won The British Open Championship back in 1991. I’ve been able to play a number of great courses around the world including Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Seminole & Ballybunion. I’m headed back to Augusta in October, and it really is a special place. I’m extremely thankful to be able to play some fantastic courses due to the relationships I have made in the golf industry.

Q: You are going to be hosting a short game clinic at the Lyman A. Beeman Tournament here on May 30. What’s the one piece of instruction you pass on to most of the amateurs who attend your clinics?

A: If you are going to improve your game, you need to invest the time and the hard work. Golf is a hard sport – it takes commitment and patience. But I always tell players that if you want to improve and shoot lower scores, you need to start at the hole and work back. Give some time to improve your putting, then work on chipping and pitching, then wedge shots. If a weekend player wants to lower his or her score, then that player needs to spend an equal amount of time or more on the short game than he or she would on hitting balls on the practice range. If you spend a half-hour hitting the driver, spend 45 minutes on putting and hitting pitches and chips and wedge shots from 100 yards in.

Q: Where is the game headed?

A: Well, we already have the attention of the guys – we need to focus on getting families, women and juniors to play more golf and have fun. That’s the future of the game and where our industry is focused currently.

Q: Has the change in equipment improved the game much for the average player? And how do those equipment changes impact the pro game? Pretty soon the anchored putters (long-shafted putters) will be outlawed on the PGA Tour.

A: The equipment is getting better. The improvement in woods and irons and hybrids have made average golfers better and made the game more fun for all. The long-shafted and anchored putters and belly putters are making the game enjoyable for the average players who have bad backs or the yips, for example. Freddie Couples has a bad back and struggles with the conventional size and style putter so he uses the belly putter. But the verdict is still out. As of January 1, 2016, anchored putters will be outlawed for the pros, and I’m sure there are a number of professional players now who will find different ways to adapt. A couple new things on the market are counter balanced putters and the popular Super Stroke oversized grip to minimize the hands and wrists during the putting stroke. I would hate to see Freddie or Bernhard Langer stop playing competitive golf because anchoring will be banned. That might be a hard pill to swallow for some players.

Q: As a golf professional, you must have helped many people find joy in the game. Do you have a favorite story about someone you tutored?

A: I have been teaching all level of players for numerous years. It is rewarding each day to watch golfers improve regardless of their current handicap. One student in particular who is also a good friend of mine qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness, Ohio, in 2011. He took up the game later in life nearing age 30. He made a commitment to improve and we worked intensely over a five to six year period and you have to do that to succeed. He asked me to caddie for him at the tournament and although he missed the cut, I believe he was oldest contestant in the field. It’s that sort of success from someone I’ve helped and shared knowledge with that really excites me.


(This story was published April 16, 2014.)


March 26, 2014 - Nursing alumni gather to discuss the possible creation of a Nursing Alumni Group

The SUNY Adirondack Foundation hosted a reception March 26 for all SUNY Adirondack Nursing Program alumni to discuss the creation of a Nursing Alumni Group. Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980, has taken up the cause and will coordinate the effort.

Trish Kelly, Class of 2010; Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980; and SUNY Adirondack Health Sciences Division Chair Donna Healy discuss the creation of a Nursing Alumni Group.

SUNY Adirondack Nursing Lab Coordinator Kathy Rittenhouse and Misty LaCross, Class of 2013, chat at the reception.

Interview with Sarah Ghent, SUNY Adirondack Nursing Class of 1980: "You have a good solid nursing education, and the professors and students both have a profound interest in excelling."

Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980, has spent most of her working life in the health care field after earning an associate degree in nursing from SUNY Adirondack. Now in what she calls “semi-retirement,” she’s taking on another task: spearheading an effort to create a SUNY Adirondack Nursing Alumni Group.

Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980

Sarah will be attending a Nursing Alumni Reception at the college on Wednesday, March 26, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. to gather information and feedback on what nursing alumni need and what programs they’d like to see implemented.

After earning her associate degree from SUNY Adirondack, Sarah served as an RN Cluster Leader and Associate Primary Care RN at Glens Falls Hospital. Her work has taken her from Staten Island, NY (where she and her husband Gary raised four children) to Albany, Schenectady and western New England with career stops at Staten Island University Hospital, MVP Healthcare, Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, HIP of Greater New York, Bayley Seton Hospital on Staten Island, and most recently Mohawk Valley Medical Associates (MVMA) in Schenectady. Along the way she earned a BS in health and human services from Columbia Pacific University in San Rafael, CA.

She and her husband have seven grandchildren.

We spoke with Sarah during a recent visit to the SUNY Adirondack campus:

Q: Being raised downstate, how did you come to get your degree at SUNY Adirondack?

A: I began to pursue a career in business, but I became ill and was exposed to the health care field early on. That experience led me to become interested in nursing. After having four children, I went back to school and took part-time courses at City University of New York on Staten Island.

We moved around a lot because of my husband’s career, and we were looking for an opportunity to relocate. There was a question over whether my CUNY credits would transfer to SUNY Adirondack, but Gary said, “If you can transfer, we can move.” It worked out that the credits did transfer, and we moved to Hadley.

I finished my nursing degree at SUNY Adirondack and graduated in May of 1980. Dr. Peg Felmly was chair of the department at the time, and I thank her to this day for the opportunity. There was always a comfort level with her, even at that time. SUNY Adirondack offered a good solid nursing education, and the professors and students both had, and still have, a profound interest in excelling.

Q: Your career brought you to many different stops. Why did that appeal to you?

My career has offered me an opportunity to relocate and reinvent myself. In general, the health care field allows a person to fit in at different locations, whether it involves becoming a member of home care staff, developing quality improvement, undertaking utilization review or reviewing quality of care.

The stops along the way have been varied, but I never stopped learning, and that’s important. In this field, you learn through other people’s eyes. Any experience you have can teach you.

Q:  What do you see as the future of nursing?

A: I think “specificity” is the key word. There are certifications for each area now. Much of the care is outpatient now, rather than inpatient care. Much of the health care field is becoming more technologically integrated. But skilled people are still needed to carry you through. As a patient, you can’t just rely on the computer. And if you are seeking employment in the field, the technology allows employees to become more mobile.

I think because of this, education requirements for nurses are increasing, and that’s why we’re excited about the 3+2 Bachelor’s Degree Option in nursing between SUNY Adirondack and the SUNY Plattsburgh Extension Center. It’ll soon be necessary for RNs to have bachelor’s degrees, and it’s great that we’re establishing a program here.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to establish a good connection between current nursing students and our nursing alumni?

A: I enjoy learning, and I enjoy learning from young people. It gives us the ability to interact and share knowledge, and we are able to teach each other. It’s all a learning process. If you are constantly learning, you are not becoming complacent.

At the (March 26 Career Day and Reception) I’ll be gathering as much information and I can.

Q: How has the health care field evolved during your career?

Well, we’ve gone from providing “medical care” to “health care.” Technology has changed the field and pharmaceuticals have changed the field. As I said, it’s all about specificity. It used to be that a physician or medical professional had an office staff of five or six people, but with all the specialties now, sometimes those staffs grow to 20 or 30 people.

The health care field has also opened up an opportunity for more people to find employment. There is a shortage of qualified physicians, and that has led a lot of nurses to seek careers as PAs (Physicians’ Assistants) or Nurse-Practitioners.

Q: What’s the most important thing you have learned in your career as it progresses?

A: I think we have to continue to keep the Quality of Care Circle intact. That is, patients, physicians, insurers and health care providers need to be in the loop; we all need to be included in that tight circle.

(The above story was published February 21, 2014.)


Interview with Dennis Harris, Class of 1996 and Senior Engineer at Ball Aerospace: "You have a treasure in SUNY Adirondack."

Dennis Harris, Class of 1996, was, by his own words, “a state worker with no direction” when he enrolled at SUNY Adirondack in the early 1990s. His decision to go back to school came after several years working for the New York State Department of Developmental Services. His interest in astronomy led to his current position as a senior engineer at Ball Aerospace, where he and his team recalibrated and delivered the Solar Backscattering Ultra Violet instrument (SBUV/2), which monitors ozone levels in the atmosphere. Dennis established a scholarship through the SUNY Adirondack Foundation for returning adult students like himself.

Q: Did you grow up in the area?

A: No. My dad was in the Navy, so we lived all over the world – Southeast Asia, California, Alaska, and Colorado. I moved to upstate New York in 1986 and got a job as an aide at a facility for the developmentally disabled. After a few years of that, I had a life change and decided to go back to school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I had an interest in astronomy and science, and that led me to my current position.

Q: Was there any one person at SUNY Adirondack who had an influence on you and the direction you took?

A: Two people, actually. Jane Owen (a member of the counseling staff) and Rich Ring (professor of English at SUNY Adirondack) were my instructors in a College Survival course, a course for at-risk students. And I was high-risk – I was a returning adult student who had no idea of what he wanted to do. But they saved me. They showed me the door to the possibilities in life.

I graduated SUNY Adirondack in January of 1996 at the ripe old age of 37. I wound up going to The University at Albany and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, and then earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Q: How did you get the job at Ball Aerospace?

A: I got it through networking with an engineer who was working at Ball. In 2004 I moved to Colorado and started working at Ball Aerospace. I worked for Raytheon in California for a while and then came back to Boulder to work with Ball in 2010, and I’ve been there ever since.

Q: What does a Solar Backscattering Ultra Violet Instrument do?

A: The monitoring system is attached to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather satellite and it measures ozone levels in the atmosphere. The layer protects the earth from the ultra-violet rays of the sun. It appears that the ozone holes in the atmosphere have gotten smaller over the last decade, due mainly to less CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) being released into the atmosphere. The ozone layer is thinner over the North and South Poles, and the layer grows and shrinks seasonally, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon.

I’m currently the integrated product team leader for the next generation of ozone measuring equipment called the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite, or OMPS. The flight unit is flying on the SNPP (Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership) spacecraft and was launched in October of 2011. The mission is to provide data continuity from previous efforts. This is very important to me personally.

Q: You established a scholarship for returning adult students at SUNY Adirondack through the college’s Foundation and you were back in town this year to meet with the two recipients. Why did you establish this scholarship?

A: I make yearly contributions to the Foundation, and it was split into two scholarships. I knew from personal experience how difficult it is to be a returning adult student, and I thought it was time to pay it back, to coin a phrase. I was the recipient of a scholarship as a returning adult student and it meant a lot to me.

I was really impressed with the Foundation’s ability to choose such deserving students for the scholarships, some good people who could use the help.

Q: It’s clear SUNY Adirondack had an indelible impact on your life.

A: I love the college.  If I could get a job that contributed to the college, I’d be working there. You have a treasure there in New York in SUNY Adirondack. I am just very happy to contribute in any way I can.

(The above story was published December 17, 2013.)


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