SUNY Adirondack Community Roots: Alumni Collective Issue 7

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FOR THE NEXT GENERATION Avonlea Stiles was struggling and overwhelmed her senior year of high school, so she quit. The Ballston Spa native worked for a few years, then earned a TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion), attended a virtual open house event at SUNY Adirondack and enrolled in classes. Stiles graduated in May. The first-generation college student worked, commuted from her family home, earned several special academic and service awards, and had eight works included in Expressions, SUNY Adirondack’s annual literary magazine. Despite those considerable accomplishments, what she’s most proud of isn’t reflected in her GPA or literary accolades. “My brother is also a dropout and he said, ‘I saw you go through the GED,’ so he at least wants to do that,” Stiles said. “And my little sister has been wanting to go to college since I mentioned I was going.” In an article published in the Economics of Education Review, scholars from Harvard University and College Board illustrate the impact of an older sibling on little brothers and sisters.

According to “The relationship between siblings’ college choices,” a staggering 69 percent of younger siblings follow in their older brother or sister’s educational footsteps, attending the same type of college. Similarly, the children of college graduates are twice as likely to go to college as their first-generation peers. “Legacy” is used to describe a student who attends the same college — often Ivy League — as their parents. But, increasingly, “legacy” refers to what one leaves behind for subsequent generations.

With some hard work and a brave decision, Stiles changed the trajectory of lives — not just her own and those of any children she may have, but also of her siblings and their children — creating a legacy of her own. Approximately 30 percent of


community college students in the United States are first-generation students. SUNY Adirondack is no exception. When our graduates’ siblings enroll and, decades later, their children, we marvel at the many ways the college changes lives and provides opportunity for everyone to pursue their dreams. Among Stiles’ lauded poems, she pays tribute to Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire who was born lame and cast from heaven by his parents, Hera and Zeus. He was returned to Olympus, where he became a master craftsman who forged weapons for the gods. In “A Letter to Hephaestus,” Stiles wrote: “For you represent the rest of us The weak feeble and small I thank you for lighting the torch and passing it to those of us who are in desperate need of light” Throughout this edition of Community Roots, we share the stories of SUNY Adirondack alumni who, like Stiles, inspire ripples throughout their families and our community, and shine light on the possibilities within each of us.

VOL. 7 | SUMMER 2022

MUCH LIKE THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY, SUNY ADIRONDACK ALUMNI ARE A MICROCOSM OF OUR BROADER COMMUNITY. They come in as students, searching, find themselves here, then bring their gifts out into the world as caring agents of change. In this quarterly magazine, we celebrate all the ways our alumni shape our world, close to home and afar, with their hearts always rooted right here at SUNY Adirondack.

SUNY Adirondack is committed to fostering a diverse community of outstanding employees and students, as well as ensuring equal educational opportunity, employment, and access to services, programs and activities, without regard to an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, pregnancy, predisposing genetic characteristics, military status, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction. Employees, students, applicants or other members of the SUNY Adirondack Community (including but not limited to vendors, visitors, and guests) may not be subjected to harassment that is prohibited by law, or treated adversely or retaliated against based upon a protected characteristic. Inquiries regarding the application of Title IX may be directed to Lottie Jameson, Title IX coordinator, Scoville 326, or by calling 518-832-7741. Inquiries regarding the application of other laws, regulations and policies prohibiting discrimination may be directed to Mindy Wilson, associate vice president of Human Resources, Washington Hall, at, or by calling 518-743-2252. Inquiries may also be directed to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, 32 Old Slip 26th Floor, New York, NY 10005-2500, at, or by calling 646-428-3800.


Advocates Business Developers Chefs Circular Economists Entrepreneurs Hospitality Managers Information Technologists Insurance Executives Office Managers Photographers Teachers ... and so much more










15 PERCENT OF CHARITABLE DOLLARS DONATED IN THE U.S. IN 2020 WERE TOWARD EDUCATION (compared with 28 percent to religion; 15 percent to human services; 12 percent to grant making foundations; and 10 percent to public-society benefit)

“The attraction is how much the college brings to the area and how impactful it is to the community where our business is. I see it more broadly than a college where 18-year-olds go; it’s a major contributor to our whole area.” — Shelly Marcantonio, SUNY Adirondack Foundation board member and Employee Benefits Practice Leader, Upstate Agency


“It was looked down upon that I was going to ACC when I graduated high school, and I want to change that.”




it impacted so many people,” she reflected.

nowned speed-skating program for the Speed Skating Olympic Trials.

“You don’t need to do it on some grand scale,” she said. “Be the change you wish to see in the world — your own little corner of the world.”

The bill included a “lookback” period for survivors to file suits — and more than 11,000 people did. “It showed, even things that are super hard and with huge opposition, it’s still possible to make change,” she said.

“I liked the small class sizes; it was easy to go to, and I was able to take real classes that I was able to transfer along with me,” Farrell said.

The former professional speed skater and abuse survivor advocate lives by that belief. After coming forward with her story of surviving childhood sexual abuse at the hands of an adult teammate, Farrell founded the nonprofit organization America Loves Kids. She travels around the country educating audiences on the prevalence of abuse (“It happens to so many people,” Farrell explained), demystifying the topic. “You can get past it, and it doesn't define you; I speak about how you can make something positive from that,” she said. Farrell was instrumental in the 2019 passage of the Child Victims Act. Under the legislation, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse can sue their abusers, regardless of the statute of limitations. “The day the law passed both houses, it was an accomplishment I never really experienced before. I mean, speed skating is all about you and being the fastest you can be. Even on a relay team, it’s ‘Our team is better than everybody else.’ Where the victory of the Child Victims Act,

The Saratoga Springs native recently campaigned to unseat Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). Farrell is no longer running, but her political career is far from over. “The political system is intimidating for a lot of folks, and we need more people to crack into it and get involved. So I think setting an example for just getting out there and doing it is also important, and I hope it encourages people to get out and run,” she said. “You don't have to run for Congress, but run for school boards, county positions and town positions because that’s where actual daily life interaction changes are going to happen.” Farrell holds a Bachelor of Science in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University, but her time as a professional athlete sent her around the country, earning credits from four colleges throughout her higher education career. SUNY Adirondack was her first stop, attending while training in Saratoga Springs, a city home to a world-re-

But, there was an unspoken stigma to attending what was then Adirondack Community College. “It was looked down upon that I was going to ACC when I graduated high school, and I want to change that,” she said, as she shared positive memories from the math, Spanish and programming courses she took at SUNY Adirondack. Farrell is an example of someone who could live anywhere but chose to return to the area where she was born and raised, always looking for ways to support the region — and the SUNY Adirondack community. “These alumni pieces are really helpful. I was looking through your other magazines, and I had to get my bike fixed, and I was like, ‘Ya know what? I’m going to bring it to that guy you featured four months ago in Fort Edward.’ So it’s really great you’re doing this.”


“ACC sent me on a great path.”

Bank teller, mortgage lender, farm owner, nonprofit leader: Lisa

Mitzen offers a modern-day redefinition of the phrase “renaissance man.”

The Hudson Falls native has reinvented herself with each phase of life. “After graduating from high school, all I wanted to do was get a job, make money to buy clothes and hang out with my friends, but my parents didn’t think that was the best plan. They sat me down to talk with me about the importance of continuing my education,” she remembered. “They said, ‘Go to ACC, live at home and give it a try. If you still think it’s not a good idea after a year, no harm.’” So Mitzen enrolled in classes. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, like so many high school graduates,” she said. “I had a lot of growing up to do.”

She met with an advisor, who encouraged her to take business classes. “I always liked math, so I started taking business law and accounting, I took a marketing class,” she said. “And it really helped me to figure out what types of classes I liked, and it set me on my way.” After three years, one change of major and a semester in the Walt Disney World internship program, she graduated.

“I don’t want to be dramatic and say that ACC saved me, but it certainly put me on the right path,” Mitzen said. “It gave me the extra time to grow up and figure out, not necessarily what I wanted to be when I grow up, but definitely what I didn’t want to be.”

Mitzen transferred to SUNY Utica and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Throughout college, she worked summers as a bank teller, so securing a job at The First National Bank of Glens Falls (now TD Bank) in the credit card department was a natural next step. “I knew I really loved banking and finance and it interested me,” she said. That job led to a long career in mortgage lending. “I loved it; it was challenging and really rewarding to help people get into their first home, or downsize due to retirement, or buy a second vacation home,” she said. Her career path also inadvertently led her to love, as she bumped into Ed Mitzen in a building where they both had offices. They started dating several months later, founded Fingerpaint Marketing in 2008, then married in 2011.


Business Developers

HOMETOWN: HUDSON FALLS, NEW YORK 1989 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN BUSINESS 1991 GRADUATE OF SUNY UTICA WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION CURRENTLY: RETIRED MORTGAGE LENDER; CO-OWNER OF HANDSOME COCK FARM, THE BREAD BASKET AND HATTIE’S RESTAURANT AND CHICKEN SHACK; CO-FOUNDER OF BUSINESS FOR GOOD “Once Fingerpaint really started to take off, Ed said, ‘It’s your turn,’” Mitzen said. “To say the mortgage business had become stressful would be an understatement. I was totally burnt out and ready for a change.” “He told me, ‘Go pursue your passions,’ but little did he know that one of my passions was to have a farm,” she laughed. The result is Handsome Cock Farm, a hobby farm founded in 2017 that is home to 13 goats, three pigs, 51 chickens, two donkeys and a “crazy barn cat, Oliver, who runs the whole joint.” Oliver is somewhat of a celebrity on Instagram, making regular appearances alongside goats Otis, Noodle and Moosie Moo; donkeys Sally and Gus; Norman the rooster; and Jimmy Dean, a pig with a pronounced underbite. The Handsome Cock Farm has a stand at Spa City Farmers Market from May through October. When the Mitzens first met, both were already actively involved in the community, serving on boards, making donations and helping however they could. “Throughout our marriage, we always talked about how wonderful it would be to do more and to help more people,” Mitzen said. The pandemic fueled that desire. “In 2020, we thought, ‘We’re so blessed and there are so many people

struggling right now, how can we do more to help people?'” Ed, whom Lisa calls “the visionary, the creative,” had an idea inspired by charitable structures such as Newman’s Own products, in which all profits from food items sold are donated to charity. When Ed suggested they purchase The Bread Basket, “I told him he was crazy, that I don’t like to bake and neither of us knows how to run a bakery and he said, ‘What if we buy the bakery and donate any profits back to the community?’ At this point, he had my attention,” she laughed. This is where their partnership works well: Ed has great ideas and Lisa has patience for details and execution. The Mitzens founded Business for Good in late 2020. They also purchased Hattie’s Restaurant and Chicken Shack in spring 2021, and have many other projects in the works. In partnership with Business for Good, they donate all profits from their businesses back into the community to do as much good as they can. “We make straight donations to help support organizations, but we are also trying to find ways to help people other than just writing checks,” Lisa Mitzen said. Business for Good works with entrepreneurs to help further develop their businesses so they can be profitable and help their communities.

“Ed and I grew up in households where education was important, encouragement was important,” she said. “A lot of people in underserved communities have never had anyone give a helping hand or even just believe in them.” Since it was founded in 2020, Business for Good has donated more than $5.5 million, supporting Alzheimer’s Association, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, Frank Chapman Community Center, Shelters of Saratoga, Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, Open Door Mission and Franklin Community Center, among other worthy causes. The Mitzens hope to expand the reach of Business for Good. “We’d love to take it national so we can help those, not only in our community, but also around the country,” Mitzen said. “And so far, so good — pun intended.” The journey of Mitzen’s life — banker, farmer, philanthropist, nonprofit co-founder, business owner — all started with finding her way at SUNY Adirondack. “ACC sent me on a great path,” she said. “I hear a lot of people say, ‘I don’t know what I want to take,’ ‘I don’t know what I want to do,’ 'I don’t know if I want to go to college,’ but I think you should, if you can.” “You can redefine yourself over and over again,” Mitzen said. “ACC was a great place for me to start."


“Whenever I see the new students, I tell them, ‘What you put into it is what you get out of it.’ I’ve come a long way from Day One and I wouldn’t have that if I didn’t put the time in, put forth the effort, squeeze that knowledge out.” — Ben Pelton


Chefs and Office Managers



HOMETOWN: FORT ANN, NEW YORK 2019 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN CULINARY ARTS CURRENTLY: OFFICE MANAGER AT ROJCEWICZ TRUCKING Sometimes a dish needs to simmer, to let the essence of the herbs diffuse and the flavor of the meat infuse the vegetables. Alone, the ingredients might not seem compatible, but once they’re left to absorb into one another, meld perfectly.

And so goes the love story of Ben Pelton and Amber Rojcewicz — a pairing perfected by time, like a good beef bourguignon, in SUNY Adirondack’s Culinary Arts Center. “I honestly thought he was one of the most annoying people,” said Rojcewicz, who was in her second year of the college’s Culinary Arts program when Pelton started the Culinary and Baking Arts program. “He came in, guns a blazing, very animated. I wanted nothing to do with him.” But Pelton had his eye on Rojcewicz from the early days of his time at SUNY Adirondack. “She was very down to earth, very organized and I’ve never been really good at that, so I thought she was the perfect fit for me, because she can keep me in check,” he said. Pelton grew up loving all things food.

“When I was a kid, I’d come home from school and turn on Food Network and watch for hours,” he said. He graduated from Glens Falls High School in 2013 and enrolled in SUNY Adirondack’s Culinary Arts degree program. “I decided the program, as it was, wasn’t really for me,” he said. “I didn’t like having to do biology and math and all those different classes. I wanted to cook.” So he left college and joined the Air Force. After serving as an aircraft structural maintainer for four years, he returned to SUNY Adirondack, which was offering an Associate of Occupational Studies degree in Culinary and Baking Arts, a better fit for Pelton. Rojcewicz also went straight to SUNY Adirondack from high school, but loved the liberal arts requirements of the Associate of Applied Science degree. “I took all the classes that Ben hated — cultural anthropology, biology, math,” she said. “I was so far into it by the time the college added the new program, I didn’t want to switch.” She was among the first class to graduate out of SUNY Adirondack’s downtown Glens Falls Culinary

Center, which features Seasoned, a student-run restaurant.

“Once we moved to the new building, it was a whole new world,” Rojcewicz said, describing how having the opportunity to learn front-of-house duties at Seasoned helped her discover new interests. “That’s what pushed me to the front of the house; the customers were amazing and I just really connected.” Pelton dove into a routine at Seasoned. Since he was using benefits earned through military service, he didn’t have to work while attending college. “I had nothing but free time, so I spent every waking minute in the kitchen with Chef Matt [Bolton],” he recalled. “I’d show up at 9, even when I didn’t have class until 4, and say, ‘What do we have to prep?’


And he’d be looking at me like, ‘Why are you here?’ But I tell new students, ‘What you put into it is what you get out of it.’ I’ve come a long way from Day One, and I wouldn’t have that if I didn’t put the time in.” When Pelton started in 2018, Rojcewicz had established a group of friends in the program. “I was really close to another couple, we were like the Three Amigos, then Ben started hanging out with us,” she remembered. Their friendship deepened as they worked special events together at Seasoned, including Collaborative Cuisine dinners, partnerships in which SUNY Adirondack’s Culinary program prepares food for a fivecourse meal paired with regional breweries or vineyards. “My favorite memories were the events. I think I was required to do it, and you were just participating,” she said to Pelton. Among those events was a Collaborative Cuisine featuring vintner Joe Carr. “In his speech, he talked about finding what you love to do and finding a person you love to do those things with,” Pelton said. “The first

time I heard it, I was like, ‘I have to find something like that.’”

Seasoned. “Chef texted me, ‘What about the Joe Carr dinner?’”

“I would not date him for five months. The more we started hanging out, the more my friends were like, ‘Why don’t you just give him a chance?’”

So, sharing a table with each of their parents in a room of 70 strangers, Ben and Amber listened to Carr’s story. “It was as easy as pie,” Pelton beamed. “I talked to Chef Matt and he said, ‘We’re good for tonight, Joe knows and he’ll give you a wink.’ It was as simple as getting down on one knee.”

Finally, in February of 2019, the two started dating.

“The second time I heard Carr speak, I decided, ‘That’s what I’m going to do with Amber,’” Pelton said. “We have a lot of different interests, but we’ll go along with each other no matter what. And that’s what Joe Carr was getting at: Find that person who will do what you want with you.” The couple welcomed their daughter, Charlotte, in June 2021. “I decided to propose a few months after Charlotte was born,” Pelton said. He texted Bolton, telling him he planned to propose to Rojcewizc at

“I started to think when Joe gave his speech, ‘It would be so sweet if Ben proposed right now,’” Rojcewizc remembered. “Then, he stood up and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me! We’re in front of 70 people right now!’” As Pelton asked for her hand in marriage, Rojcewizc said she heard a young woman gasp. “Everyone was super nice, complete strangers were giving me hugs and saying ‘Congratulations.’” The well wishes were the finishing touch. “It’s where we met, a big chunk of our life is there, with Chef Matt and Chef Meg [Diehl],” Pelton said. “It’s a big part of our lives.”




“This school is a foundation point for me, fundamentally, but it also let me transition out of high school a little more comfortably than I ever would have admitted. I got a taste of what college was.”


When Amy Ryan was in fourth grade, she stood next to her dad on Sandy Hill Foundry’s “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” — wearing a hardhat and safety glasses with her best dress — awed by the precision the team used to run a pour. Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, as area mills began to close, talk around the family dinner table centered on whether environmental regulations protecting the region’s natural beauty were driving jobs out.

“Growing up, both the worlds of industrial manufacturing and protecting the Adirondack Park were highly influential on me,” said Ryan, who founded ESG Strategies after a two-decade career melding risk management, sustainability and compliance. “I kept asking myself, ‘Why can’t there be a way to learn if they could work together and maybe benefit one another?’” When Ryan graduated from Glens Falls High School, her parents offered a choice: Attend SUNY Adirondack

(then ACC) and earn general education requirements with financial support or attend an “expensive college” with significantly less monetary backing. “SUNY Adirondack simply was the best choice for me at the time,” she said. She dove into on-campus activities, including playing on the basketball team and performing in the community and jazz bands (music is one of her passions), while taking classes to decide how to create a career path that encompassed both of her loves.


Circular Economists

HOMETOWN: GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2000 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN MATH & SCIENCE 2003 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN EARTH AND ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE 2020 GRADUATE OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WITH A MASTER OF BUSINESS MANAGEMENT CURRENTLY: CHIEF CIRCULAR ECONOMIST AND FOUNDER OF ESG STRATEGIES; VICE CHAIR OF STRATEGIC FORESIGHTS BOARD, CIRCULAR ECONOMY ALLIANCE; DIRECTOR OF OIL-DRI CORPORATION OF AMERICA “I was torn because I love science so much and wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher, which I felt was the only choice I had,” she recalled. “But I wanted something completely new — something in science and manufacturing, but also working with people.” Ryan graduated, studied education at The College of Saint Rose — “that jazz band was amazing,” she noted — but a class on lesson planning proved what she already suspected: Teaching wasn’t for her. A close friend was studying at Keene State in New Hampshire. “I first asked, ‘How’s the jazz band?’ and then ‘How’s the science department?’” the lifelong saxophonist said. “I went out there, played in the jazz band, shifted gears toward the hard sciences and just loved the classes.” The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks called her back to New York, where she finished a bachelor’s degree in Earth and Atmospheric Science at University at Albany. She immediately went to work as a field geologist in Richmond, Virginia. In the years since, she has worked as an environmental scientist, regulator, compliance auditor, strategist and consultant. Her family’s roots in industry gave her a unique perspective at worksites impacted by environmental contamination.

“When you are from a town where the lifeblood has been one thing for so long, it melds into the fabric of the community and provided me a great education in social dynamics and treating people, no matter who they are or what role they have, with the utmost respect,” she said of her juxtaposed roots within industry and love of environment. “To me, interviewing the third-shift boiler operator or contractor laying asphalt is just as valuable as interviewing someone in executive leadership — if not more so.” Despite seeing few women at such job sites, she found her backstory in manufacturing helped secure acceptance. “The guys are fathers, grandfathers and uncles just like my family members; their families expect them to come home safely, just like we did,” she said. “Once I described why I was there, I would often hear, ‘I have daughters, too, and I can’t wait to tell my daughter I saw someone like you with a job like this.’”

Ryan traveled extensively throughout the U.S. as a consultant and board director. Her experience helps her see a bigger picture in how companies can be profitable while also adhering to standards that ensure sustainability for earnings and the environment. Once she and her husband began a family of their own, they returned to this area. Ryan decided to earn a master’s degree and enrolled in the MLA Business Management program at Harvard University, from which she graduated in spring 2020. Ryan brings expertise in environmental, social and governmental solutions to several boards of directors. She is an independent director for Oil-Dri Corporation, a publicly traded mining company, and vice chair of the Strategic Foresights Board of the Circular Economy Alliance based in the European Union. “It’s incredible to hear their responses to some of the things I write,” she said. “They say they have been studying circular economy for more than 10 years and had yet to meet someone who can speak about it in an understandable manner the way I can. And I think that’s because I grew up on the east side of Glens Falls.”


“What really hooked me when I got on campus, it felt like home instantaneously. I just fell in love, it felt like home — peaceful and like a community. I felt the entire staff was invested in me.”

Perhaps it makes sense that a young man with dreams of being a fashion designer has color to credit for major life decisions. Being drawn to green and gold, after all, seems no more arbitrary in decision making than seeing a friendly face in an ad online or hearing a luring voice on the radio.

The color combination has served Tyron Bethel well, though. As a high school student,

Bethel visited the historically black Wilberforce University in Ohio (which, of course, has a color scheme of green and gold). “Being on campus in that new atmosphere, being around a lot of black excellence, it motivated me and gave me deeper insight I needed to know college was a possibility,” said Bethel, a 2021 graduate of SUNY Adirondack who transferred to Siena College. “I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

What Bethel didn’t know, though, was that financial aid and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) are crucial in funding college. “Two months before the semester was about to start, they sent a bill to my house for $30,000, so I ended up pulling out,” he said. Instead, he enrolled in the College of Staten Island (the signature color of



HOMETOWN: BRONX, NEW YORK 2021 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, WITH A DEGREE IN MANAGEMENT, MARKETING & ENTREPRENEURSHIP CURRENTLY: ENTREPRENEUR; STUDENT AT SIENA COLLEGE MAJORING IN CREATIVE ARTS which is blue). “Three days before school was about to start, I was sitting in my room and from the time I went to orientation, I did not sleep,” Bethel said. “I couldn’t. It didn’t sit right with me; I felt like I was selling myself short.” Despite protests from his mother, he decided not to attend. In the stress that followed, Bethel was directed to The Door, a nonprofit organization that offers free college advisement and tutoring. “That was my opportunity to sit down, learn the process, learn about FAFSA, financial aid and all the paperwork,” Bethel said. “Nobody in my family went to college, so before that, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.” Knowing he wanted to own a business someday, Bethel looked at SUNY (State University of New York) colleges that offer Management, Marketing & Entrepreneurship degree programs. “I knew I didn’t want to work for someone else the rest of my life,” he said. When he saw SUNY Adirondack offered a program, he started to research the college. “SUNY Adirondack is green and gold, just like Wilberforce. They’re both green and gold, so I’m going to give this school a shot,'” he remembered thinking. He took a bus trip to the campus. “It felt like home, instantaneously,” Bethel said. “I just fell in love; it felt like home — peaceful, and like a community.”

Bethel enrolled in classes the next fall as an EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) student, living on campus and playing on the basketball team.

Bethel said. “I didn’t even apply to any other school but Siena; I felt strongly about it, that this was the next school I’d end up at.”

“EOP was beyond beneficial as a freshman who had nobody in his corner to help with the college process,” he said, explaining how the program provides tutoring, supplies, money for books and other types of support.

He was forced to sweat it out as he waited to hear back. A week before the Fall 2021 semester began, Bethel was accepted into Siena’s HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program), which provides the support EOP did at SUNY Adirondack as well as the equivalent of a full scholarship — including housing and meals.

“Being an EOP student — having the right people in your corner, and having the necessary resources to excel — was the anchor and epitome on why I graduated with a 3.2 GPA,” Bethel said. As Bethel neared graduating from SUNY Adirondack, he started to look at what he should do next. While an on-campus resident, he started an online business selling some of his clothing designs. He dove into social media marketing, which was part of the degree program, and used what he learned to build his business. He researched colleges and saw that Siena College offers a Creative Arts major — and the school colors are green and gold. “I don’t know the deeper meaning behind it yet, but it’s just something that’s attractive to my eye, and it just clicked,”

“I definitely appreciate this experience,” Bethel said. “I love it. I love being in a studio, I love working on projects.” Siena is a big change from SUNY Adirondack. As part of the college’s curriculum, Bethel takes courses in religious education, philosophy, science and social justice. “I’m in classes I never would have taken under my business degree,” he said. “I’m a lot out of my comfort zone, and that pushes your thought way further and makes you think beyond the surface of deeper issues." “Community college is sometimes likened to secondary high school, but that is completely false,” he said. “I was definitely prepared by SUNY Adirondack.” What Bethel didn’t expect, though, was the impact of creative inspiration. “When I’m in the studio and it’s flowing good, it feels amazing, and I know this is something I should be doing with my life,” he said. “It feels like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”


“I had a great experience at SUNY Adirondack. I learned a lot. The professors were fantastic and I met a lot of great people. Everybody made you feel comfortable there. It’s a great place.”


Hospitality Managers


at the Smokies in Tennessee; and Jay Peak Resort in Vermont before returning to the Capital Region.

Heading into his senior year of high school, he had already completed all the required Regents courses and was looking at a year of “filler courses.” Instead, he enrolled at SUNY Adirondack.

As a musician, Hayes and his band had opportunities to take the Konocti stage as the house band after major acts, some of whom stuck around after their own sets. “I got to sing with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elliot Easton from The Cars, members of Three Doors Down, even Darius Rucker sang with my band one night,” he said.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do at the time,” he said, “but I knew I didn’t want to be bored in high school for that last year.” He graduated from high school and, a year later, from SUNY Adirondack, transferred to a bachelor’s program, lost interest, then explored odd jobs for a while. He returned to Siena College a handful of years later and earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management.

“It was a magical place,” he said of the resort. “All the stars who played wanted to spend a couple of days because we were on the lake.”

“I love pleasing people,” Hayes said. “They call it the ‘hospitality heart.’ I didn’t think I’d be in hospitality, but once the bug bites you, you fall in love with the business.”

As director of operations at Konocti, Hayes helped operate and promote concerts, including such major acts as Bob Dylan and Aerosmith; and had a hand in celebrity golf tournaments that allowed him to meet NFL stars, including his childhood idol, one-time L.A. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler.

What started as a job bartending at The Sagamore snowballed, with roles in Arizona, California and, ultimately, Saratoga Springs. “I moved around the country growing my career.”

“That would be as starstruck as I get,” he laughed, despite meeting the likes of Pat Monahan from Train, Steve Miller, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Merle Haggard.

He worked at The Hayes Mansion Conference Center, The Cypress Hotel and Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa in California; The Wilderness

“There are hundreds of people I’ve been able to speak with at length that

I never would have had the opportunity, and they all have great stories,” he said, noting that country music star Trace Adkins is a great guy with a knack for telling stories of his life. “What other career do you get to do that?” In November, Hayes took the helm as general manager of The Gideon in Saratoga Springs, where is he overseeing a $1 million renovation of the hotel’s 125 rooms. He has big plans for the hotel, too, using his network of musical connections and a love of marketing to add preshows before concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “I’m going to use some of my experience to do large events that combine music with events that add to the flavor of the community,” Hayes said. “I’m always up for a big event. I love that kind of stuff,” he said. “Every day in this career is different; it’s a different set of opportunities every day you come to work. Every day is a new opportunity.”


“I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for this program at SUNY Adirondack. I credit it with a lot of my personal growth.”



Information Technologists

HOMETOWN: GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2008 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN LIBERAL ARTS 2011 GRADUATE OF THE COLLEGE OF SAINT ROSE WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION 2022 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN IT: CYBERSECURITY CURRENTLY: OWNER OF ARTIFICE TECHNOLOGIES; TECHNICAL SUPPORT SPECIALIST AT SUNY ADIRONDACK A conversation with Brenden Sullivan is as likely to turn to the best way to prepare osso bucco as it is “Doctor Who,” bass guitar or cyber attacks. He speaks of his passion for British television as naturally as he discusses building a local area network. But the SUNY Adirondack technical support specialist’s eyes really light up when he starts talking about cybersecurity.

“It’s pretty awesome to be able to do something you enjoy, you’re good at and to help a community that helps so many students,” said Sullivan, who graduated in May with a degree in Information Technology: Cybersecurity. Sullivan first attended SUNY Adirondack after high school, when he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Professor Drew Costa cultivated a love of philosophy in Sullivan — his penchant for TV shows and movies that examine morality, humanity and interconnectivity shows the subject hasn’t strayed far from his heart — so he took every course the college offered.

“My original goal was a Ph.D. in philosophy,” he said. “But I was graduating during the Great Recession and Professor Dave Matthews made an impression on me, so I switched my focus to business.” He transferred to The College of Saint Rose, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. That degree led him to bank management, at which he was successful for a decade. After some personal struggles with an unhealthy relationship and trying another financial institution, Sullivan looked at his life and decided his career wasn’t best for him. “It was stressful and left a lot of negative energy,” he admitted. As he started rebuilding his life (a phase he calls “transitory”), he found love. “My partner, who is going to law school, said, ‘I get to pursue my passion in a few years, you should try to go for yours.’” So, he registered for classes at SUNY Adirondack. “That was a big turning point for me,” he said. “Doing something multiple days a week that made me happy and that I’m good at was a turning point.” Sullivan, who spoke openly about being neurodivergent (“textbook ADHD, executive functioning disorder and

recovering from PTSD,” he explained), said he never felt settled before. “I never knew what I wanted to do — I mean, I switched majors five times — but here I have this feeling of belonging. I’m good at it, it comes more naturally to me than anything in the world,” he said. He has seemingly tried a bit of everything, hobby wise. He geeks out when he discusses his home theater (an HD projector, surround sound, a dropdown screen and an extensive digitized collection of favorite movies and TV shows); his music (he has played bass for more than 20 years in a half-dozen regional bar bands); audio books (he listens while running software updates); and his love of cooking (he rents a storage unit to house his many novelty cooking instruments, including a dehydrator and a deli slicer, among countless other gadgets). His innate ability with computers, though, is evident, as he runs his own IT firm. “I’m always going to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “Having something on the side helps provide a creative outlet for ADHD.” His full-time gig, though, is as a Tech Services specialist at SUNY Adirondack. “I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for this program. I credit it with a lot of my personal growth."


“I think it’s important to give back to the community you’re in.”


Insurance Executives

HOMETOWN: QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK 2013 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN LIBERAL ARTS 2016 GRADUATE OF LEMOYNE COLLEGE WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN ENGLISH CURRENTLY: VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMERCIAL LINES AT USI INSURANCE SERVICES When Stéphane Legris was 17 years old, he taped a to-do list to the back of his bedroom door in his childhood home, and it changed his life. • • • • • •

Play No. 1 singles for ACC Go undefeated Win regionals Go to nationals Place at nationals Get tennis scholarship

“I had to walk by it every single day,” said Legris, vice president of Commercial Lines at USI Insurance Services. “No matter what I did, I had to look at that list.” When Legris was a young child, his father — retired Adirondack Red Wings goalie Claude Legris — taught him how to play tennis. “Well, that and hockey, but when I was in high school, I started tackling tennis a little more seriously,” Legris said. His junior year, Legris decided he wanted to play tennis in college, and he wanted a scholarship to do so. “My senior year, I did really well, played No. 1 for the team, did well in sectionals, but wasn’t at the point I was good enough I was going to get a big scholarship yet.” He approached his coach and asked for advice. “I didn’t know what to do, I was a 17-year-old kid who was going to be graduating and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

“He told me, ‘You should go to ACC and play tennis there. You have to play and you have to beat everybody, and you have to crush everybody, and you have to go to nationals and place at nationals, do that for two years and then you’ll get your scholarship.’” Legris was inspired, went home and wrote his missive. “That list taught me how to be accountable, how to be disciplined toward something," he said.

“I didn’t miss any workouts, I would show up to practice early and stay late; I would go on days we didn’t have practice, hitting the ball machine for hours. I just wanted to get better. I was hungry for it.” That hard work — classes, then two and a half hours of tennis practice, followed by hours in the gym, every day — paid off. “I ran regional finals 6-0, 6-0, was undefeated that year and got third at nationals,” he said. After his first year at SUNY Adirondack, LeMoyne College’s coach was interested in Legris. “By the time I started my second year at ACC, I was already committed to LeMoyne.” His second year playing tennis at Adirondack was even better. “I didn’t lose a match,” he smiled.

LeMoyne offered the tennis scholarship he wanted, and Legris earned a bachelor’s degree in English while spending summers as the tennis pro at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing. After graduation, Legris started work as a marketing associate in an insurance firm. “It was a tough job to get,” he said, explaining how a test is required to secure a brokers license. “Being me, I took an entire summer where I was taking this class eight hours a day for two months, then studied,” he said. “I didn’t hang out with my friends, and I disciplined myself the same way I did with tennis.” No surprise, he passed and, in the years since, has worked his way up to his role at USI Insurance Services. He also offers tennis clinics, works with young tennis players at Wilton YMCA, Queensbury schools and gives private lessons. “I love being able to share my passion for tennis with kids,” he said. “It’s important to give back to the community. It’s one thing I feel like I’m making a difference. And if I keep working hard, like I did with tennis, more opportunities are going to come."


“Once in a while you find someone who leaves an impression on your life and she’s [Professor Renee O’Brien] one of those people.”

As a professional ballroom dancer and lifelong pageant contestant, Miranda Eldridge has been the subject of countless photographs. Not until she registered for a photography course at SUNY Adirondack did she discover she loves to shoot photos, too. When she graduated from Queens-

bury Union Free School District in 2011, she was training to be a professional ballroom dancer. Her parents, though, thought she should have an education.

in which she quickly discovered she wasn’t particularly interested — and definitely did not feel the same fire she had for dancing since she was 5 years old.

“I was a lost 18-year-old training to be a professional dancer,” she remembered. “So I said, ‘That’s fine, I’ll go to college,’ so I just picked something.”

“I went and saw the Rockettes and, from then on, I was like, ‘I’m going to be on that stage,’” she said. Fate had other plans, though, as dancers in the famed troupe are required to be at least 5 feet, 6 inches tall. “I’m 5’5.”

That something was business classes,



HOMETOWN: QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK STUDIED MEDIA ARTS AT SUNY ADIRONDACK, 2011-2013 CURRENTLY: OWNER OF MIRANDA L. ELDRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY Eldridge started dancing tap, jazz and ballet at age 8. At 14, she discovered ballroom dancing. “I just ran with it; there’s so much variety because it encompasses so many different styles, so you can never be bored,” she said. She trained to teach dance at Arthur Murray in Saratoga Springs, all the while working to create an “in” within the dance industry. “I am very good at networking, and all through high school, I was calling professionals,” she said. “I became good friends with all of them, so by the time I was 20, I was offered a job in California.” On her 21st birthday, Eldridge moved to Los Angeles, where she spent the next year working with some of the top dance professionals in the world. The famed dancers — including some household names, thanks to the hit TV series “Dancing with the Stars” — would train Eldridge, who would then teach students. “I know Julianne Hough, Maksim [Chmerkovskiy], Tony [Dovolani], Leonard [Goodman] — all of them on a first-name basis,” Eldridge said. She danced six or seven days a week, training mornings and teaching classes all afternoon and evening. “I was 21, invincible and loving life,” she recalled. “I was hanging out with celebrities, dancing all day and night.” About a year after landing that dream job, Eldridge had her son,

Alexander, and returned to the region. “I started working in insurance, which was boring, but it paid the bills for a few years,” she said.

folio. He didn’t realize who they were bringing in, so when I walked in, he said, ‘This is who you’re interviewing? I’ve known her forever.’”

She stayed home with Alexander, teaching dance lessons and shooting photos on the side. Then, a lucky break allowed Eldridge to use skills she mastered taking every photography class she could at SUNY Adirondack.

“I got a really lucky in because there’s kind of a monopoly on ballroom dance photography, with like four photographers who have the whole industry,” she marveled.

“I originally started doing media classes because I liked making video slideshows,” she remembered. “Then I took Renee O’Brien’s Intro to Photography class and she hooked me. I think at one point we thought I had the record for the person who took the most classes with Renee.” “Taking photos was natural; it didn’t seem like work, it was fun,” Eldridge said. “My dance background helped because I understand how movement works, so I can see how composition is moving through a photo.” Last November, she went to a regional Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Latham because she knew Dovolani was teaching. “When a professional I know is teaching master classes, I go for fun,” she said. When she arrived, the owners said, “Wait a minute! Don’t you take photos?” They needed someone to shoot an upcoming competition. “The studio owners brought me into the office to show Tony my port-

Now, she shoots regional competitions, hiring a few photography students to help ensure full coverage of the events, in which Eldridge often takes 10,000 photos in a weekend. “I want people who are going to grow with me,” she said.

She still regularly turns to O’Brien. “Any time I have any question about photography or even just need advice, Renee responds immediately,” Eldridge said. “Once in a while you find someone who leaves an impression on your life and she’s one of those people. I learned a lot of skills, but the biggest thing I took from SUNY Adirondack is that support.”

“I believe so strongly in public education.”



Bruce Bevins knows well the impact one person can have. After he graduated as valedictorian of the six-person Class of 1966 in Hague, he spent the summer working as an assistant groundskeeper at a golf course in Ticonderoga. “I had a blast,” remembered Bevins, who retired to Florida nearly 20 years ago. “Summer went by and I didn’t think much of it.” Until Alberta Krueger, a New Jersey woman who summered in a cabin

near the Bevins home, asked, “‘Where will you go to school?’ I said, ‘I don’t have any plans to go to school,’” Bevins said.

support such a venture.

“She said, ‘What do you mean? You’re the valedictorian. You’re intelligent and you should be going to school.’”

“She almost literally took me by the hand and drove me to Hudson Falls [where Adirondack Community College was originally located], got some information, figured out maybe what I could do and ended up getting me enrolled,” he said.

Despite wanting to be a teacher since fourth grade, when Mrs. Ruth Barnett made history come to life for him, Bevins protested, pointing out that his family’s financial situation wouldn’t

That put Bevins on a path that would alter the lives of thousands of teenagers. He graduated from what was then Adirondack Community College, then transferred to SUNY Brockport,



HOMETOWN: HAGUE, NEW YORK 1968 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK WITH A DEGREE IN LIBERAL ARTS 1970 GRADUATE OF SUNY BROCKPORT WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN EDUCATION 1976 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE IN EDUCATION CURRENTLY: RETIRED AFTER A 33-YEAR CAREER TEACHING HIGH SCHOOL HISTORY where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Education. “I was a country boy and we didn’t travel much, as I come from a rather humble background,” Bevins said. “I had never been to a place called Poughkeepsie.” But he secured an interview for a position in Arlington Central School District teaching Asian and African cultures to middle-schoolers. He accepted the role immediately. About 15 years into his teaching career, an American history position opened in the high school, and Bevins jumped at the opportunity. “I really found my niche at that point,” he said. “I enjoyed the older students; they got my personality, my sense of humor, and they’re easier to teach because they’re a little more settled.” He was active in the local teachers union, starting as a building representative, then working his way up to become secretary, a post he held for 25 years. Inspired by Mrs. Barnett and Norman Strum, an influential high school teacher he had in Hague, Bevins tried to instill in his students the passion he felt for American history. “I love the progressive era in American history; there was so much going on and, of course, now we can see

ties to present times with the same kinds of problems plaguing our country — monopolistic businesses and efforts by some to effect change,” he said. “Students learned so many different things, aspects of the culture and of America at the time. They could find the information interesting and relatable to their lives.” His dedication to teaching became clear over the years as students returned to their alma mater to thank him. “I remember vividly one student who was a junior in college and he came back the day before Thanksgiving break,” Bevins recalled. “He said, ‘I’m taking college classes to become a teacher and you contributed to my desire to become a teacher.’ That was the first time that happened and I kind of floated out of school that day. That’s the most powerful and wonderful gift I could get from anybody, that I said or did something that made such a difference in this person’s life they decide to follow in your footsteps.” Many years ago, Bevins wrote a letter to Mrs. Krueger, thanking her. “I told her how much her urging and intervention transformed me almost completely,” he said. “I probably would have ended up at the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, and I know I wouldn’t have been happy, that’s not the kind of career I wanted.”

“It goes to show you how one person can come into your life and the profound impact they can have,” he said of Mrs. Krueger’s encouragement.

“I grew up in poverty, so having that opportunity to go to ACC made it possible for me to elevate myself to the middle class, and I just think it’s so important that ladder be there, that opportunity for people,” he said. “I believe so strongly in public education. It was so important to have that community college for a kid like me, coming from humble origins and making it possible for me to transfer on and for my dream of teaching to come true.”




WHY I GIVE “I want to pay it forward, it’s my way of saying how important SUNY Adirondack was to me.”

In 2020, Evan Love was named to SUNY Adirondack’s Trailblazers Society, which recognizes exceptional personal and professional achievements of alumni. “It’s a mutual recognition,” Love said of the honor, describing his “extraordinary” relationship with SUNY Adirondack and the value of a community college education.

Thank you to our A Day 4 ADK sponsors: Mindful of how important SUNY Adirondack is to our region’s success, 14 local businesses and corporate partners joined SUNY Adirondack Foundation on May 5, 2022, in A Day 4 ADK, helping raise $26,000 for SUNY Adirondack Fund. A Day 4 ADK is SUNY Adirondack Foundation’s day of giving, when the college community comes together to leverage the power of collective giving in support of SUNY Adirondack and its students. The community relies on SUNY Adirondack to educate our workforce, support local entrepreneurial dreams and create the leaders of tomorrow. The success of A Day 4 ADK and the continued support of local businesses, families and individuals help keep our community college strong and will allow the SUNY Adirondack Foundation to provide more than $1 million to the college and its students. SUNY Adirondack Fund provides unrestricted support to the college and its students by way of scholarships, academic support initiatives, projects that support the athletic experience and funding for SUNY Adirondack Cares, a student emergency fund. Gifts to SUNY Adirondack Fund can be made at


START HERE Use the QR Code to donate online

Tenée and Jim Casaccio Snyder Printer Inc.



START HERE Since 1961, generations of students have started their journeys here.

When our region’s elected officials, business professionals and citizens established Adirondack Community College in 1961, I wonder if they realized their work would have such an incredible impact on our community, if they knew that six decades later it would be difficult to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by the college. In providing a way for community members to obtain an education, those leaders created opportunities for individuals to change their lives, build careers and be inspired. But the impact of a well-rounded education doesn’t end with one mind. Instead, that person moves forward, spreading their knowledge, sharing their passion and instilling in those around them a legacy of excellence.

As a community college, SUNY Adirondack is often the first stop for first-generation college students and working adults who want to better themselves. By earning a degree, those hard-working individuals double the likelihood their children will follow in their footsteps and walk across a stage, college diploma in hand. Now, more than 60 years later, we have generations of students who have taken advantage of SUNY Adirondack’s many degrees, certificates and community educational offerings that build strong communities whose citizens are civically engaged, highly employed and committed to the value of a well-rounded education. And that, indeed, is an incredible gift and resounding legacy. Sincerely,

Kristine D. Duffy, Ed.D. President


“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll


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