March 31, 2011

SUNY Empire State College Recognizes Excellence with Foundation Awards at Collegewide Conference

40th Anniversary Logo

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – March 31, 2011) – SUNY Empire State College recognized faculty and staff with annual Empire State College Foundation Awards for Excellence at its All College Conference last week, which celebrated the college's 40th anniversary serving adult learners. The awards recognize employees who go above and beyond what is required in fulfilling their duties.

President Davis, Garner, Nataly Tcherepashenets, 
last year's winner, and Susan H. Turben, 
for whom the award is named

President Davis, Garner, Nataly Tcherepashenets,last year's winner, and Susan H. Turben, for whom the award is named

The winner of the Susan H. Turben Award for Excellence in Scholarship was Northeast Center Mentor Karen Garner, of Albany. A full-time mentor at the college since 2005, she was recognized for the international reputation she is developing as a scholar in women’ s studies and history. Dr. Garner’s first book, “Precious Fire” (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003) was a study of political activist Maude Russell and her relationship to the Chinese Revolution and U.S. foreign policy. Dr. Stephan Rabe of the University of Texas at Dallas wrote: “In this book, Garner established herself within a new school of historians who believe that the study of international relations cannot be confined to official exchanges between diplomats or the exercise of state power. Businesses, philanthropies, missionaries and educators (so-called nongovernmental actors) also influence relations between nations and peoples.” Her second book, “Shaping a Global Women’s Agenda,” was published last year by the University of Manchester (U.K.) Press.

“I am honored to receive the Susan H. Turben Award for Excellence in Scholarship and I appreciate the support of my colleagues for my research,” Garner said.

The Susan H. Turben Award for Excellence in Scholarship is named for one of the college’s first graduates, early childhood expert and Foundation board member Susan H. Turben ’72.

President Davis, Mather and 
last year's winner Judy Gerardi

President Davis, Mather and last year's winner Judy Gerardi

The Foundation Award for Excellence in Mentoring went to Ronnie Mather, of Saratoga Springs, a psychology mentor in Human Development at the Center for Distance Learning. Mather has been described by his peers as a gifted and caring mentor whose students appreciate the humor, warmth and care that he brings to each and every exchange. In his nominating statement, it was noted how the new mentor began to adjust both to the U.S. higher education system, and the faculty mentoring system at Empire State College. Mather earned his B.A. from the University of Paisley and a Ph.D from the University of Essex, both in the U.K. He is originally from Glasgow.

“He turned his trepidation about assuming this new and somewhat unique role into a goal for himself: listen and learn from others. In other words, Ronnie Mather embraced the notion of being mentored by others so that he could, in turn, be an outstanding mentor himself,” according to his nominating statement. His humility, it was noted, never diminished his students’ faith in him. He was lauded for being an enthusiastic and dedicated mentor, who spends a lot of time on his course discussion boards interacting with his students, and providing valuable feedback on their studies. He gained the confidence of his students and was able to guide them academically so that they would “have confidence in themselves, and that, armed with that confidence, they might make wise and fulfilling choices about their future.”

“I was both surprised and delighted to receive this award,” Mather said. “It is at least as much a testimony to my colleagues who were willing to dedicate so much time to training a newcomer with no knowledge of the American educational system. Empire State College students continually amaze me with both their ability and dedication. One of my students last term had three children under 10, two jobs and three courses. It is an honor to serve that kind of student population.”

President Davis, Holler and 
last year's winner Marie Pennuci

President Davis, Holler and last year's winner Marie Pennuci

Deborah Holler ’97 (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies), of Syracuse, received the Foundation Award for Excellence in Part-time Mentoring. Holler has been with the college for 10 years, working at the Central New York Center since 2000. She mentors in Cultural Studies and the Arts in the areas of literature, creative writing, applied arts and art history. She also has been the primary mentor for students in a number of other areas of study and has successfully guided them through educational planning to graduation, according to her nominating statement. She was recognized for her work in developing a strong writing program at the Central New York Center, as well as for her commitment to Native American Studies and her community.

“Mentor Holler has been responsible for strengthening the overall writing program at Central New York by developing courses which help students to identify writing deficiencies and develop competency in communication. Her commitment to her students often means that she works beyond the normally expected days and hours for her line assignment,” the statement read. Holler also was responsible for reaching out to members of the Native American community to identify problems and concerns about the environment, and to help them find new outlets for their literature and art within the academic community. Holler was a “guiding force” behind the college’s first Native American Studies Residency held in Syracuse last fall.

Upon hearing about her award, Holler said, “I am at a loss for words, but honored to be recognized in this way by my colleagues.”

President Davis and Cosgriff

President Davis and Cosgriff

The Foundation Award for Excellence in Professional Service went to Timothy Cosgriff, assistant to the dean of the Genesee Valley Center. Cosgriff was noted by colleagues for his enthusiasm and his dedication to his job. He has a “collegial spirit,” and by spearheading and organizing numerous special events for the college, contributes to raising its profile in Rochester. Colleagues noted that he reaches out across the state to form teams with other employees. Besides his work with students and external communities, Cosgriff serves on numerous collegewide committees: the Committee on Professional Evaluation; the Professional Employee Development Conference, the Affirmative Action Committee, All College Planning Committee and the Environmental Sustainability Committee, upon which he has taken a lead role in efforts to “green” the college. In 2007-08, Cosgriff represented the college at the 2007 Equality Leadership Summit, and also participates in the Rochester Mayor’s Literacy Summit, and serves in the community as a board member of the Job Service Employer Committee and the Finger Lakes LGBT Workplace Alliance. He reaches out to colleges in the area to build relations and to strengthen the profile of the college. He developed the Romeo Book Exchange to provide students with an opportunity to give back to the college and help students. He also has worked with Director of Government Relations John D’Agati to build relationships with government representatives on various levels. In short, in all of his various endeavors, as one colleague said, “ Timothy Cosgriff has earned the esteem and respect of his co-workers, the faculty mentors and staff at the Genesee Valley Center, and many of the college’s graduate and undergraduate students who have had the privilege to work with him over the past several years.”

“Being recognized for distinguished professional service is a great accomplishment,” Cosgriff noted. “However the true honor is being able to work with the people that I work with each day. It is an award that belongs to three groups rather than just me. Working with professional employees across the college, our work impacts many students. The faculty at the Genesee Valley Center have been supportive of me and my programs from day one. They are an excellent group to work with. Working together we reach many students. But the real honor is working with the students and alumni, along with the army of work study students who help me make things happen. All groups make a day at work not seem like work.”

President Alan Davis and Patricia Pierce

President Davis and Pierce

Patricia Pierce, secretary to the dean of the Central New York Center, received the Foundation Award for Excellence in Support Services. Pierce, of East Syracuse, has been employed by the college for more than 15 years, having served six deans during her time at the college. According to her nominating statement, “Each dean had his/her own vision, expectations and style, but Pierce responded to all with knowledge, grace, and above all, a willingness to adapt, without compromising the integrity of the dean’s office.”

She is described as “ unflappable,” being, by nature, calm and collected, analytical and responsive, as well as having a long institutional memory that has served new deans well. Pierce has been active in the college community, serving as the support staff representative to a collegewide committee given the charge of collecting information on the role of support staff in the governance process. She also is actively involved in the deans’ secretary affinity group.

“It is an honor to receive this excellence award,” Pierce said. “I am grateful to work with such wonderful and dedicated people at Empire State College and to be a part of the best center in the college.”

About SUNY Empire State College

Celebrating its 40th anniversary throughout 2011, SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York. Students learn through independent studies, online courses, seminars and residencies. Learners also may earn credit for prior college-level learning from work and life experience.

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at 34 locations in New York state and online. Its 60,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, not-for-profit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

For additional information, visit For more on the 40th anniversary, please follow this link .


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