Joseph L. Centanni ’16, ’19

Joe Centanni says he wasn’t always sure he would finish his college education.

“I grew up a street kid in Troy who loved wreaking havoc with my friends,” Joe says. “I was a below-average student in the classroom, but well beyond my years in the streets. If there was chaos in my neighborhood, I was usually in the center of it.”

He credits his parents with keeping him “in line,” which he admits wasn’t easy.

“The truth is, it doesn’t matter what others think you’re supposed to be,” Joe advises. “Who do you want to be? You get to choose. The only thing that can stop you is you.”

And Joe didn’t let anyone or anything stop him.

In January 2020, after 24 years on the force, Joe retired as police captain for the Troy Police Department. While working full time and raising a family, Joe earned his B.S. degree in Community and Human Services with a concentration in Criminal Justice. In December of 2019, he graduated with his master’s degree in Social and Public Policy, as well as an advanced certificate in Community Advocacy.

“I completed 53 credits at a community college before stopping my education,” Joe says, “and for years, I regretted not completing my formal education. I finally decided to make it a priority in my life.”

He says his wife inspired him to go back to college to earn his bachelor’s degree.

“She was my biggest fan and believed more than I did that I possessed the skills to not only complete, but excel in college.”

At his commencement ceremony in 2019, Joe was chosen to be the student speaker and, upon retirement from the Troy Police Department, he accepted a position with SUNY Empire State College as director of safety and security. 

He says prospective students should not be afraid to take the first step toward earning their college degree.

“Sometimes people who didn’t go to college or haven’t been to college in years express concerns about making that initial contact and applying,” Joe says. “SUNY Empire has staff and advisors who will ease those concerns. At SUNY Empire, the process is not overwhelming, and the end result is well worth it.”