Sister, sister: Identical twins earn SUNY's top honor

PHOTO CAPTION: Identical twin sisters Kate McKay, left, and Lucy McKay, right, of Cambridge earned SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.
April 03, 2023

SUNY Adirondack students awarded prestigious Chancellor's Award

GLENS FALLS, New York (April 3, 2023) — Lucy and Kate McKay were born together, homeschooled together, attended college classes together and, true to form, earned a State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence together — the first siblings to do so in the same year.

"We are proud of Lucy and Kate's achievements," said Kristine D. Duffy, Ed.D., president of SUNY Adirondack. "This is the most recent of several acknowledgements of their remarkable efforts and, I'm sure, there are many more to come."

The identical twins were raised in Cambridge, where they were homeschooled by their mother. The family's love of camping, hiking, gardening and being outdoors led all three McKay children — Lucy, Kate and an older brother — to an interest in ecology. 

"I've been interested in nature as long as I can remember," Lucy McKay said. "So I knew I wanted to study ecology and the environment."

The pair enrolled at SUNY Adirondack as Liberal Arts: Math and Science majors. They are waiting to hear back from colleges before deciding where they will transfer in Fall 2023 to earn bachelor's degrees.

One thing is for certain, though: Lucy and Kate will attend the same college.

"We're pretty inseparable," said Lucy, who despite being four minutes younger than her sister is usually first to speak. "We're very much alike."

That proved true at SUNY Adirondack, where the McKays each earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA) all four semesters, putting them on the President's List. Kate was awarded the Harold “Hal” Burrell Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award and Lucy the H. David Hodgson Outstanding Biology Student Award.

Both McKays earned the TRIO Academic Excellence Award for their performance within TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), a federally funded program that provides services to help eligible students — based on income eligibility requirements, potential first-generation college student status, academic needs, or physical and developmental disabilities — succeed in earning a degree. 

The young women are chemistry tutors and members of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. They both volunteer regularly at regional environmental organizations, including Vermont Center for Ecostudies, The Caterpillar Lab, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, National Audubon Society, National Park Service and Berkshire Environmental Action Team. 

Kate McKay keeps illustrated field journals of nature sightings, providing her opportunity to further pursue her love of drawing and painting. She is also an avid nature photographer and has uploaded her photographs of species to eBird and iNaturalist, where she joins online communities of naturalists in recording observations and contributing to research.

She plays piano and violin, has performed in plays as an actor and dancer, and sings in Hubbard Hall Women’s Choir and at various events in her community.

She has also volunteered for the Northeast Darner Flight Watch, contributing to understanding of the behavior of migratory dragonflies for Vermont Center for Ecostudies, and as a citizen scientist for Vermont Center for Ecostudies as a whip-poor-will surveyor.

Lucy McKay also loves photography and drawing, and keeps field journals of birds, plants and insects. She uses her photographs to promote conservation, contributing to SUNY-ESF’s NY Wildflower Monitoring Project, documenting new species for the North American Leafminer Project, and sharing biodiversity photographs on iNaturalist and eBird. 

She sings and acts, and sings at community nursing homes. She also worked for NYSDEC and Cornell University’s Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings Project, participated in the Berkshire Bioblitz, an event to document as many different species as possible in a short time period at a specific location, and worked on campus to protect and assist Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillars on their migration across campus roads. 

When asked about their differences, the McKays answer simultaneously, "Good question" (Kate) and "Hard question" (Lucy). They agree: They don't have any notable differences.

"Kate and Lucy are amazing individuals," said Michelle Bilodeau-Lanne, a TRIO SSS advisor at SUNY Adirondack. "They embody the highest ideals of SUNY Adirondack, and we are extremely proud of their accomplishments."