After Canton - Spring 2021

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President Dr. Zvi Szafran Director of Public Relations/Web Designer Travis G. Smith Writers Gregory E. Kie Lorette A. Murray Photographer Gregory E. Kie Designer Matthew J. Mulkin '04 & '11 Vice President for Advancement Tracey L. Thompson Director of Alumni Engagement & Communications / Webmaster Jamie L. Burgess '06 College Council Chair Ronald M. O'Neill '63 College Foundation Board of Directors Chair Bernard “Bernie” C. Regan '65 Alumni Association Board of Directors President Kelly C. Obermayer '79 Cover photo of Ornella T. Parker '14 taken by Ashley Quinones '15



FROM THE PRESIDENT Dear Alumni and Friends, There is a well-known saying that “talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not.” As a college of access, our mission is to create opportunities for all of our students. In the wake of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others, we committed ourselves to learning more about issues that impact the Black community through candid conversations with students, colleagues, and alumni. These discussions have helped us identify several new strategies that we will be undertaking to help address educational inequities. One critical step in this effort is to work toward removing the financial barriers that impede educational progress. The Canton College Foundation has launched a landmark scholarship program that will assist Black scholars throughout

their college journey (learn more on Page 19). In partnership with incredible alumni like Ornella Parker ’14, pictured on the cover, we can help clear the way for those who are ambitious, talented, and have demonstrated a commitment to service. Ornella and others featured in this issue are leveling the playing field for the next generation. I am in awe of their dedication to their communities and proud they have applied their Canton experience to create social change that empowers marginalized groups. As you read their stories, I hope that you are inspired to partner with us in being part of the solution through investing in a scholarship or joining our network of alumni allies who support and guide our students throughout their college journey. Best Regards,

Zvi Szafran President, State University of New York at Canton

FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ADVANCEMENT Dear Friends, We are reminded every day of the powerful impact of philanthropy on our students. The pandemic has forced college communities like ours to become more creative and resilient in order to meet the increasing needs of students while delivering a high-quality education. Our students are hard-working and passionate about completing their college degree; however, many of them would not – could not – be here if not for the crucial support provided by our donors to the Canton College Foundation. The Canton Fund provides support for scholarships, academic programs, student organizations, faculty research, and special projects. Here are just a few items the Canton Fund has made possible this year: • Scholarships of up to $2,000 for 26 students • State-of-the-art simulation manikins for nursing • Laptops for the Student Health Center to provide telehealth counseling • Funding for anti-racism and diversity initiatives • Support for faculty, staff, and coaches to present at regional and national conferences • A system to recycle 3-D printer filament as this new technology continues to expand • A student capstone project to construct vehicles for international competition Today, the need is truly greater than ever. With jobs hard to find and parents struggling to make ends meet, we see students doing everything in their power to try and stay in school. We invite you to rise to the challenge of helping us grow the Canton Fund, so we can extend this life-changing support to more students each year. You can give easily online at Thank you for giving the most precious gift of all – opportunity. With Best Regards,

Tracey L. Thompson Vice President, Advancement Executive Director, Canton College Foundation 3



Breaking New Ground The historic Dana Hall is undergoing a transformation to accommodate modern academic spaces for criminal justice programs. President Szafran announced in 2018 that Dana Hall will be home to the new Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence, and Cybersecurity. Plans for a crime-scene staging room and a criminal investigation laboratory will offer a state-of-theart environment where students can get the best hands-on

experience possible. University Police will also be located in the building. The renovations will primarily house the Bachelor of Science in Crime Analysis and Bachelor of Science in Forensic Criminology programs, which began enrolling students in Fall 2020. The Alumni Gymnasium, which is original to the building, is being restored and upgraded.

Built in 1967, Dana Hall was the campus’ main athletic facility until the Convocation, Athletic, and Recreation Center was completed in 2011. It’s undergoing an extensive renovation and will house the new Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence, and Cybersecurity. Several restoration projects will be completed to the Alumni Gymnasium.

Clearing the Air A generous donation from a longtime College partner is helping to combat COVID-19 on campus.

Canino School of Engineering Technology Dean Michael J. Newtown ’84 sets up an air quality test in the Davis Health Center. The area was one of the locations selected to pilot AtmosAir Bi-Polar Ionization technology to help the college combat mold, volatile organic compounds, and the COVID-19 virus.

Day & Nite All Service, a commercial refrigeration, HVAC, plumbing, and kitchen equipment company located in New Hyde Park, has donated state-ofthe-art filtration technology to test the reduction of airborne pathogens in two high-traffic buildings. Six AtmosAir Bi-Polar Ionization units were installed in various locations in the Richard W. Miller Campus Center and in classroom spaces in Cook Hall. Canino School of Engineering Technology Dean Michael J. Newtown ’84 is overseeing indoor air quality testing in the upgraded locations. He and Instructional Support Associate Shane P. MacArthur ’18 are testing for bacterial, fungal, and carbon dioxide levels in the spaces. “Our collaboration was designed to help solve a major problem confronting the entire world,” Day & Nite Executive Vice President Rick Sher said. “SUNY

Canton’s academic pedigree coupled with the school’s diverse population, campus layout, and technical engineering leadership makes it the perfect choice to deploy, test, and

provide expert analysis to help other institutions of higher education and businesses create safer, more hygienic environments.” AFTER CANTON


Simulation-Hospital Naming Celebrates Former Professor The family of the late Nursing Professor Emerita Dr. Mary Ann Caswell celebrated her legacy through a generous gift in her honor. During a socially-distanced naming ceremony in October, Mary Ann’s husband, Alson T. Caswell Sr. ’61, joined family members to remember her by unveiling the Dr. Mary Ann Caswell Nursing Simulation-Hospital in Wicks Hall. The naming rights were secured through a charitable donation to the SUNY Canton College Foundation. The recently completed wing is a modern suite of instruction-dedicated hospital rooms each containing a computeroperated Laerdal Nursing Anne Simulator patient for emergency-room and patient care procedural training. Mary

Ann was an early adopter of the simulation technology and used the College's first robotic manikins in her courses. "Mary Ann wanted SUNY Canton to have the best, state-ofthe-art learning environments," her son George A. Caswell ’91 & ’94 said. "The commitment from the College and Mary Ann's entire extended family will create a lasting legacy that will ensure the highest level of training for healthcare professionals right here in Canton." Mary Ann began her career at SUNY Canton in 1990 as an instructor and retired in 2015. She influenced hundreds of today's practicing nurses and equipped them with her extensive knowledge through her hands-on, lab-based classes. She passed away Nov. 11, 2018.

Alson T. Caswell Sr. ’61 stands next to the Dr. Mary Ann Caswell Nursing Simulation-Hospital in Wicks Hall.

Scholarship for Future Frontliners A graduate of the College’s inaugural class of nurses has created a scholarship to assist those who are following in her footsteps. Maryalice Grotkowski Blake ’68 donated $25,000 to establish an endowment to provide $1,000 annually to a student enrolled in the Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program, with preference given to graduates of Ogdensburg Free Academy (OFA). “I wanted to do something to support the young women and men aspiring to join the ranks of today’s registered nurses,” she said. “It recognizes the expertise, courage, and compassion that regis-



tered nurses have been displaying during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Both she and her husband, T. James Blake, are OFA graduates. The couple now resides in Milwaukee. Maryalice wanted to highlight their connection to the area through the scholarship and help future generations avoid the struggles she faced when paying for education. “Maryalice and Jim’s generosity demonstrates the success of the Nursing program,” said Vice President for Advancement Tracey L. Thompson. “They’ve begun a perpetual legacy that will help generations of future students.”

Maryalice Grotkowski Blake ’68

Life-Saving Donation

New Partnerships, New Pathways Students who want to go further faster now have the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree while saving time and money. Four new academic agreements – two with the University at Albany and two with SUNY Empire State College – allow SUNY Canton students to seamlessly transfer from undergraduate to graduate coursework at a reduced cost. The University at Albany agreements create pathways for Criminal Justice students, and the SUNY Empire agreements benefit Healthcare Management and Management students. Both permit undergraduate candidates to simultaneously enroll in graduate courses at a discounted rate, accelerating the time to degree completion and saving them thousands of dollars.

Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen

A donation from the Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen Legacy Fund, a charitable fund of the Northern New York Community Foundation, will be used to upgrade the Dr. Mary Ann Caswell Nursing Simulation-Hospital. The $50,000 donation will be used to purchase three simulation manikins that are designed to mimic real-life medical scenarios. Following years of medical education and service as a research professional and physician, Dr. Badenhausen made the North Country her home in 1975. She believed in the strength of community and was a passionate supporter of the people and places in the region she loved and called home. She passed away Sept. 23, 2018.

Commencement Moves Forward, Social-Distance Style For the first time in school history, the College hosted a student-only graduation ceremony. Due to the postponement of last year’s commencement, two socially-distant events honored the classes of 2020 and 2021. “Because of the concerns regarding large gatherings, we determined that the safest option is to celebrate graduates’ accomplishments with no guests,” said President Szafran. “However, family and friends were able to watch via livestream.” The class of 2020 event was held Saturday, May 8, and the class of 2021 walked the stage Saturday, May 15.



Student Food Pantry Named in Honor of Renzi Family The Renzi Foodservice Charitable Foundation of Watertown is making sure SUNY Canton students will not go hungry through a multi-year charitable gift. In the latest of a series of donations to the SUNY Canton College Foundation, the company pledged $25,000 over five years to the Student Emergency Fund. In recognition of the generous donation, the College has added the Renzi name to its Food Pantry.

“The Renzi family is no stranger to philanthropy and continually supports their community through their charitable foundation,” said SUNY Canton Vice President for Advancement Tracey L. Thompson. “Their donation will go miles toward addressing students’ food insecurities. We are exceptionally grateful for their continuing support.” Increased funding will allow the Pantry to expand its inventory. As many as 100 students use the pantry’s confidential services over the course of a typical semester. “Hunger should never be a part of a college education,” said JoAnne Renzi Wise, Renzi Foodservice Director of Marketing and Community Relations. “We’ve established our reputation on a commitment to service, which includes supporting the communities that we serve. We’re proud to be associated with a project that helps the college continue its mission to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students.” To make a donation to the Renzi Food Pantry, visit and select “Food Pantry” from the drop-down menu.

A Gift of Gratitude

In a show of appreciation to local volunteers, frontline workers, and other essential employees, the College has established a scholarship for St. Lawrence County residents who have helped the community during the pandemic or have been impacted economically. “The ‘In Gratitude Scholarship’ is a way to thank those who have kept us safe and healthy, as well as support our neighbors facing economic challenges brought on by COVID-19,” said President Szafran. “As a college of access, we are always looking for opportunities to make college more affordable, especially now.” Three scholarships have already been awarded, and Amanda L. Commella ’22, a convenience store manager from Canton, was one of the first recipients. She is an online student in the two-year Business Accounting program. “This scholarship will help me pursue a new career in accounting,” she said. “This degree, combined with my prior management experience, will make me a great asset to any company.”

Amanda L. Commella ’22 is among the first recipients of the new “In Gratitude Scholarship.”



SUNY for All The program, called “SUNY For All,” offers virtual courses through SUNY’s free Online Training Center that lead to a variety of certifications in healthcare, business, manufacturing, and child development, among others.

The College is now lead partner in a statewide effort to give all New Yorkers a pathway to college. During his first visit to campus in January, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced Canton would be a part of a cohort of colleges that waive application fees for students who complete a certificate through SUNY’s free Online Training Center.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused job loss and economic uncertainty for countless New Yorkers throughout our state — it is up to us as the largest system of higher education in the country to help them get the education and training they need to get back on their feet,” Malatras said. “With our free Online Training Center, among other initiatives, we’re meeting students where they are and providing educational tools that fit their lives, with the personal support they need to succeed."

Career Services Expands to Assist Alumni The Office of Career Services now offers free job counseling and resume assistance to alumni at any point in their career journey. Director Julie A. Parkman and her staff of professionals are expanding their services to graduates of all ages who are seeking new career opportunities. Consultations are available by appointment and conducted virtually via Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. For more information, or to schedule a virtual appointment, send an email to


Sign of the Times

- The College recently revamped the entrance sign on Route 68 in Canton. Designers retained the unique trapezoidal shape while updating the graphics for a more contemporary look. Photo by Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Courtney B. Bish.




During the journey from high school to college, many students are faced with variety of roadblocks – financial, environmental, and academic – that can derail their dreams. These barriers are particularly stark for groups that are historically underrepresented in higher education. A growing group of Canton alumni are dedicating their careers to leveling the playing field for Black and Brown students in an effort to completely shift the paradigm. Meet four recent graduates who are using their talent and lived experiences to clear a better path forward for others following in their footsteps.





OUT FRONT Since high school, Ornella Parker ’14 envisioned a life and career in which she was leading others. Canton’s Healthcare Management program lined up perfectly with her aspirations, and she began to prepare for the next chapter of her life. However, just after high school graduation, Parker was forced to put her plans on hold because her mother suffered a job loss. “It was the most difficult time in my life. I had to defer college for a semester and work a full-time job to help my younger brother and mother financially,” she said. Realizing the longer she held off on her college plans, the more difficult it would be to return, she decided on a Spring semester start with the intent to continue to work as much as she could to send money home. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was the sacrifice I had to make in order to reach my goals.” Shortly after arriving in Canton during a January snowstorm, Parker said she adjusted quickly because she met several students and staff who were welcoming and helpful. She went to work to earn top academic honors and began to seek out leadership opportunities on campus. As President of the Student Government Association and Vice President of the College Activities Board, Parker helped shape the overall student experience. Highly regarded by her peers, she represented the entire student body on the College’s Presidential Search Committee in 2013.

Ornella Parker ’14 compared to my counterparts, and I wanted to be part of that.” The Teach for America assignment was the starting point of a completely new career path. She earned two master’s degrees in Education and is currently the Assistant Principal of a Success Academy Charter School in Queens, which serves primarily low-income students from diverse backgrounds. In addition to her work with middle and high school students, she wanted to assist financially-stressed students with their college journey. She became the youngest Canton College Foundation Board Member in school history and began thinking about ways she could help remove the economic barriers that she encountered as an undergraduate.

It was a random encounter with a Teach for America representative during her senior year that altered her career plans.

“After all the injustice and protests that happened last year, my mind went to education and what this means for Black students, especially during a pandemic,” she said. “So, I reached out to the College Foundation to establish a scholarship.”

“Their mission centers around helping underserved communities, like the one I grew up in,” she said. “Education was the reason I made it as far as I did

Around the same time, the College began a fundraising campaign called the “Promises Kept Pathways Initiative” to fund scholarships that



reduce the financial hurdles facing Black students in their educational journey. After hearing about the goal, Parker lent her support. “The Promises Kept scholarship is one of the ways the College is stepping up to do more in support of racial justice and equality,” said Vice President for Advancement Tracey L. Thompson. “Partnering with Ornella, who knows first-hand about the struggle many have to pay for school, will help us utilize the funds in the most effective way possible.” Parker’s contribution serves as the lead gift in this campaign, which will be awarded beginning this year. It seeks to assist recipients at three phases throughout the academic journey: during the first year as students establish goals and adjust to college life, at critical intervals while in pursuit of a degree to ensure retention and completion, and upon graduation to support those who want to attend graduate school. “We’ve seen strong support from the SUNY Canton community for this initiative so far,” Thompson said. “The more successful our fundraising efforts, the more students whose lives we will be able to impact.”

CHANGEMAKER Creating positive change is also a central theme of Kristy F. Tyson’s ’13 career. It’s been her philosophy as a College Instructor, as well as a volunteer and community liaison in Buffalo. She has worked with organizations like the NAACP, the National Urban League, and AmeriCorps to empower others using her business expertise. She holds an MBA and is a doctoral candidate in the

Kristy F. Tyson ’13

Management in Organizational Leadership program at the University of Phoenix. Her approach to teaching, she said, is based on equity and inclusion. “I infuse my life experiences into my teaching and am always mindful of the real interests and struggles of the students. I take responsibility for more than just myself and teach business to foster the imminent ethical change that is needed in the next generation of supervisors, managers, CEOs, and leaders.” Originally a Graphic and Multimedia Design student at Canton, she switched to Management after an internship in the College’s Career Services Office. “David Norenberg (then-Career Services Director) was my supervisor, and he critiqued the heck out of my design work,” she recalled. “He knew his stuff, and he was very detail-oriented.” Suddenly, it seemed like graphic design might not be a viable career option. “I just wanted to be creative and have people love it,” she laughed, realizing at the time she underestimated how much she still had to learn. “I switched my major right away.” Tyson thrived in her new program and earned top academic honors. She was heavily involved in student government and the College Activities Board and took every opportunity to join as many clubs and organizations as she could. Tyson recently gave some advice to current Canton students during a leadership workshop. Mentorship comes naturally to her, and it’s an attribute that was developed in college. “The person I am now is because of the skills and abilities I learned at Canton, along with mentors and supporters like (former College Association Director) Mike Perry,” she said. “And I try to be that mentor for other people.”



PERSONAL INVESTMENT A supportive network of mentors and advisors is critical to young people facing environmental barriers that make it difficult to achieve their goals. Devine Pearson ’17 is part of a non-profit organization that assists children from low-income families who have the potential to achieve great things. As a College Access Coordinator for Boys Hope/Girls Hope (BHGH) of New York, a preparatory school in Brooklyn that serves economically

disadvantaged students, he works to ensure their successful transition from high school to college. He arranges college visit events, organizes SAT preparatory classes, and coordinates emotional support services for the scholars.

Pearson said his extracurricular involvement at Canton was ideal training for BHGH. It was the guidance he received from Priscilla Leggette (Director of Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership) that led him down his path.

“When I met Priscilla, she encouraged me to get involved as a Special Events Coordinator for the College Activities Board. In that role, I was able to get a sense of what’s involved in planning an event and seeing it all the way through from beginning to end, as well as experience the enjoyment of seeing it succeed.” He tries to replicate Leggette’s ability to develop strong relationships with students to help them through life’s ups and downs. “By forming a bond with them, I'm able to see what they need even when they're unsure,” he said. “I'm able to zero in and find the best possible way to be of assistance so they're able to reach their full potential as people who can make a difference in the world.” With the demands of his position at BHGH, Pearson hasn’t been able to return to campus yet but keeps connected with his classmates and helps to mentor current students who reach out with questions. He joined a virtual reunion event last Fall, and said it was amazing to see his old classmates and connect with current students. Looking back, Pearson acknowledges that because of the specific skillset needed in his current job, the communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, and problem-solving experience he gained outside the classroom were just as valuable as his courses in the Management program.

Devine Pearson ’17, right, at Boys Hope Girls Hope Preparatory School in Brooklyn with one of his advisees, Jason Noel.



“Working in and learning from many different departments taught me how to approach a variety of situations. It helped me become who I am and led me to where I am today.”

REAL ROLE MODEL As a self-described die-hard alum, Nafeesa Johnson ’14 takes every opportunity to talk about what makes Canton special.

Nafeesa Johnson ’14

And in her role as a College Counselor for Coney Island Prep High School in Brooklyn, she promotes the College every chance she gets. “My students often get annoyed and say ‘yes, we know about SUNY Canton, Ms. Johnson,’” she laughed, acknowledging her enthusiasm for her alma mater can be perceived as overbearing at times. Her status as a die-hard isn’t surprising, considering she was involved in nearly every extracurricular activity you can think of on campus. She was even chosen to give then-presidential candidate Zvi Szafran his campus tour upon arriving for his interview in 2014. Her involvement went even further when she was the first Canton student to be appointed to the Executive Committee of the SUNY Student Assembly. In that role, she worked on behalf of all SUNY technology students on issues like tuition, budget, textbook affordability, and transfer agreements. After graduation, she put all of her Canton knowledge to good use when she worked for the College’s Admissions Office, and then transitioned to high school counseling at Coney Island Prep, helping to equip economically disadvantaged students with the skills to be college-ready. “I try to convey to them the pride I feel as a Canton graduate,” she said. “And how pleasant my experience was as a Black woman attending a predominately white institution, compared to some of my peers who went to other colleges.”

Johnson said she’ll never forget the kindness she was shown as a freshman after a family emergency left her underprepared when arriving on campus for the first time. Her goal is to help students be more prepared than she was. “The mission of Canton as a whole to be a welcoming place has definitely left an impression on me,” she said. “The experience as a whole has impacted my everyday life, and I’m proud to be a Roo.”



Photo by Nicholas DeLaureal



RespectAbility Lixon Nelson ’02 & ’09 counts Mohammed Ali, Richard Branson, and Whoopie Goldberg among his personal heroes. These giants of sport, business, and entertainment are admirable not only for their career success, he said, but because they achieved great things despite living with dyslexia. Nelson was diagnosed with the same learning disorder while growing up in South Florida, which made school a struggle. When his cousin was recruited to play football at Canton, Nelson checked out the associate degree offerings and enrolled in the Business Administration program. “I was open about my disability so when I arrived, Canton knew about my challenges,” he said. “I had access to tutors, notetakers, private study rooms, and voice-recognition software. I did well my first semester, but my grades slipped in the spring. Around that same time, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.” Then-Dean Edward J. Fay was willing to give him a second chance. That fall, Nelson boosted his GPA, graduated the following semester, and returned to Miami to complete his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration online. While he was working on his degree, he took a job connecting low-income families with food assistance. After several years working in the human

services field, he met a colleague, Jo Graham, who had a similar professional background. The two struck out on their own to form a non-profit disability employment organization called Alliance Community & Employment Services Inc. (ACES). Their mission was to provide education, training, and career services for the disabled.

"SUNY Canton has been a blessing to me as a person with a disability. If it weren’t for the teachers and the compassion I received, I wouldn’t be at this point in my life.” “I learned firsthand that individuals who face difficulties like dyslexia are not unemployable; they simply lack the employment skills necessary to make them competitive within the workforce,” Nelson said. “My experiences have served as the foundation on which ACES has been built, and I feel that it is my responsibility to help educate the community about the challenges encountered by the disabled and socially disadvantaged.” When Graham passed away in 2008, Nelson stepped up to run the organization with the goal of expanding services and programs. In addition to serving about 100 clients a year through ACES, he is also the co-founder of the website, a digital resource similar to Facebook that connects anyone in the world with a medical condition or disability with support groups and specialists. As someone who understands the power of advocacy, Nelson has become more involved in politics to become a better champion for persons with disabilities. His charitable work extends beyond borders to Haiti, which was his home for two years before his family moved to the U.S. He teamed up with football great Lawrence Taylor’s organization Fore Life Inc. to raise funds for children who are disabled and under-privileged on the island. Nelson was recognized for his activism in 2015 when he received the Health Innovator Award from the Haitian Heritage Museum in Miami. He had the chance this year to re-connect with his alma mater via a virtual alumni-student panel discussion. Nelson is interested in helping the College recruit more students with disabilities so they can benefit from the hands-on, personalized educational experience Canton is known for. “SUNY Canton has been a blessing to me as a person with a disability,” he said. “They took me in with a 1.9 GPA, and I graduated with a 3.5 GPA. If it weren’t for the teachers and the compassion I received, I wouldn’t be at this point in my life.”








An interest in renewable energy led Sara M. O’Duffy ’21 on an adventure to one of the greenest, most sustainable countries on the planet.

the four-year Mechanical Engineering Technology program. O’Duffy said she wants to incorporate the lessons she learned in Iceland into her chosen field.

Iceland, known as the land of fire and ice because of the abundant glaciers and volcanic activity, has gradually reduced its dependency on fossil fuels and transitioned to primarily hydro and geothermal power generation. The only exception is the gasoline the country imports for cars and boats.

Currently, she’s working for TRC, a company that helps electric utilities maintain their infrastructure. She evaluates utility poles throughout the Western New York area for code compliance. If they need upgrading, she designs the replacements.

That’s where O’Duffy comes in. She joined a two-month study abroad trip with 20 other scholars from across the U.S. in 2019 to study the feasibility of increasing the use of electric vehicles. “Because Iceland is such a small country, it is relatively easy to implement a nationwide car charging system, as opposed to the U.S. where it would be much more difficult,” she said. “The biggest challenge is that batteries don’t work very well in the cold, so extreme temperature can be a barrier.” She spent every day exploring Iceland’s raw terrain and speaking to researchers and stakeholders to develop a proposal about ways to expand the use of electric vehicles. “My presentation focused on how the country could start integrating more battery-powered cars and charging stations faster,” she explained. “Up until now, there have been some incentives to go all electric, but it’s a slow process.” Her presentation was well-received, and she earned enough credit from the program to graduate early from

“I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was,” she recalled. “My family and I had an appointment to visit another college, and when my dad asked me if I wanted to go, I said ‘no, I’ve already made up my mind.’” She landed the job after attending the College’s career fair last fall. TRC was impressed by her resume, which, in addition to her Iceland research, includes participation in clubs and organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Society of Women Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Steel Bridge Team. In between her coursework and extracurricular activities, she was a college student ambassador and a receptionist for the Ready Center. Outstanding grades and community service endeavors qualified her for scholarship opportunities. She received the E.B. and Gladys Kennedy Endowed Scholarship, which was established by President Emeritus Dr. Joseph L.

Kennedy and his wife, Dine. She also was a recipient of the Joyce A. MacArthur/CTC Women Endowed scholarship, an award that President Emeritus Dr. Earl W. MacArthur established in honor of his wife. Because of all the opportunities that Canton provided, she said it was a perfect fit for her. She was sold on the College after a campus visit when she spoke with Associate Professor Dr. Lucas Craig and then-student Jessica Fischer ’18, who was also a Mechanical Engineering Technology major. “I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was,” she recalled. “My family and I had an appointment to visit another college, and when my dad asked me if I wanted to still go, I said ‘no, I’ve already made up my mind.’” She adjusted well to college life and jumped into activities that would help build her skills. One particular event that stands out in her mind is giving a presentation at the Regional Steel Bridge Team competition in front of hundreds of attendees. “I was so nervous, I tripped down the stairs as I was walking to the front of the arena,” she laughed, remembering that the team needed a good showing to get a favorable score. After a moment of embarrassment, she nailed the presentation and helped them advance to the national contest. Her ability to face a moment of adversity with a positive attitude is reminiscent of the Icelandic saying (and unofficial country motto), “Þetta reddast,” which translates to “it will all work out okay.”



Full Circle Alumnus and Canton faculty member Dr. William Myers ’86 considers the pandemic a teachable moment. An Associate Professor and Director of the Business Department, his course portfolio includes small business management, human resources management, and legal and ethical issues in healthcare – areas that are heavily impacted by COVID-19. “The events over the past year have presented an opportunity to observe how people, organizations, markets, and countries respond in a crisis, providing fascinating current content that relates to so many of the subjects that I teach,” he said.

school, mid-career professionals, and everyone in between. Without exception, I have been impressed with their willingness to adapt to the challenges that we have faced.”

"When I graduated in ’86, I certainly could not have imagined the places that my life would take me, or that it would lead me back home to Canton."

His observations include determining how the College itself and its students have adjusted to a situation that has tested higher education’s resilience. Myers was one of the many faculty who transitioned to remote learning during the onset of the pandemic.

Myers is uniquely suited to study the College because of his familiarity with its history. His father, Arthur Myers, was a 1958 graduate, and while William was earning his associate degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, he met his wife, Connie Case ’87. Their youngest daughter, Carrie, is also an alumna who graduated in 2019 from the Applied Psychology program.

“One of my most rewarding experiences is seeing how students, faculty, and staff have come together in an understanding and caring way to navigate this difficult year. I work with traditional college students right out of high

Originally from the Finger Lakes region, Myers earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from nearby Roberts Wesleyan College and RIT. In his doctoral program, he studied sustainability education at Prescott College.



His career took him all over the world, including Croatia, Kosovo, Vietnam, China, Dubai, Hungary, and Sri Lanka. Research interests he focuses on include human rights, social justice, and environmental conservation – causes that he also lends his support to as a volunteer since returning to the area in 2016. “I am a member of the Village of Canton Sustainability Committee, the Central Adirondack Partnership Healthcare Resources Committee, and the Board of Trustees for Cerebral Palsy of the North Country. It’s encouraging to see all of the good work that is happening in the local community and to be involved in some of those initiatives.” His position on the College’s Alumni Board also gives him the opportunity to connect with other graduates and reminisce. He resides in Hermon on a 140-acre property that was a former farm. A nature enthusiast, he spends most of his time outdoors. “When I graduated in ’86, I certainly could not have imagined the places that my life would take me, or that it would lead me back home to Canton.”




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Alum Named Head Coach of Buffalo Beauts Rhea Coad ’19 was recently named the head coach of the National Women’s Hockey League’s (NWHL) Buffalo Beauts. “I believe in creating an open environment which will allow our players to not only have fun but feel loved by every member of the organization,” said Coad. “I am extremely honored to be leading such an amazing group of young women, and I am beyond excited to get back on the ice with everyone in preparation for the NWHL’s seventh season. I look forward to continuing to grow our family culture and building strong relationships with each member of our team.” While serving as an assistant coach for the Beauts the previous two seasons, Coad was also a part of the coaching staff at Nazareth College.

Photo by Michelle Jay

She was a three-sport athlete at Canton, competing in hockey, softball, and golf and graduating with a degree in Health and Fitness Promotion. She was the recipient of the College’s Pillars of Character Award in 2017.

A League of Our Own Last year, the College led the creation of a new SUNY-wide esports league that has since grown to become the second-largest league of its kind on the East Coast. As the pandemic kept traditional athletic fans isolated and arenas silent in 2020, esports rose in popularity due to its ability to be played – and watched – entirely online. Not only was the SUNY Canton team able to play a full, uninterrupted season last Spring, the College organized a special SUNY-wide Chancellor's Challenge esports tournament to raise money for the student emergency fund. Building on the success of the tournament, the College stepped forward to help launch the first official SUNY-wide esports league, sponsored by Extreme Networks. It currently consists of toptier competition from 45 colleges. SUNY Canton’s varsity “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and “Rainbow Six Siege” teams made it to SUNY's final-four round in the Fall playoffs.



The College helped organize a new SUNY-wide esports league that began competitive play last year.

"This league helps to solidify competitive relationships in a safe environment,” said Esports Coordinator Charles W. Murray. “Even with the restrictions brought about by COVID, we continue to see incredible growth in our competitiveness, our performance, and our reputation.”

Tens of thousands of esports enthusiasts have watched the Roos compete online using Twitch, the largest esports streaming service in the world.

Championship Season The men’s basketball team finished a groundbreaking 2019-2020 season by winning their first-ever North Atlantic Conference championship.

The 2019-2020 North Atlantic Conference Championship Team.

The Roos defeated Maine Farmington in a tight contest 72-71, and forward Joseph Werner ’21 was named the tournament’s MVP. The win qualified them for the team’s first NCAA berth, and the historic season was Head Coach Shiva Senthil’s first year with the Roos. “From day one, the team was determined to do something special with the season,” said Senthil. “We knew we had the talent, but what helped us was coming together as a family. The guys put aside their egos and competed for a common goal of winning a NAC championship.” Although the 2020-2021 season has been cancelled, Senthil said the team is hoping to play a pared-down schedule to maximize safety. “Our guys have remained optimistic and resilient. They understand that by staying positive, they can continue to build this program and lay the foundation for even more success in the future.”

Simply the Best The all-time leader in NCAA Division III strikeouts is now the head coach of SUNY Canton Softball. Lindsey Thayer, a former pitcher for St. John Fisher College and a four-time All American, joined the Roos in January 2020. Former All-American Lindsey Thayer is the new Head Softball Coach.

“Lindsey didn’t just pitch, she absolutely dominated her opponents,” said Athletic Director Randy B. Sieminski. “She was the Empire 8 Pitcher of the year four times and advanced to the Final Four of the Softball World Series twice. She knows what it takes to compete and lead at a national championship level. Her knowledge of the North Country and NCAA Division III will be a great resource." Thayer played high school softball at nearby St. Lawrence Central. Her first season at the helm for the Roos was cut short due to COVID restrictions.




Thank you to those who sent an update for this edition of Class Notes. If you would like to be included in the next edition of After Canton, send us an email at All submissions are edited for length before publishing.


Barbara E. (Megan) Jahn ’56, Fern Park, Fla., started her career as a hospital dietitian for two years and then was a stay-at-home mom for ten years. Barbara was also an elementary school teacher, building construction administrator, school guidance counselor, and hospice grief counselor before retiring at 73.


Lonnie Morrison ’65, Piscataway, N.J, went on to a earn a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany, a master’s degree from SUNY Oswego, and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. After 35 years as Director of Metropolitan Admissions and 24 years as an Adjunct Instructor, Lonnie retired from Syracuse University. He recently established LM & Educational Associates, LLC, an organization that assists students with the college admission process. Lonnie and his wife, Alison, plan to relocate to Los Angeles to be closer to their family. Robert Brown ’65, Berlin, Conn., retired in 2004 from Hartford Insurance and is a former U.S. Army and U.S. Navy reservist. Bob would like to hear from classmates from 1963-1966. Julia (Sorrell) Hunter ’69, Tupper Lake, retired as a Dietitian Technician after 30 years of service with Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services Office. Julia and her husband, Wes, have been married for 35 years and have enjoyed exploring the lower 48 states. They have also hiked many of the Adirondacks High Peaks. 23 AFTER CANTON

70s John R. Madden ’78, Friday Harbor, Wash., said that 38 years of public service and 28 change of stations firmly anchored him among the San Juan Islands of Washington State.


James Hughes ’80, Port Henry, is the Fire Chief of the Port Henry Fire Department and was recognized in June 2020 for administering CPR, rescue breathing, and a defibrillator to successfully resuscitate an individual suffering from a heart attack. Rod Fuller ’85, North Port, Fla., is a member of Alpha Theta Gamma, Inc. He and his wife, Claire, have two children. Rod is a Pharmacist for SE Grocers. Rod credits Canton for providing a foundation for his future. Michael R. Gambuzza ’85, Syracuse, was recently promoted to the Senior Manager of Network Engineering at Verizon Communications. His group is responsible for designing the backbone network for the Central and Western New York territories. Dawne M. Barkley ’87, Madrid, was recently promoted to Associate Professor in SUNY Canton’s Nursing program. She began as a Clinical Instructor in 2007 and previously worked at CantonPotsdam Hospital. [1]


Derek Bateman ’03 & ’05, Ogdensburg, was promoted to Maintenance Supervisor 3 in SUNY Canton’s Physical Plant Division. He oversees 17 individuals in the HVAC, plumbing, trades and electrical departments. Nicole M. (Breen) LaRue ’04, Ogdensburg, is the co-owner of LaRue & Pitcher Funeral Home in Ogdensburg and is a Funeral Director at Lundy Funeral Home in Carthage. She is also the owner of Northridge Cremation Chapel in Philadelphia. [2] Matthew McLear ’06, Ogdensburg, has written a children’s book called “Dad, Don’t Shave Your Beard.” He is also the founder of the lifestyle brand Beard Laws, which is a charitable endeavor that raises money for various organizations. He also hosts a podcast and is a marketing consultant. [3]


Stephanie K. Sochia Ward ’11 and Gordon I. Ward ’10, Hermon, were married in 2018 and have an 8-monthold son. Matthew Merritt ’11, Oneida, is a graduate of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Systems program and is the Owner and Founder of Us & Hemp, which produces environmentally-sustainable products made out of hemp plastic. He recently launched an adjustable bottle and can holder made in Central New York called the “Recoil Cooler.” [4] Pierre Nzuah ’15, Liverpool, has written a memoir called “Persist and Pursue: Breaking Barriers to Achieve a Dream.” It details his remarkable journey from a remote village in Cameroon to the United States in order to study engineering technology. [5] Jeffrey Stalker ’16, Rochester, was recently named the Administrator of Wayne County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management and a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from Utica College. Joseph R. Fay ’17, Watertown, is a New York State Trooper and social media influencer with more than 2 million followers on TikTok. Known to his fans as @jf.okay, Fay is a car enthusiast who is best known for creating videos about his Tesla Model X. He was also part of a team of officers who saved a man from a fire at the Relax Inn in Watertown earlier this year. [6] Atri Espiritusanto ’18, Westville, N.J., is a Compliance Specialist at Aya Healthcare. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management, she went on to earn a graduate certificate in Healthcare Corporate Compliance from George Washington University.


John C. Drews IV ’20, Albany, joined the Engineering Group at Foit-Albert Associates as a Junior Engineer. He is a graduate of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology program and was a member of the College’s Steel Bridge Team.


Dawne M. Barkley ’87

Matthew McLear ’06



Nicole M. (Breen) LaRue ’04



Matthew Merritt ’11

Pierre Nzuah ’15


Joseph R. Fay ’17

Photo courtesy of Kara Dry, Watertown Daily Times/NNY360




Harry L. White '38 Barbara (Smith) Dougherty '43 Merrill G. Whitmore '48 Elizabeth J. Pleskach '49 Hollis C. Dorr '50 Merritt E. Hartz '50 Elizabeth E. (Darling) Heimermann '50 Anita D'Andrea Piedmonte '51 William H. Swart '51 Lorna M. (Steen) Webb '52 James Williamson '52 Charles R. Cameron '54 Dorothy J. (Watson) Hunt '54 William H. Jaquis '54 Ezio F. Fiaschetti '55 Robert J. Steele '55 Donald D. Schneider '56 James G. Ashwood '57 William D. Demo '57 Willy R. Wilson '57 Naureen G. (Goolden) Bellinger '58 Joseph Dematties '58 Douglas L. Elmore '58 Robert McCabe '59 Donald Randall '59 John A. Ward, Jr. '59 Raymond P. Chagnon '60 James S. Finn '60 Chauncey H. O'Connell '60 Robert H. Ross '60 Gerald A. Adam '61 John M. Wilder '61 Leonard L. Ledger '62 Reginald F. Chester '63 Priscilla R. Lucas '63



Michael Perrigo '63 James L. Santimaw '63 William Rowe ’64 Charles S. Allen '65 Patricia L. (Winn) Brower '66 Robert D. Hoerger '67 Rita E. (Gibbs) DeLong '69 Michael T. Flanagan '70 Nellie M. (Fisher) Locy '70 John M. Waligory '70 Robert G. Mills '71 Leo H. DuBray '72 Dennis W. Germano '72 Harry T. Zobel '72 Randy J. Cutler '73 Joan M. (Knowlton) Kennedy '74 Gary R. Donaldson '75 Virginia L. LaMay '75 Karen Matthews Salisbury '76 David W. Edgecombe '77 William F. Richards '77 Scott W. Harris '78 Robert E. Miller '78 Bruce W. Knowlton '79 Diane J. (Friedel) Guyette '81 Katherine L. (Wainwright) Weegar '81 John M. Joslyn '82 William F. Lipinsky '82 Judy L. Ayotte '83 Christine A. Dumas '84 Paul T. Montpetit '84 Martin P. Griffin '86 Todd M. Pacer '87 Corey J. Englert '88 Robert J. Arndt '89 Julie A. Delarge '89

David A. Rickett '90 Norma J. (Ward) Savage '91 Robert L. Kio '93 Marcel O. Cox '94 Sonja (Klykken) Urtz '94 Jennifer L. (Tiernan) Chambers '95 Royal W. Mattice '95 Randy J. Cameron '96 & '14 Angela L. Thornton '97 Timothy L. Cole '98 Scott Reed '99 Kristin M. Glaude '02 Ronald J. Tebo '02 Jon A. LaClair '07 Chad W. Hicks '10 Amber L. Bush '13 Christopher J. Gamble '16 Colin J. Law '18


Rita Blevins (scholarship donor) James F. Burch (retiree) Anne R. Cooley (retiree) Marion E. (Hubbard) Daniels (retiree) Robert C. Davis (scholarship donor) Betty J. Evans (scholarship donor) Janet Green (former nursing professor) Timothy J. Kinch (retiree) William C. Lewis (retiree) Joan M. Majer (retiree) Stephen P. Munn (friend) Richard Randol (scholarship donor) Charles J. Stemples (former employee) Josephine P. Swift (retiree) Mabel E. Walker (scholarship donor) Calvin F. Zimmer (Professor Emeritus)

Remembering Ed Coombs

In Mark’s Memory

The College community mourned the loss of an ardent SUNY Canton supporter and volunteer last Fall.

The entire College was deeply saddened last year when Zvi and Jill Szafran’s son, Mark, passed away Nov. 1. Mark was a loving son, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the College and enjoyed attending events and cheering on the Roos. He was joyful and spirited and loved movies, video games, collecting stuffed animals, and spending time with his family and friends.

Edward N. Coombs ’86 passed away Oct. 13 following an extended battle with cancer. He was a dedicated member of the Canton College Foundation Board of Directors for more than 10 years. Coombs was a New York State-certified Public Accountant and the managing member of Edward N. Coombs, LLC. His financial expertise was invaluable to the Foundation throughout his tenure, and he provided fiscal guidance during the construction of Kennedy Hall. He was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2017 and was named the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus. Coombs and his wife, Christine (Howard) Coombs ’85, established the Coombs-Muscarella Endowed Scholarship in 2013 to benefit a student active in extracurricular activities who displays leadership skills. “Ed was incredibly generous with his time and talent, and he proudly represented SUNY Canton in his daily personal interactions with others,” said President Szafran. “Our campus community will forever be grateful to Ed for his passion and dedication to the College.”

To honor Mark’s memory, the Szafrans have established the “Mark Szafran Memorial Endowed Scholarship” that provides opportunities to students who have overcome adversity. Those who would like to donate to this scholarship endowment can make a gift online at or contact the Canton College Foundation 800-811-6727.

Beloved Alum, College Advocate Bill Demo Passes Community leader and educator William D. Demo ’57 passed away last June at the age of 83. In addition to being a well-known Northern New York auctioneer, Demo taught at St. Lawrence Central School from 1962-1989 and was a volunteer firefighter and Brasher Town Councilman for most of his life. He was a generous benefactor to the Canton College Foundation and served on its Board of Directors for 31 years. In 1989, he and his wife established the Bill and Kathleen Demo and Family Endowed Scholarship. In addition to many community service awards, he was inducted into the SUNY Canton Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the Distinguished Alumnus Award that same year. “Bill’s generosity and impact extended to every corner of our region,” said Canton College Foundation Board Chair Bernie C. Regan ’65. “The love he had for the North Country, which included SUNY Canton, was evident by his dedication to and investment in his community. We were fortunate to have the support of someone who believed very strongly in the transformative power of education.”



34 Cornell Drive Canton, New York 13617 If After Canton is addressed to a son or daughter who has graduated and no longer maintains a permanent address at your home, please clip the address label and return it with the correct address to the SUNY Canton Alumni Association, 34 Cornell Drive, Canton NY 13617, or email the updated address to

Reconnect with friends and make new memories with class socials for ’71, ’81, ’96, ’11 and ’16 We hope to be able to celebrate with you in person October 8-10, but if it is not yet safe to do so, we will bring the essence of SUNY Canton straight to your home – virtually – October 11-16.

For a detailed schedule, please visit: For more information, contact the SUNY Canton Alumni Office at 1-800-811-6727 or

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