April 27, 2015

Statewide Celebratory Events Mark SUNY Empire State College’s 43rd Commencement

Brian A. Gallagher, United Way President and Chief Executive Officer, to Receive Honorary Doctorate

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – April 28, 2015) Statewide celebratory events beginning in Buffalo and concluding on Long Island mark SUNY Empire State College’s 43rd annual commencement season.

Approximately 3,000 associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and undergraduate and advanced graduate certificates will be conferred on the class of 2015.

For the first time, this year all undergraduate students were able to select which among seven of the college’s eight ceremonies to attend.

“We wanted to offer a graduating student living in Rochester or Syracuse, who may have relatives living in New York City, the Hudson Valley, or the Capital Region, the same type of flexibility for commencement that they have come to expect from their education,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “Graduates living throughout the state who have completed their undergraduate degrees primarily online now may join fellow undergraduate students who completed their degrees in largely face-to-face settings at events close to home, or anywhere in the state that best meets their needs.”

The time, day, date and location of each event and information about the commencement speakers are listed below.

Albany – Capital Region | Buffalo – Western New York | Hudson Valley | Long Island | New York City | New York City – Labor Students | Syracuse | Rochester

In keeping with the college’s long-standing tradition, graduate and undergraduate students will provide commencement remarks at each event.

In addition, Brian A. Gallagher, president and chief executive officer of United Way, will provide the commencement address at the college’s New York City ceremony Thursday, June 18, immediately after the college confers on him an honorary doctorate in humane letters in recognition of his leadership of the largest privately funded nonprofit in the world.

Sterling Roberson, vice president for career and technical education high schools, United Federation of Teachers, will provide the keynote address at the commencement event for Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies students. This ceremony will take place Friday, June 19, in New York City. The college’s labor center educates UFT’s paraprofessionals and the apprentices of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 and the United Association of Pipefitters and Plumbers Local 1.

About SUNY Empire State College’s Statewide Commencement Events

Albany – Capital Region

The Capital Region is scheduled for 11 a.m., Saturday, June 13, Empire State Plaza, South Mall Arterial, Albany, N.Y.

The commencement speakers are:

  • Mary Broderick, Schaghticoke, N.Y., Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Matthew Canuteson, Waterford, N.Y., Master of Arts in Social and Public Policy
  • Peter Keigley, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics.

About Mary Broderick

Mary Broderick graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in communications.

“I am in my early 60s with no plans to retire,” said Broderick. “I tried that at 55. It did not work for me.”

Broderick joined the New York State Department of Public Service in 2012 as a telecommunications analyst after working 25 years for Verizon Corporation. She said that she wanted to stay competitive in the workforce and recognized that having a bachelor’s would be to her advantage.

“I now have the credentials to back my experience and skills, which will allow me to pursue a path in public relations,” said Broderick. “I believe that there are many people, like myself, who missed the opportunity for a ‘traditional’ education. By pursuing a degree at SUNY Empire State College, they, too, could realize a life-changing experience.”

Broderick completed her degree online and is a 2014 recipient of the college’s Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship. Bahr ’83, ’95 is president emeritus of the Communications Workers of America.

The oldest of six children, she was the third generation in her family to work for what was the New York Telephone Company and is now Verizon Corp.

“I loved my job at Verizon,” said Broderick. “However, my daughter, who was a single mom, after becoming a domestic abuse survivor, went back to school to complete her degree in early childhood education. When she started her student teaching, I was needed to step in and manage the children and household, so she could concentrate on the final phase of her bachelor’s.”

Broderick retired from Verizon in 2006 and in the fall of 2007 returned to the workforce and joined CEO, a community service organization based in Troy, N.Y., where her daughter had worked. CEO sponsors the federally funded Foster Grandparents program, which she ran until she was offered a position with the state.

“The experience of me going to SUNY Empire at this time in my life was the final phase of a journey, which began when I started my associate degree at Hudson Valley Community College,” said Broderick. “I completed my degree with Hudson Valley in four years. My family has always been supportive and my husband took on additional tasks, including cooking meals. He only saw me leaving for work and then, after arriving home, retreating to a back room to do homework, after sharing the dinner he prepared.”

Broderick and her husband, William, live in Schaghticoke, N.Y., and are the parents of William B. Broderick, Jr., 44, a Verizon field technician; Michael Sean Broderick, 40, a foreman with Hoosick Valley Contractors; and Rita Mary Dolan, 34, who teaches pre-kindergarten in a collaborative program with CEO Troy and the Cambridge Central School District; and are the grandparents of Jana, 19, Nicholas, 15, Angelina, 11, and Ethan Broderick, 10.

About Matthew Canuteson

Graduate Matthew Canuteson and his wife, Lisa, with their sons, Abraham, 6, and Augustus, 4 at the reception following the 2015 commencement event held in Albany. Photo/Empire State College

Graduate Matthew Canuteson and his wife, Lisa, with their sons, Abraham, 6, and Augustus, 4, at the reception following the 2015 commencement event held in Albany. Photo/Empire State College

Matthew Canuteson, a 37-year-old consultant with Policy Research Associates, graduates with a Master of Arts in Social and Public Policy. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the State University of New York at Albany and first began his master’s with SUNY Empire in 2005, but left after completing a few courses.

“I went back to college to prove something to myself, that I could be successful and finish,” said Canuteson. “When I was younger, I had this ‘quitters’ complex, where I had a hard time completing things I started. Growing up, I never really performed very well in school and actually dropped out before finishing. I faced challenges, such as substance abuse and incarceration. Then I earned my GED, my B.A. from UAlbany and now, almost seven years later, I have completed my master’s with SUNY Empire.”

Canuteson is a 2014 recipient of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Voice Award and volunteers his time for Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany.

“My experience with SUNY Empire State College has meant a great deal to me because of the strange path that led me here,” said Canuteson. “My wife encouraged me to go back to school and I decided to just put one foot in front of the other and make it happen.”

This spring, his wife, Lisa, earned an A.A.S in Marketing and an A.A.S. in Management, both from SUNY Adirondack.

“I think it is important that people pursue their dreams, no matter what else may be going on in their lives,” said Canuteson. “I am an example that, by never giving up, you can have a life that is wonderful beyond your wildest dreams.”

The Canutesons live in Waterford, N.Y. with their sons, Abraham, 6, and Augustus, 4.

About Peter Keigley

Peter Keigley, a 35-year-old vice president and treasury management sales consultant at First Niagara Bank, graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics.

“This loose end has finally been tied,” said Keigley. “My experience with SUNY Empire State College has meant a tremendous amount to my family, career and me.”

Keigley earned 20 credits through the college’s process of evaluating a student’s knowledge and awarding credit for college-level learning, regardless of where or when the student acquired it.

“I heard about the possibility of earning credit for what I had learned during my career in banking from SUNY Empire,” said Keigley. “That was a catalyst for me in deciding to complete my degree. I knew I could accomplish my goal in a much shorter time.”

In addition to saving time, earning credit through the college’s rigorous academic process is less expensive than earning credit through traditional three- or four-credit courses.

In addition, Keigley chose SUNY Empire because of its flexible learning environment. He said, “Empire State College is part of the SUNY system, for which I have always had a great deal of respect.”

Keigley and his wife, Lauren, live in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with their children, Noelle, 3, and Quinn, 5 months.

Buffalo – Western New York

Debra Davis, of Buffalo, N.Y., graduates with an Associate in Science in Business

Debra Davis graduates with an Associate in Science in Business with a concentration in human resources. Photo/Provided by Debra Davis

The Buffalo and Western New York commencement event takes place at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 30, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, N.Y.

The commencement speakers are Debra Davis and Brendalee Piccone.

About Debra Davis

Debra Davis, a 55-year-old resident of Buffalo, N.Y., graduates with an Associate in Science in Business with a concentration in human resources.

“My experience with SUNY Empire State College has been an awesome and fulfilling journey,” said Davis. “For me, ‘the cherry on top’ is to graduate at my age and have my parents there to see me walk across the stage.”

Davis is the mother of Lance Kurtis Goodman, 36, and the grandmother of Sade Alysse Goodman, 6, and Allona Goodman, who is 11 months old.

“Initially, the thought of going to college was overwhelming. I think it had more to do with my age at the time I decided to continue my education than anything else. Once I enrolled, my age became just a number. With the support of my family, friends and the SUNY Empire faculty, I was able to achieve my goal of completing a college degree.”

A human resources executive administrative assistant at Moog, Inc., she expressed her deep appreciation to her employer of 28 years as the beneficiary of the company’s tuition reimbursement program.

“It's a wonderful way to acknowledge and invest in your employees,” said Davis. "For someone who thought she did not have the time for school, I have not missed a beat. I continued to be an actress at the Paul Robeson Theatre, a part-time disc jockey. I enjoyed reading, crocheting, jigsaw puzzles, life in general, all while attending SUNY Empire.”

As part of her responsibilities at work, she coordinates Moog’s college fair. Davis credits SUNY Empire State College’s former recruiter and now Senior Staff Assistant and Program Coordinator Colleen Reedy with convincing her she could succeed.

Brendalee Piccione will graduate with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Public History.

Brendalee Piccione graduated with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Public History. Photo/Provided by Brendalee Piccione

SUNY Empire State College was a perfect choice for me,” said Davis. “Returning to school later in life is not an easy thing to do, especially when you have responsibilities that you did not have when you left your parents’ home so many years ago. For me, SUNY Empire stood by its commitment to see me through from beginning to end.”

About Brendalee Piccione

Brendalee Piccione graduates with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Public History.

“My education experience at SUNY Empire State College has opened the door to possibilities for me that I never even dared to dream exist,” said Piccione. “I returned to college because I was struggling to make ends meet and I wanted to set an example for my son. I also follow in the footsteps of my beloved late aunt, Jessie Andresen, as only the second person on either side of my family to earn a master’s degree. As a result, I have become more confident and willing to take chances.”

The 48-year-old resident of Hamburg, N.Y., works in customer service at ZeptoMetrix Corporation and volunteers at the Charles E. Burchfield Nature and Arts Center.

Piccone is married to Josef Piccone and is the mother of a 26-year-old son, Michael Robert Kujawa.

Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley commencement event takes place at 3 p.m., Sunday, June 14, The Performing Arts Center Recital Hall, Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y.

The commencement speakers are:

Grace Caddell, Millerton, N.Y., Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies

Caitlin Cohn, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Master of Arts in Social and Public Policy

John Queirolo, Ridgefield, Conn., Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics

Long Island

The Long Island commencement event takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 20, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, LIU Post Campus, 720 Northern Boulevard, Brookville, N.Y.

The commencement speakers are:

Edward Shevlin III, Rockaway Park, Queens, Bachelor of Arts in Historical Studies

Nicholas Coppola, Oceanside, N.Y., Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services

Michael Tester, Medford, N.Y., Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

About Nicholas Coppola

Nicholas Coppola, a 50-year-old resident of Oceanside, N.Y., graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services. He was selected as a student speaker for the 2015 commencement ceremony held on Long Island.

More than 25 years ago, Coppola earned his associate degree in labor studies from the college as part of his requirements as an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3.

“As a kid in Richmond Hill, Queens, I always wanted to be in construction,” said Coppola. “College was not part of my plan.”

Coppola said that he is proud of completing his associate and characterizes his education as a gift from Local 3, a gift for which he is grateful.

Coppola progressed in his career by becoming a journeyman electrician, general foreman, superintendent and contractor. In 2008, however, a construction accident ended a 25-year career in a field he said he loved.

After multiple surgeries and an extensive recovery, Coppola said physical limitations frustrated and, at times, even angered him.

He found solace and purpose in life by becoming active in his parish social ministry, and as a member of The St. Vincent de Paul Society, which advocates on behalf of the poor.

Shortly after getting married to David Crespo in 2012, Coppola said he began to think about returning to college, which was both exciting and a bit frightening. Thanks to the urging and support of his spouse, he again enrolled with the college.

At that time he also said that he again was presented with a life-changing experience.

“When we returned from our honeymoon, my pastor informed me that Bishop Murphy directed him to remove me from any and every church ministry,” said Coppola. “I was not permitted on the altar. The reason? I married someone I love. It is that simple. That was a very significant moment in my life. Sure, I have dealt with some nasty comments that come from ignorance, but never had an injustice affected me in such a personal way.”

Coppola said that as a result of the actions of his church, and his three decades of volunteering with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, he chose to create a degree within the college’s community and human services area of study, in order to become an activist and advocate for those who do have access to the level of support he had in recovering from his injury on the job.

Coppola serves on the board of directors of GMHC, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected. He is also the president of SUNY Empire State College’s LGBTQA Student Alumni Club, which he helped found.

He said he plans on completing a master’s in policy studies with the college’s School for Graduate Studies.

About Edward Shevlin III

Edward Shevlin III earned a Bachelor of Arts in Historical Studies, with a concentration in Irish and Irish American Studies.

He earned an associate degree from the college in 2011.

Shevlin, 54, was selected as one of the student speakers for the 2015 commencement ceremony held on Long Island, and he is a 2015 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, SUNY’s most prestigious student honor.

“I must say that it is one of the greatest honors of my life to stand here today as a member of the graduating class of 2015,” said Shevlin. “I am sure that you will agree, and it must be said, that the path to graduation has not always been an easy one.  Many of us have juggled family responsibilities, careers and all of life’s ups and downs in order to be here today as graduates.”

A 22-year employee with the New York City Department of Sanitation, Shevlin may be the only employee of the department who speaks the Irish language.

“As a New York City sanitation worker, things like the daily burden of personally picking up five to 10 of garbage each day made studying rather tough in the evenings,” said Shevlin. “Winter blizzards, which necessitated around-the-clock plowing, made it difficult to even think of my education. Hurricane Sandy, with its incredible destructive power, actually claimed my car, taking it away on the outgoing tide along with a load of books, as I watched in awe.”

As part of his commencement remarks, Shevlin said that he is a high-school dropout and an alcoholic. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he said he experienced an epiphany and began his sober life Oct. 20, 2001, and went on to earn his GED.

“The rest, as they say, is history,” said Shevlin. “Five years after committing to a sober life, I enrolled with SUNY Empire State College as an undergraduate. I changed from a high-school dropout into a man of letters. I have been richly rewarded for my work in academia with two Irish language summer study awards from the Fulbright commission, the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the opportunity to stand before you and represent my class as a student speaker.”

He is a 2013 recipient and 2011 recipient of a grant from the Fulbright Commission in Ireland’s Gaeltacht Summer Language Study program to study the Irish language in Ireland.

Recently, the New York Daily News, Newsday, WCBS-TV and many others, reported on how Shevlin has rescued more than 700 American flags from the garbage in order to provide them with the respectful disposal he says they deserve.

He is the 2012 recipient of the New York City Council’s Thomas Manton Irish Man of the Year Award.

Shevlin also was profiled in 2011 by The New York Times and the Daily News for receiving his first Fulbright Commission for Summer Language Study grant.

The commission in Ireland is a part of the Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Set up by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946, The Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. international exchange program in the world. It offers opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake postgraduate study, research and teaching in 155 countries worldwide.

Shevlin and his wife, Mary Ellen, a special-education teacher in Bayonne, N.J., were married March 21, 2015, and honeymooned in Ireland.

They live in Rockaway Park, Queens.

About Michael Fletcher Tester

Michael Fletcher Tester, a 55-year-old resident of Suffolk County, N.Y., graduated with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Public History.

Selected as a speaker for the college’s 2015 commencement ceremony held on Long Island, his master’s thesis combines theater with public history.

Tester also is a recipient of the college’s School for Graduate Studies Diversity Fellowship, which provides funds to pay for tuition, fees and a small stipend for full-time graduate students.

A professional actor, writer and performer, he is the son of “Jazzbo” the magic clown, a now-retired Long Island fixture for more than 50 years.

During his senior year at Hicksville High School, Tester also was voted “Class Clown” and “Most Dramatic” by his fellow students.

“It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but in my case, it took The Village People,” said Tester. “After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I proceeded to work my way through those masculine archetypes as an actor in six countries and 47 states. From a sailor in ‘South Pacific’ to a cowboy in an ill-fated TV show about monster trucks. From the most improbable Native American in ‘Pocahontas,’ to the biker in ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ As for the cop, well, once upon a time, I ran away from the circus of show business to the ranks of those wearing a blue collar. I graduated from the police academy to become one of New York City’s finest.  But when it became apparent that the uniform was another costume, I left the force to become a published author and composer, as well as an arts educator and actor.”

As an arts educator, he teaches master classes in multiple performing arts disciplines at the Long Island High School for the Arts.

A member of the Dramatist Guild of America, scholarship graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and member of Actors Equity Association, Tester has performed in almost every U.S. state and several foreign countries, in Broadway musicals, such as “Annie,” “Crazy For You” and “Peter Pan.”

He is the author and composer of “The Pirate Musical!” (Baker’s Plays), “The Mummy Musical,” (Dramatic Publishing), “Hollywood Exposed!” (Actors Playhouse, Miami), “Amoebas on Parade!!” (King’s Head Theatre, London), “Hope & Glory: A Musical History,” (Walt Whitman’s Historic Birthplace) and “Most Likely To: The Senior Superlative Musical.”

His most recent acting work includes “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was performed in Stafford-on-Avon, England.

“You may have noticed that I skipped one of The Village People, the construction worker,” Tester said in his commencement remarks. “This is where SUNY Empire State College enters the narrative. For what have we as graduate students been engaged in these many semesters, but the act of tearing down old structures to rethink new ones? In the process of reconsidering the world around us, we have been confronted with the gift of re-examining the world within us. My work at SUNY Empire challenged me to reconsider the very definition of masculinity, and exactly who decided that pink is for girls, blue is for boys, and why. No doubt you too have experienced such epiphanies during the excavation period of your higher education.  In this regard, it could be argued that we have been deconstruction workers. Now, as we pass through the paradigm shift from undergraduate to masters, we enter our reconstruction period. May we all continue to build upon the creative choices we have made.”

New York City

6 p.m., Thursday, June 18, Alfred Learner Hall, Columbia University, 2920 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

Brian A. Gallagher, president and chief executive officer, United Way, will receive an honorary doctorate in humane letters.

The commencement speakers are:

Brian A. Gallagher, president and chief executive officer, United Way, Doctor of Humane Letters

Omar Richards, Brooklyn, N.Y., Bachelor of Science in Social Change

New York City – The Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies

The commencement event for the college’s labor students takes place at 6:30 p.m., Friday, June 19, Alfred Learner Hall, Columbia University, 2920 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

Sterling Roberson, vice president for career and technical education high schools, United Federation of Teachers, will deliver the commencement address.


The Rochester commencement event takes place at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 7, Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 East Main Street, Rochester, N.Y.

The commencement speakers are:

  • Maurice Haskins, Rochester, N.Y., Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services
  • Lindsay Warren Baker, Honeoye Falls, N.Y., Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
  • Robin Steron, West Henrietta, N.Y., Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services

About Maurice Haskins

Maurice L. Haskins Sr., a 34-year-old resident of Rochester, N.Y., graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services.

The Brooklyn, N.Y. native and his wife, April, have built a life and are raising their two sons, Maurice L. Jr., 6, and Malcolm, 2, in Rochester.

“SUNY Empire State College allowed me to pursue my educational goal around my life,” said Haskins. “I truly felt like I was a part of the process of developing my educational path at SUNY Empire.”

A youth development practitioner with more than 10 years of experience working with a number of agencies, he is a senior visitation specialist with the Society for the Protection and Care of Children.

Haskins holds an A.A.S. from Monroe Community College and his goal is to earn an advanced degree in strategic leadership.

About Lindsay Warren Baker

Lindsay Warren Baker, a 39-year-old freelance stage director, playwright, teaching artist and yoga instructor, graduates with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies.

Baker also is an acting instructor and dramatic coach for The Eastman School of Music’s Voice and Opera Department.

“The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at SUNY Empire was perfect for me,” said Baker. “I was able to go to school part time, design my own degree and put together a creative project for my thesis. I was able to immediately apply what I learned to the work that I did on a daily basis, because I made my degree work in conjunction with my profession and career.”

Baker, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and Theater from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., said that she returned to college for a master’s because of the greater number of professional opportunities, including teaching in a collegiate setting, afforded by an advanced degree.

“My education with SUNY Empire was a completely worthwhile experience. I engaged in new ways of thinking. I explored my interests with more depth and was introduced to completely new concepts. It has helped shape me as an artist and as a person and, throughout I met wonderful people, both faculty and students.”

Baker, her fiancé, Micah Nelson, and Micah’s son, Max Nelson, 7, live in Lima, N.Y.

About Robin Steron

Robin Steron, a 46-year-old administrator at Congregation Etz Chaim, Fairport, N.Y., graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services.

“My first attempt at college had been 25 years earlier and, to be honest, when I started at SUNY Empire, I was a bit scared,” said Steron. “SUNY Empire gave me a truly personalized education experience. I was able to choose classes and projects that were directly connected to my own education and career goals.  My professors were instrumental in helping me to design a degree plan that helped me reach those goals.”

Steron also said that that SUNY Empire’s flexible approach to teaching and learning, its focus on the specific needs of adult students and, the strength of its liberal arts programs, made the college the right fit for her.

“I also was a bit nervous to try new things, such as speaking at the Student Academic Conference,” said Steron. “As a result of participating in student life at the college, I have become much more confident. New experiences do not worry me anymore, now I embrace them.”

Steron presented her research, “The Impact of Society and the Media on Nonsuicidal Self Injury in Adolescents,” and “Police and Crisis Intervention – How the Memphis Model Improves Outcomes,” at the college’s 2012 and 2013 Student Academic Conferences.

Steron and her husband, Robert, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, are the parents of Megan, 22, Henry, 16, and live in West Henrietta, N.Y.

She said she delayed returning to college because the family moved frequently when Bob was serving in the Navy and then, after he completed his service, he went back to school and she began to home school both of the children.

When her daughter went off to college, Steron said that she decided it was time to focus on her own education and that she was very pleased her decades-old credit transferred to SUNY Empire.

Megan graduated college earlier this year and mother and daughter are planning a summer trip to celebrate their personal and academic accomplishments.

Today, Steron also volunteers with Simply Homeschooling, a support group for homeschooling families in greater Rochester area.


The Syracuse commencement event takes place at 4 p.m., Saturday, June 6, Civic Center, 411 Montgomery Street, Syracuse, N.Y.

The commencement speakers are:

  • Kalon Riehle, Cicero, N.Y., Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Jacqueline Hannon, Baldwinsville, N.Y., Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics

About Jacqueline Hannon

Jacqueline Hannon, a resident of Baldwinsville, N.Y., graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics and a concentration in marketing.

The 40-year-old single mother of Sean, 18, and Patrick, 15, is the assistant director of development at ACR health, a nonprofit organization based in Syracuse.

“I could not possibly have completed my degree in a traditional college setting,” said Hannon. “As a single mom with two teenage boys involved in sports and other activities, who works full time, owns a business and works part time, there is no college other than SUNY Empire for me.”

Hannon is the owner of Sugar and Spice Party Planners, a children's party-planning service, which has been in business for 10 years, and Human Connect Four, a social media and marketing firm.

She earned 45 credits for the college-level knowledge she acquired through work and life experience, which saved her time and money.

“When I left college, I knew I would finish someday, but life kept taking crazy turns and putting up roadblocks,” said Hannon. “Finally, I decided, no more excuses, I will graduate by the time I turn 40, and complete my bachelor’s degree before my oldest child earns his high-school diploma. I went for it all at once, took four classes at a time, ran with all my heart and soul and crossed the finish line just in time to achieve my two goals.”

About Kalon Riehle

Kalon Riehle and his wife, Wenling, live in Cicero, N.Y.

Kalon Riehle and his wife, Wenling, live in Cicero, N.Y. Photo/Provided

Kalon Riehle, a 37-year-old veteran of the U.S. Navy and math teacher with the Syracuse City School District, graduates with a Master of Arts in Teaching.

“SUNY Empire has given me the opportunity to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher, while still meeting work, family and financial commitments,” said Riehle.

Riehle teaches secondary math in the district’s newly configured Institute of Technology, which combines aspects of project-based and expeditionary learning with the rigors required for college and career readiness.

Before becoming a teacher, he had a successful career in engineering, which began during his service in the Navy.

“I returned to college because of my desire to become a teacher,” said Riehle. “Central New York is an amazing location for kayaking and I feel very lucky to live in such an incredible place.

An avid whitewater kayaker, he volunteers at the Skaneateles YMCA and community center, teaching the sport. Riehle and his wife, Wenling, live in Cicero, N.Y.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 73,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at www.esc.edu.


Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918


518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)