Alumni Association
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Notable Alumni

More than a quarter million students have passed through the doors of Hudson Valley Community College since it first opened in 1953 in an old Troy shirt collar factory. In nearly 60 years, more than 65,000 students have received degrees from the college.

In 2003, the college celebrated its 50th Anniversary by celebrating 50 of its graduates. A small number, to be sure, but a representative sample of the accomplished, successful and intriguing people who used Hudson Valley as a launching pad for their career. They started here, but wound up in the most diverse and interesting places: some expected, many unexpected.

These portraits provide a snapshot of the breadth and diversity of our students: examples of the success stories this college helped write. We hope that by celebrating these alumni, we are celebrating all those who have come here in the past 50 years seeking a first-class education, opportunities for success, and a stepping stone for an accomplished future.


Ted AdamsTed Adams '97
Chemical Dependency Counseling
CDEOC College Prep, 1995

Ted Adams was one year into recovery and working as a part-time waiter when he was referred to the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) by his counselor.

Ted knew he wanted to attend college but recognized his need to build his skills and confidence. He started in the CDEOC's College Prep Program in January 1995, proving himself to be a model student. He entered Hudson Valley Community College in September 1995, to study Human Services. He said he realized along the way that in some shape or form, everyone's life is affected by some type of chemical dependency, and he switched his studies to Chemical Dependency Counseling.

A four-semester honor student, Adams was the recipient of a Second Chance Scholarship and the Patty Walsh Scholarship, was selected for Who's Who in American Two Year Colleges, and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. He graduated in 1997 with an impressive 3.98 average.

"There was a single one-credit course that I got a B in, and it really humbled me," he said.

Adams took his Second Chance Scholarship with him to the University at Albany, where he earned his bachelor's in social work in 2002.

Recently promoted to program manager at Hope House in Troy, Adams supervises a staff of 13.

"These kids are great," he said. "I was probably drawn to the field because I can assist in making changes to give them a better chance." Similarly, he said the faculty at Hudson Valley and at the EOC "were with me all the way.

"They were caring and empathetic and supportive, and they modeled techniques that I use now in my work."

Also, Adams is firm in acknowledging the invaluable contributions of his family and significant other, and their patience and understanding while he pursued his educational goals.


Sheila McGrath BabbinoSheila McGrath Babbino '88
Human Services

If there's a single word to describe Sheila McGrath Babbino, it might be "indomitable."

Former Tulip Queen for the city of Albany, she graduated from Hudson Valley's Human Services program just four short years after sustaining severe head and spinal cord injuries in an auto accident. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree and founded a head injury support organization.

"Everyone at Hudson Valley showed me the importance of reaching out to people, and how much I myself could benefit from that. The Center for Access and Assistive Technology at Hudson Valley was enormously helpful, and I felt extremely supported there," said Babbino, who now works to assist others in identifying their needs and in finding resources.

Babbino confessed she's cut down on her volunteer work. "Before, I was active in the community," laughed the mother of two, "but now I'm active in the PTA!"


Todd BaileyTodd Bailey '96
Engineering Science

Todd Bailey was studying for his bachelor's degree at MIT when he realized the value of his earlier Hudson Valley education in engineering science.

"I was the only transfer student from a community college accepted at MIT that year. And I graduated on time, which isn't that common. I attribute what I did to the teaching, and to the level and depth of courses I took at Hudson Valley," he said recently from a lab at University of Texas in Austin, where he completed his Ph.D. degree requirements early this past summer. He had just accepted a position with IBM Development in East Fishkill, NY.

Bailey had a couple of unsuccessful tries at college when he was fresh out of high school. Later, at 26, he decided he needed more intellectual challenge, and enrolled again at Hudson Valley.

"It gave me a lot of confidence, and a platform from which to get a head start," he explained. "I get letters from MIT asking for money, and I'm not yet in a position to donate. But if I were, the first school to get my money would be Hudson Valley: if I hadn't gone there, my life would be completely different."


Claudio BazzichelliClaudio Bazzichelli '96
Engineering Science

Claudio Bazzichelli was flying executive jets in his native Italy when he met his future wife, Allison, who had come to Rome to study. He followed her to Clifton Park, and then decided to get an education while he was here.

"Hudson Valley was the perfect match for me," he said from his office in Manhattan, where he works as a financial services consultant to banks and insurance companies.

As a student, though, he wanted engineering skills to combine with his love of aviation, and he said he found a great faculty to teach him at Hudson Valley.

"I found it extremely hard to get back to basic math, which had been my strength, and maybe my English wasn't so good.," he said, recalling as reasons why he "didn't quite" graduate with a 4.0 average. Still, his grades were high enough that his work was rewarded with transfer acceptance to Cornell University, where he finished requirements for a B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in just a year and half, receiving scholarships and grants that made his education "almost free."

Today, Bazzichelli still flies for fun, and said Hudson Valley "gave me the knowledge to go anywhere."


Brian BradkeBrian Bradke '2001
Engineering Science

An associate's degree in Engineering Science from Hudson Valley already has taken Brian Bradke a long way: first it sent him "up the hill" to RPI, where the Latham resident earned his bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering. The two degrees and Bradke's hard work then took him across the country to top-ranked Stanford University in California, where he now studies toward his master's degree.

A Shaker High School grad and an Eagle Scout, Bradke enrolled at Hudson Valley because, "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and my parents didn't want to shell out $35,000 until I was certain."

His mother had earned her degree in business administration at Hudson Valley, and she was a positive influence in the decision.

Today, Bradke is pleased he made Hudson Valley his first choice.

"I met best friends at Hudson Valley who transferred to RPI with me, and we found we were really well prepared when we got there. We were in small classes at Hudson Valley, and everyone was friendly, and the teachers good," he said.

Chief lifeguard at Grafton Lakes State Park this past summer, Bradke also worked at St. Mary's Hospital and was an EMT for the town of Colonie during his undergrad years.


Gennady BratslavskyGennady Bratslavsky, M.D. '94
Medical Technology

Gennady Bratslavsky graduated from a three-year, pre-med and nursing program at Kiev Medical School in the Ukraine in 1991, just before his entire family immigrated to this country.

He had been accepted to a prestigious medical institute in the former Soviet Union, but here in the U.S., because he spoke no English, he was told by Albany Medical School to demonstrate that he was capable of learning medicine in the language.

"I went to Hudson Valley initially out of necessity, but it turned out to be excellent preparation for medical school for me," he said. "We had lots of one-to-one time, and training in a medical lab made me a more complete physician."

Bratslavsky had difficulty with his English classes at Hudson Valley, but he made progress, graduated and transferred to Siena and then Albany Med, graduating as an M.D. with Distinction in Research. He is currently a third-year resident in urology at Albany Medical Center. He met his wife, Katya, a respiratory therapist, in Albany. In May, she gave birth to their first child: Michael Simon Bratslavsky.


John BuonoJohn Buono '68
Liberal Arts

Four years in the Air Force during the mid-1960s helped John Buono focus on his future. Before that, in high school, he knew that one day he would succeed at college, but the nuns wrote on his report card, "John could do better if he opened a book."

He came home from the military and enrolled at Hudson Valley on the GI Bill®, working construction on the side. He remembers he had no idea what he wanted to do.

"I really didn't know where I was headed, but I was interested in local government, and my dad was involved in local politics, so I enrolled at Hudson Valley to study political science and history," he said.

Buono used money from savings bonds he had purchased while in the military to buy a brand new '66 Ford Falcon (blue and white), and he dreamed about playing baseball. He tried out for Hudson Valley's team, pitching and playing infield, but left the team - and that dream - for another when he married.

After completing his associate's degree at Hudson Valley, he transferred to University at Albany, eventually earning his master's degree in public administration there.

Now presiding over Hudson Valley's 50th Anniversary Celebration as the college's fifth president, Buono said he didn't see a great deal of student unrest during the 60s at Hudson Valley, but said students and faculty had great discussions about the issues over coffee, or maybe over a beer at the Grove.

A few years later, from 1979 through 1985, Buono became an instructor at Hudson Valley, trying to show the same level of expertise in teaching that he recalled from those who had taught him.

"Bill Keck, Frank Larose, Mrs. O'Brien and Mrs. Lemon. I remember those folks here at Hudson Valley better than I remember my professors in grad school; that's their impact on me. My Intro to Government Politics class here prepared me for my career in public service, and I'm doing exactly what I discovered I wanted to do."


Roderick W. Ciferri IIIRoderick W. Ciferri III '61
Construction Technology

Roderick W. "Skip" Ciferri III had been accepted at RPI and Clarkson, but really didn't want to go to college after graduating from high school in Millbrook. He worked for a year, and then allowed himself to be talked into enrolling at Hudson Valley, which at the time was still in the old shirt factory in Troy, just a block from his aunt's rooming house, where a number of RPI students took lodging.

"I rented a room from my aunt, and soon found that Hudson Valley was a good place for me, and I kind of found my way after that," said Ciferri, president of R.W. Ciferri, Inc., in Millbrook. "Most of the students had been in the military, and they were serious about studying, and so I was, too."

Ciferri graduated from the college's Construction Technology program, and soon became a union brick layer. His career and capabilities grew rapidly, and he was just 27 years old when he supervised construction of Greenville High School for another contractor.

"It was sink or swim, and I learned," he said, remembering that first major responsibility.

Ciferri's family had been in construction in Millbrook since 1906, but Skip Ciferri wound up establishing his own corporation, separate from theirs, and became contractor for a long list of high profile buildings, including Hyde Park's Roosevelt High School, the St. Columba Church in Hopewell Junction, the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, and various projects at the Culinary Institute of America.

A former elected building inspector and assessor, Ciferri has been a member of the Dutchess County Republican Committee and Vice Chairman of the town of Washington Republican Committee. He was a trustee of St. Francis Hospital, and director of the Bank of Millbrook.

"I've been fortunate," Ciferri said, "and I know part of it is because of my education."


John F. ClarkJohn F. Clark '80
Criminal Justice

United States Marshal John F. Clark recently was appointed to the post of Chief Deputy for the US Marshal's Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria. His business card is embossed in gold, with a large star-centered logo of the United States Marshal's badge. He oversees all duties in a 55-person judicial district.

Clark said he was pleased to accept the appointment, but didn't sound surprised: his goal was law enforcement when he first came to Hudson Valley out of high school from Chatequgay, NY (close to the Canadian border), enrolling in Criminal Justice. His brother attended Hudson Valley before him, also majoring in Criminal Justice, and now works for the U.S. Park Police in Washington.

Clark took the U.S. Border Patrol exam and earned a position on the country's southern border (a culture shock, he admits), and then moved on to the Capitol Police in Washington, studying part time toward a bachelor's degree in his field. He joined the Marshal Service in 1983, having first heard about it when a marshal spoke to his class at Hudson Valley and sparked his interest.

"All the Criminal Justice profs were very interactive with the students, and they invited speakers for us, and took us on trips to expose us to programs," he said.

"For a beginning base, I couldn't have done any better," he said. Also, he remembered working part-time with the grounds maintenance department at Hudson Valley, "a great bunch of guys."

Clark teaches Sunday School and serves as a youth mentor in volunteer programs. He lists Jesus Christ, along with his wife and parents, as most important in his life.


Kenneth B. CollotonKenneth B. Colloton '74
Accounting

An accounting degree from Hudson Valley Community College provided the foundation for a globetrotting banking career that took Kenneth Colloton around the world and back to his hometown.

Currently executive vice president in charge of Government Banking for Fleet Bank, Colloton said he just wasn't ready for a four-year college when he graduated from Columbia High School in East Greenbush. Instead, he enrolled at Hudson Valley, worked summers at a bank and at the YMCA in Albany during the school year.

"There's a big difference between an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old," Colloton said, explaining of his success at Hudson Valley, and later at York College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in accounting and found his interest in management.

Positions at Banker's Trust in Albany and in its International Division in NYC led to Colloton's lengthy banking assignments in Rio de Janeiro and then in Hong Kong.

Returning to the US six years and two languages later, Colloton jumped back into YMCA volunteer service, first chairing the Capital District YMCA, and then joining the Board of the YMCA of USA in Chicago. Currently chairperson for the Y-USA's Strategic Planning Committee, Colloton also worked to bring the new Y to the Greenbush community.

"It's the fastest growing Y in the US," he said proudly.


Joe CondonJoe Condon '66
Business

Joe Condon has talked to the people of the Capital Region for 40 years, and today his "top-40, Internet-only radio station" has an audience of about a half-million.

"We're like cable TV was in the early 70s," he explained, "and there's a need to educate the market."

Now in its fourth year, Condon's Internet station (www.Radioalbany.com) is the listening choice for people in the 18-45 demographic, particularly while they're at work.

Still, Condon hasn't turned his back on traditional radio, and still thinks of himself as a "disc jockey."

Condon started doing weekend DJ work on WTRY in 1963, while he was still in high school.

He enrolled at Hudson Valley in business, already aware that radio would be his career.

"The teachers were almost like friends, and they really cared about our success," he recalls.

The college was on "trimesters" during the standard public school year at that time, and Condon believes that system permitted him to enroll in more courses than students at other schools. "I felt I was learning more," he said.

Since then, Condon's own son has graduated from Hudson Valley.

"It worked great for him, too," he said. "I've watched the college really grow, and the expansion has been both astounding and pleasing."


James P. ConleyJames P. Conley '57
Electrical Technology

"We didn't do college in my family," remarked James P. Conley, "but I came out of the Navy in 1955 and went right to Hudson Valley, in the old shirt factory. It gave me the impetus to go on, and the confidence that I could be successful as a student. We even had an honor society, and I was its president - pretty good for a guy of my background."

Professor James Fitzgibbons (later to become the college's second president) helped Conley find a job with IBM after his graduation from the Electronics Technology program, and he soon transferred into Rochester Institute of Technology to complete his bachelor's degree.

From then on, Conley rose steadily in industry, finally retiring from GE in 1994 as sales manager for heavy industrial businesses. At one point, he administered a budget of about $300 million.

"I had great experiences, and I don't know how I could have had a more interesting career," he said. "Hudson Valley opened doors that wouldn't have been open to me, gave me incentive and the confidence to go through those doors."

With GE support, Conley established the James P. Conley Family Foundation at the college, establishing a financial award for academic leaders in the Electrical Technology program.


Mark CorboMark Corbo P.E. '80
Engineering Science

Mark Corbo doesn't mince words when he tell tells you what he thinks about his education at Hudson Valley.

"After transferring to RPI, I finished second in my class (3.96 GPA), proving (at least in my mind) that the education I got at Hudson Valley was at least as good as my last two years," he said.

Corbo's family had offered him two years at RPI, and let him choose whether they would be the first two or the last two.

"When I got over to RPI, I found that kids who had spent the first two years at Hudson Valley were ahead, particularly with hands-on work.

Author of more than a dozen technical papers, including several that received awards or other recognition, Corbo "aced" his professional engineering exam on his first try. He earned his master's from RPI's Hartford center at night, and with a partner later founded No Bull Engineering after being laid off from MTI in Latham.

A "virtual" company now comprising Corbo and about two dozen consultants, No Bull Engineering does rotodynamics, torsional vibration mechanics, finite element analysis, etc. The name was chosen to avoid the alphabet soup of acronyms, as well as to make people remember, and realize it is a virtual company, without big overhead, Corbo said.

"Hudson Valley is the 'No Bull Engineering' of engineering colleges," he said. "I had great instructors, and there was a lot of camaraderie between students."


Eileen CoteEileen Cote '82
Medical Secretarial Science

Art teacher Eileen "Ivy" Cote wasn't encouraged to enter either teaching or creative arts while in high school, so she turned to Hudson Valley for training to find a job.

Ultimately, the training Cote received in Medical Secretarial Science provided her with the means to earn her later education: a bachelor's degree in art education at The College of Saint Rose, and a master's in creative arts in learning from Lesley University (Cambridge).

Now a Canaan resident, Cote is afforded "lots of latitude" to design curriculum for her art students at nearby Country Day School in Lenox, MA.

"I can be independent, and have freedom in my teaching," she said.

At Hudson Valley, she enjoyed the sciences, was terrified that she wouldn't pass her math classes, and didn't enjoy the secretarial courses because, "I kind of knew they'd become obsolete soon." Still, she found them useful in getting a job, and that job, working for a group of five OB/GYNs, paid her living expenses while she continued her college education.

"No one can really predict where they're going," Cote advised. "I knew I wanted a fulfilling career, so I bit the bullet and went through the work, knowing it would be worth it."


Milagro DelgadoMilagro Delgado '83
Security Administration
1990 Distinguished Alumna

The name "Milagro" means "miracle" in Spanish, and that's how Milagro "Millie" Delgado sees her life and career.

Brooklyn-born Delgado was working with minorities at Schenectady's Urban Center before she took a job in the mailroom at Hudson Valley. She transferred to the college print shop job and began attending school during her evenings, studying Security Administration.

Bilingual, Delgado found her calling at Hudson Valley's Capital District Educational Opportunity Center, and soon was accompanying a parole officer on visits to groups of short-term inmates at area prisons.

"I was never scared, and I was treated with respect," she said. Eventually working in admissions and recruitment for the EOC, she's proud of her rapport with paroled individuals, many with special needs. She took the possibilities of education into halfway houses and soup kitchens.

Delgado earned a bachelor's degree in higher education and administration at Empire State College while working at the EOC, and eventually was named both Albany YWCA Woman of the Year, and Hudson Valley's 1990 Distinguished Alumna.

Now retired, Delgado spends winters in Boca Raton, golfing, and using her language capabilities while volunteering in a soup kitchen. Summers find her back in the Capital Region because, "This is home," she said.


Lalena DeMarcoLalena DeMarco '99
Early Childhood Development

"If Hudson Valley was a four-year school, I would have stayed right there," said Lalena DeMarco, capsulizing her feelings for the school where she received her associate's degree in Early Childhood Development in 1999.

Fresh out of The College of Saint Rose with a bachelor's degree and dual certification in special education and elementary education, DeMarco began teaching children with emotional problems last year at Goff Middle School in East Greenbush.

"I have a self-contained 6-7-8th grade class of 12 pupils, and the age group is exciting," she said. "I've learned a lot already about how to work with these kids; it's hard, but I have excellent support, and great aides."

DeMarco did things right on schedule: she enrolled at Hudson Valley in her chosen field right after graduation from Shenendehowa High School in 1997.

"Hudson Valley has such a great Early Childhood Department," she said. Early in her college career, she thought she wanted to teach kindergarten, but Hudson Valley placed her at the Helping Hands School, where she became interested in special education.

"At Hudson Valley, we worked together as a team, and the profs all knew you well and you had many contacts," she said. "When it came time for interviews, those contacts work to your advantage."


William F. FaganWilliam F. Fagan '73
Liberal Arts
President, Hudson Valley Community College Foundation

Born and raised in Troy, Bill Fagan didn't know what he wanted to study in college, and turned to Hudson Valley to help him decide.

Now president of his family's insurance business, Fagan said his college choice was perfect for him.

"I enjoyed Hudson Valley immensely. I met people who became lifelong friends," he said, noting great teachers and a curriculum that prepared him well for transfer to his father's alma mater, St. Bonaventure.

Fagan was primarily involved in sports while at Hudson Valley, including the boxing team.

Many years later, the late Frank Morgan, former dean of Liberal Arts at the college, called and asked Fagan to become involved in the newly formed Hudson Valley Community College Foundation. Fagan has been president of the foundation for the past several years, and remarked that his work with the organization is a way of helping out.

"I enjoy it because it's a way of giving back to an institution for which I have great affection and loyalty," Fagan said.


Deborah FunkDeborah Funk, M.D. '92
Paramedic Program Certificate

Deb Funk was saving lives in the back of ambulances long before she enrolled in the Paramedic Program at Hudson Valley. An emergency medical technician with a bachelor's degree from University at Albany, she knew being a paramedic would help her as she continued her studies at Albany Medical College, so she enrolled in Hudson Valley's program.

Now a board-certified emergency physician at Albany Med and medical director for the center's highly-respected Albany MedFLIGHT program, her focus is "air medicine."

Dr. Funk believes her training at Hudson Valley served her well along the way.

"The program was so clinically appropriate," said the ER doctor. "I was already doing patient care, but Hudson Valley really prepared me for med school, and for what I'm doing now."


Claudell Dwyer GaleaClaudell Dwyer Galea '57
Construction Technology
First Female Student; First Female Graduate

Claudell Dwyer was just 17 in 1955 when her guidance counselor at Lansingburgh High School recommended that she enroll in Hudson Valley Technical Institute to pursue a career as a draftsman. The counselor had been told the new Institute was planning to expand and admit women.

When Dwyer went to register, she was told the school didn't teach mechanical drawing, and she was placed in Construction Technology. She became the first and only female in a college filled with Korean War veterans, and also one of few women anywhere studying construction.

"I didn't know any different," she explained. "The faculty took me under their wing," and she sat with her instructors at lunch until "eventually, I broke away, and hung out with my classmates."

In 1957, just after her graduation, she married a student who was a year behind her at the college: Anthony Galea.

Dwyer was a member of the team of students who surveyed the Williams Farm before construction began there for the new Hudson Valley campus. Also, one of her assignments was to design a ladies' lounge and rest room for herself and future co-eds in the old downtown building, for which she used the pink and gray tiles distinctive in the 1950s.

Dwyer Galea worked briefly after her wedding, and then put her career on hold for 17 years, while she raised her four children. Then, she went to work for the state's Department of Historic Preservation, documenting and measuring historic buildings, until she secured a position in design and construction for the Office of General Services. After that came a position as assistant architect with the Department of Education. With training in code enforcement and asbestos abatement, she managed the environmental quality review program for all school construction in New York.

Along the way, she bought an old camp at Saratoga Lake and began rehabbing houses there - but that's another story.

Retiring in 1999, Dwyer Galea and her husband have since moved to Florida, where she golfs and has taken up water color painting.

Dwyer Galea's youngest daughter, Nicole, also graduated from the Construction Technology program at Hudson Valley, and subsequently studied civil engineering and marketing. She now is completing her master's in facilities management at Georgia Tech, where she is employed.

"And there are still just a handful of girls in these fields," her proud mom reported.


Anthony H. GaleaAnthony H. Galea '58
Mechanical Technology

One of Anthony "Tony" Galea's most vivid memories of his student days at Hudson Valley in the '50s was trying to find a parking space on "the old street campus" in downtown Troy.

More important, though, are his memories of meeting his wife, Claudell Dwyer, at the college. Galea courted and won the first female to graduate from Hudson Valley, and they are still married 46 years later.

An Army veteran who served in Europe during the Korean War, Galea became a Mechanical Technology major at Hudson Valley, and went on to study at both RPI and Union College while he worked as a civil engineer for the state Department of Transportation, designing and supervising the construction of numerous highway and bridge projects. Vandenburgh Avenue - Hudson Valley's front yard - was one of his first projects.

During the last half of that career, he was a regional utilities engineer, coordinating utilities involvement with construction. After retirement, Galea became a highway consultant to Verizon and Niagara Mohawk, and even consulted on design of the reconstruction of the Vandenburgh Avenue, rebuilding his own past project.

Today, in Sarasota, Florida, he still does a bit of consulting, between rounds of golf.

Remarking that his career seemed to happen almost magically, Galea said his success came mostly from being in the right place at the right time, "and believing in what I was doing."


Karen E. GordonKaren E. Gordon '70
Accounting
1997 Distinguished Alumna

Hudson Valley was the only educational option available to Karen Gordon when she graduated from high school, "and yet I feel as though I got absolutely the best education," said the 1970 accounting grad. Gordon later earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Saint Rose, and then went on to become Executive Director for the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) of the Greater Capital Region, Inc.

Honored as Hudson Valley's Distinguished Alumna for 1997, Gordon has received several other significant awards in recognition of her leadership. Under her direction, the CEO has grown to become a 350-employee, $14 million agency, operating 16 major programs vital to improving the lives of Rensselaer County residents.

Most recently, the CEO opened the Joseph L. Bruno Family Resource Center, a comprehensive center assisting people to become self-sufficient through child care, family development activities, partnerships for youth, a café and a conference center.

Gordon remembers attending fun "mixers" at Hudson Valley during the late '60s, but now spends her free time either on the golf course or playing with 2-year-old granddaughter, Gabriella.


John GrayJohn Gray '83
Liberal Arts
1996 Distinguished Alumnus

When John Gray first enrolled at Hudson Valley, he joined in a pick-up basketball game and was in awe over the skills of one of the players, an older, guy named Willie Hammett.

"I've never forgotten how good he was," Gray said of Hammett, who is now Hudson Valley's vice president of student services.

But today, Gray holds an important position in the community as well, and people recognize him as anchor and consumer reporter at WNYT (Channel 13). He was named Distinguished Alumnus at Hudson Valley in 1996.

Gray was editor of the "Hudsonian" student newspaper while at Hudson Valley, and he remembers covering the growth of the campus at that time. "It was just beginning to take off," he recalled, "but it's really fun to go back now and see how it's grown: it's like, wow!"

Gray was active in campus broadcasting at SUNY Oswego, where he transferred for his bachelor's degree after graduation from Hudson Valley.

After 18 years in broadcasting, Gray is most proud of the stories he's done in which he's helped individuals, such as a woman with cancer whose health insurance wouldn't cover her treatment. Gray's work helped overturn the insurance company's decision, and gave the woman a chance at life.


Amanda GrecoAmanda Greco '97
Early Childhood Development

Amanda Greco remembers doing creative, fun things in some of her Early Childhood Development classes at Hudson Valley.

"We got to act like kids," she recalled with a laugh.

A good representative of her class, she was chosen by President Stephen Curtis to accompany him to Albany to lobby for development of the Early Childhood program.

A former East Greenbush resident, Greco enrolled at the college right out of high school, and upon earning her associate's degree, was among five students chosen from Hudson Valley to attend Bennington College on a $60,000 scholarship. She graduated in 2000 with her Master of Arts degree.

From college in Vermont, Greco moved to Myrtle Beach, SC, where her brother lived, and immediately received two interviews and job offers. Still single, she teaches 4- and 5-year-olds there, as well as an after-school reading program for elementary school pupils.

"I loved the Early Childhood program at Hudson Valley," she stated. "If I hadn't gone there, I wouldn't have gotten my scholarship to Bennington."

In the future, Greco thinks she'd like to travel, and perhaps to teach in some other country.


William P. HarbourWilliam P. Harbour '60
Highway Technology
Retired CEO, Clough, Harbour & Associates

He drove a truck his first year out of high school, until he realized he wanted something more, and that his only hope was through getting a good education.

So William Harbour enrolled at Hudson Valley, driving to school in a 1953 Crown Victoria. He was one of the last students to attend classes in the former shirt factory building at Troy, but his graduation ceremony took place on the new campus.

Harbour took his new skills and knowledge from Hudson Valley and his hopes and dreams right up the hill to RPI, where he studied civil engineering. He went on to become CEO of the firm that bears his name: Clough Harbour & Associates, one of the largest engineering and planning firms in the country.

"Hudson Valley was an open gate to the future for me," he said, "and after that it was all pretty easy. You had to work hard - and I did - and then things just happened for me."


James HicksJames Hicks '94
Physical Education

James Hicks enrolled at Hudson Valley in '86 right out of Maple Hill High in Schodack, "but I didn't remember to go to class," he admitted.

Next stop for Hicks was the Marines, and he became a section leader as a machine gunner, serving nine months in the Persian Gulf. "That made me realize I didn't want to be in a war again," he said. He enrolled again at Hudson Valley, and claims that after the Marines, the discipline needed to do well in school "was a piece of cake."

"Classes at 8 a.m. are a breeze compared to 5:30 a.m. "fun runs,'" he said in understatement.

Hicks played basketball and baseball at Hudson Valley, and was team captain in both sports, but basketball was his passion. He won the Otto Guenther Award two years in a row, given for academics as well as sports.

"It was a big thing for my parents," he said proudly.

After his '94 graduation, Hicks transferred to Cortland State, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Physical Education. He recalled that the "fit for matriculation was tremendous, and there were quite a few of us from Hudson Valley. We all did well, and we graduated on time."

But Hicks said they were spoiled by the McDonough Sports Complex, which opened while he was at Hudson Valley.

"It was unbelievable. Cortland seemed like a step down," he said.

Today, Hicks is regional vice president for Primerica, and is building his business with his wife, Alyssa. Married just one year, they have 45 financial consultants working through their business.


Joyce Hughes-CarrJoyce Hughes-Carr '78
Physicians Assistant
1998 Distinguished Alumna

Joyce Hughes-Carr was a single mother of two, barely making ends meet as a licensed practical nurse, when the hematologist in charge at her lab pushed her to enroll in the Physician Assistant program at Hudson Valley.

"I said there was no way I could go back to school, but people helped me apply for grants and awards to pay my way, my mom babysat my kids, an incredible group of classmates helped me study," recalled the '78 grad. "Then, in my last semester at Hudson Valley, when the money ran out, the college came through and found a way for me to stay."

She was recruited at graduation as a family care practitioner, and went on to implement New York's first school-based health clinics. Hughes-Carr is now in her 21st year as an administrator with the state Health Department, responsible for quality planning for Health Systems Management.

"One of my personal commitments is to establish a scholarship at the college in my parents' name, and I intend to follow through," she said with conviction. "They believed education was the key to everything."


Neil KelleherNeil J. Kelleher '91
Civil and Public Service
2000 Distinguished Alumnus

Rensselaer County Legislature Chairman Neil J. Kelleher '91 earned about a year's worth of credits at Hudson Valley right after high school, from 1970 to 1971, but 20 years passed before he finished his degree in Civil and Public Service.

"I was two years into my rookie term (as legislator), and I finished my degree part time while working full time and serving the county," he recalled. "I like to think the college is proud of me. Hudson Valley is woven into the fabric of this city, and it's been a big part of my life, both as student and employee, and now through the county."

Kelleher is employed by Hudson Valley, as physical plant supervisor.

Back in 1970, Kelleher said the Grove was the place to go, Brahan Hall was the cafeteria 'hangout,' and the library was the big new building in town. "Traffic jams were the same, and I don't know anybody who didn't have to pay off a few parking tickets."

Kelleher's father, Neil W., was Troy's mayor, before city management was implemented. Both father and son have been honored as "Man of the Year" by Friends of 112th Street.

Active in numerous civic and charitable groups, Kelleher said he is most proud of being able to help the people of Troy and Rensselaer County on a daily basis.

"Also, without a doubt, my proudest moment was graduation. As an adult student you tend to doubt yourself a bit more, and you walk across that stage thinking, 'I really did it!"


Andrew KiselaAndrew Kisela '2003
Mortuary Science

Andrew Kisela, age 77, may well be the oldest (or most mature) new graduate ever at Hudson Valley Community College. But his story is more than a tale of someone who has a passion for education.

Kisela is a native of Tarrytown, NY, but he currently lives in Shohola, PA. He completed his degree in Mortuary Science at Hudson Valley almost exclusively through online learning. When he had to be here on campus for certain classes, he and his wife Lucille stayed at a local motel and drove the three hours back to their home on weekends.

He never even owned a computer before taking this program, he said.

He was discharged from the Navy in 1946 and began what would be a 40-year career in sales for Hallmark Cards, first in the Metropolitan New York region and later on the West Coast.

After leaving one career, he decided to pursue another that had interested him for years. He wanted to become a funeral director. Kisela heard about Hudson Valley from a local funeral director who had attended the college, came up for a visit, and was soon enrolled.

Kisela said there were times when he walked into the classroom when the students thought he was the professor.


Regina Scarano LaGattaRegina Scarano LaGatta '73
Recreation Supervision
1989 Distinguished Alumna

Regina Scarano LaGatta remembers Hudson Valley being similar to a large university campus when she was a student in the early '70s.

"With all the Greeks, social clubs, parades and mixers, we just stayed on campus all the time," she said. "We had bonfires and concerts with thousands in attendance, and standing-room only football games. The student government had a lot of voice," said LaGatta who served as elected secretary for that group.

Now senior vice president and deputy executive officer for the Capital District YMCA, LaGatta was interested in community recreation, but branched off into adaptive physical education. She earned a bachelor's degree at SUNY Brockport, worked as a recreation therapist the Center for the Disabled, and went on to complete a master's degree in special education at College of Saint Rose.

Along the way, she volunteered for numerous organizations, coached a national disabled sports team, and was director of facility utilization for nine years at Hudson Valley, where she met her husband, James J. LaGatta '69, now deputy to the president at the college. The couple has two children.

"I was an average high school student, and I needed the two years of guidance and support at Hudson Valley to prepare me to go on for a four year degree," she claimed. "We had a great deal of attention within our majors, and we were very well prepared; the faculty knew us individually, and all our strengths and weaknesses."

LaGatta was a volunteer for 12 years at the YMCA before accepting a position in its administration in 1999, the same year she received the organization's highest Volunteer Recognition Award, the President's Award. She also earned Hudson Valley's Ability Awareness Special Recognition Award for her advocacy for campus accessibility.

"Now I'm back to my urban mission, and back to working with kids," she said.


Maynard LassondeMaynard Lassonde '73
Electrical Technology

Studying Electrical Technology at Hudson Valley was the start of a "circuitous road" for Maynard Lassonde, he quipped.

The circuit took him to a bachelor's degree in geology at the University at Albany, and then earned him a commission as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. He measured earthquakes, and went on to the Air Force Geophysics Lab.

Today, he is part-owner of Shaker Computer and Management Services Inc., where he started out developing software for commercial constructions.

"I wanted to return to this area, and Air Force clearances made me even more 'hireable' for contract work," he said.

He enrolled at Hudson Valley right out of Voorheesville High School, when the field of electronics seemed both practical and marketable. Jobs were readily available right out of the Hudson Valley program, he recalled. He went to work for the New York Geological Survey.

"I've pointed a number of people to Hudson Valley. Particularly if they're spinning their wheels," he advised, "they can get some traction there, and move forward.

"But It's always hard to say where you'll wind up," he remarked.


Ruth LorenzoRuth Lorenzo '2000
Civil Engineering

Born in Perth Amboy, NJ, Ruth Lorenzo moved with her parents to their native Puerto Rico when she was just a year old. At 19, studying business in a Puerto Rican university, she knew her heart was set on becoming an architect, and she'd have to return to the mainland to achieve her goal.

Living with her aunt in the Capital Region, Lorenzo enrolled at the University at Albany, but her poor English skills held her back. She improved her language through programs at the Educational Opportunity Center, took a job at Price Chopper and enrolled at Hudson Valley, graduating with honors in Civil Engineering. Now 29, married to current Hudson Valley student and Peru native, Anibal Llanos, and the mother of a six-year-old daughter, Lorenzo is just a year away from graduating from the five-year Architecture program at RPI.

"I'm so proud of myself for graduating with honors from Hudson Valley," said the busy young woman. "People are so impressed with what I'm doing, but I'm the type of person that when I start something, I have to finish. I have one more year and two part-time jobs to go," she said with conviction.

Then what?

"I want to travel," she said. "I want to see Spain."


Roy John McDonaldRoy John McDonald '67
Liberal Arts
1984 Distinguished Alumnus
Board Member, Hudson Valley Community College Foundation

Roy McDonald was elected to the state Assembly from District 112 in February 2002, but when he attended Hudson Valley in the mid-60s he was just "Roy from Troy," who lived in housing projects the first five years of his life.

The son of a steel mill worker who was active in union politics, McDonald transferred from Hudson Valley to SUNY Oneonta for his bachelor's degree in political science and economics, and then served in the US Army in Vietnam and Cambodia. He returned to Oneonta for his master's degree.

He was a member of the Student Senate and Kappa Sigma Kappa at the college, and said, "I'm an illustration of the reality of 'crossing the tracks.'"

It was the late Dr. Frank Morgan, Liberal Arts dean at Hudson Valley, who took McDonald under his wing, and took him to visit the NY State Assembly for the first time.

"Hudson Valley and people there like Frank Morgan gave people like me an opportunity to participate in the American Dream," he said. Employed as an investment banker by UBS Paine Webber Corp., McDonald also has been supervisor for both the town of Wilton and Saratoga County.

McDonald's sister also attended Hudson Valley, and now is a school teacher.


W. Warren McGreeveyW. Warren McGreevey '60
Automotive Technology
1987 Distinguished Alumnus

"Hudson Valley was the start of my life of saying, 'you can do well with your mental capacities and you can improve your whole lifestyle, and you will benefit through your education,'" said Warren McGreevey '60. A Korean War Era veteran, he earned a degree in Automotive Technology, a member of the first class to graduate on the building site of the future campus. He still has the restored '32 Plymouth coupe that proves he learned some highly specialized skills.

"It was all cars and jeans and white socks back then, but I loved messing with cars, and even though I had a good job (as brakeman on the B&M Railroad), I knew education was the way to go," said McGreevey. "But we had English and history and all that stuff, and it helped. Our classes were in the old shirt factory - but I don't believe an education has to have first-class anything, as long as the tools are provided." Frills aren't necessary, according to McGreevey, and Hudson Valley was on the "ground floor" of trade schools for the time.

Already married and expecting a child, McGreevey took a big economic risk after graduation, enrolling in the State Police Academy. He fell in love with law enforcement.

After his retirement from the state police, McGreevey held a string of elected positions, from Schaghticoke Town Justice to Rensselaer County Sheriff to County Legislator. He assisted in founding the Zone Five Law Enforcement Academy at Hudson Valley.

Retired yet again, the man who once studied auto technology at Hudson Valley now spends two days each week working at the Northway Car Auction in Halfmoon. "It's great. I'm right out there with the cars," he said, his voice a grin.


Robert S. MenchelRobert S. Menchel '55
Mechanical Technology
1986 Distinguished Alumnus
1999 Outstanding Disabled Alumnus President's Award

Dr. Robert Menchel '55 writes that he owes a lot to Hudson Valley. Menchel was not only a member of the college's first graduating class, but he also was its first deaf graduate.

"In 1953, opportunities for people with disabilities, especially for those who were deaf, were limited or non-existent," he said, noting that manual trades suggested to him included printer, shoemaker or carpenter. "The attitude of educators at that time was that it was impossible for a deaf person to go on to higher education."

The opening of Hudson Valley was Menchel's "golden door of opportunity," he said. Also, the student body at the time, mostly Korean War veterans, accepted their deaf classmate as one of them. "It was something I had never before experienced," he said. Menchel went on to become the first deaf student to earn an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology, and the first deaf student to receive an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Menchel retired as assistant professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT in 2001, and is now active in improving open captioned films for the deaf. He also is working with Mt. Holyoke College to integrate deaf young women into the college's SummerMath program.

Menchel has been recipient of numerous awards through the years, including the 1986 Distinguished Alumnus Award at Hudson Valley, and the 1999 President's Award to an Outstanding Disabled Alumni.

"If it was not for Hudson Valley, which gave me a foot in the door, I never would have achieved what I have," said Menchel, who became a role model to countless students through 32 years of teaching.


Patricia NealonPatricia Nealon C.S.W. '93
Health & Human Services

Patricia Nealon enrolled in her first college course - Intro to General Psychology, at age 41, certain she was going to fail. Her daughters ranged from 6 to 16 in age, and she'd been a self-described "poor high school student."

After earning A's in a few courses, "It grew on me," she recalled, and she enrolled full time.

"There were so many other non-traditional students at Hudson Valley, and we traveled together, giving each other support," she said, admitting that most of them thought they'd finish when - and if - they reached the associate's degree.

Since graduation from Hudson Valley, Nealon earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in social work, and earned certification in her field. Today, she is director of social services at Wesley Hills Care Center. Her first job was at St. Anne's Institute, where she had interned while at Hudson Valley.

"I had great teachers at Hudson Valley," Nealon said. "I was so shocked at their encouragement and recognition of what I could do; I think they recognized things you weren't able to see in yourself."

"I can't imagine life without my doing this," she said of her education.


Annette OrfitelliAnnette Orfitelli '82
Math and Science

Learning physics at Hudson Valley led Annette Orfitelli to a magical career - literally.

Hudson Valley had cheap tuition, and a physics program (Math and Science) that paralleled the RPI curriculum, so it was an obvious choice for me," she recalled. She was a work-study student in the physics lab, and after graduation she remained there as an employee for three years, until a position became available at RPI as a physics lecturer/demonstrator. The position involved performing a "physics magic show" in front of groups of 500 extremely bright teen-aged students.

"It was very entertaining," she said of the show, "and kids loved it."

Orfitelli then developed a show geared to elementary school students and "took it on the road" throughout the region.

Later, when RPI retired the physics magic show, Orfitelli "retired from physics" and became photographer for the JP Cruises on the Hudson, and then "followed the boat" to Fort Myers Beach, Florida. She lives next door to the resort where she works as a bartender, mixing potions of a different type.


John P. Reardon IIIJohn P. Reardon III '77
Civil Technology (Architectural Option)

John Reardon was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. Majoring in Civil Technology, he graduated just at the time the area economy slowed down, and there were a few years and a few jobs before he settled into a position at Clough Harbor for eight years, and then as a civil engineer for the town of Colonie for the past 16 years.

Working full time, he spent nine years completing a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Union College. First he enrolled in three courses per year, then two courses, and finally, ready to start a family, he attended school full time the last year.

"I felt like I'd climbed Mt. Everest," he said of the accomplishment.

A member of numerous professional, civic and youth support organizations, Reardon is now working to compile information about water, sewer, highway and drainage systems in Colonie for an extensive computerization of all infrastructure. He recalls learning his basic skills during cold, early morning surveying classes at Hudson Valley.

"But we had professors who wanted to see us achieve our best, and they were willing to put in the extra time for you if you were willing to work," he asserted. "It laid the foundation for me, so that when I pursued the construction aspect of architectural engineering, I knew how things worked. Actually, Hudson Valley laid the foundation for my future."

"I'm a firm believer that Hudson Valley is one of the best deals in the country. My sons use the Conway Ice Rink, and I've seen that the expansion is top-notch; the administration has really looked to the future," he said.


George P. ReganGeorge P. Regan '73
Development
1999 Distinguished Alumnus

George Regan took an indirect route toward his ultimate career, but credits Hudson Valley with giving him the tools to get him where he wanted to go.

A 1973 graduate of the college's one-year Development program, Regan continued at the college in the Math and Science program for at least another year, giving him the background General Dynamics wanted in trainees for its Electric Boat Division in Connecticut, where Regan wound up working on the second Trident Sub program.

But Regan has a knack for people and management, and he was a long distance runner. Soon he took a risk, went into special events management, and went on to a position placing US Men's Championship programs throughout the country.

"It was a 360-degree career change, but the analytical skills I learned at Hudson Valley made the change possible," he said.

As president of the US Track and Field Adirondack Association, Regan has been responsible for bringing the Women's 5K National Championship to the Capital Region for the last 22 years. Known as the "Freihofer's Run for Women," it has evolved into one of the best-known runs in the country.

In recognition of his work, Regan was named Hudson Valley's Distinguished Alumni in 1999. He's received numerous other awards for his influence on track and field, cross country, road racing and race walking, but perhaps the accomplishment he's most proud of is his own "personal best:" Regan ran the 1982 NYC Marathon in 2 hours, 47 minutes.


William D. Rockwell William D. Rockwell '64
Business Administration

Hudson Valley Community College gave William Rockwell a chance, he believes.

"Business education gave me the opportunity to be more successful than I ever dreamed," he said. "Because of that, when my wife and I leave, our estate will go to the Christian Children's Fund, to be used for education."

Retired for the past two years after a long career in food service, Rockwell enrolled at the new college campus during years that Hudson Valley offered classes on the trimester basis.

"You had to study harder and work harder because a lot was squeezed in," he said. "But it was a real door-opener for a job offering advancement, or for more college."

Rising through the ranks to become vice president of marketing for an area firm, Rockwell still dreamed of having a four-year degree. He enrolled in Skidmore College's University Without Walls and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business when he was 37 years old.

"Hudson Valley gave me the basis to realize those dreams I had, both in education and in my career," Rockwell said. "I did well there, too, graduating within the top 10 in my class. It gave me lots of confidence, along with the skills I needed."


Marion R. RosenthalMarion R. Rosenthal '2000
Human Services

Marion Rosenthal '2000 held a full-time job and was raising two children when she took her first class at Hudson Valley. She was 40, and scared to death, she recalled, but she "fell in love with learning."

From then on, for 11 years, her nights were spent at the college, where she enrolled in one course per semester.

"My only regret is that Hudson Valley isn't a four-year college," she said. "I would have gone on, and stayed there."

Rosenthal administers an Ayco Company program offering support and financial counseling to survivors and to terminally ill employees. She uses her education communicating with employers, discussing a program that touches on bereavement in a subtle way.

"I know it's a cliché, but Hudson Valley really helped me to understand and appreciate people," Rosenthal said.


John ScarchilliJohn Scarchilli '74
Accounting
2002 Distinguished Alumnus

John Scarchilli '74 met his wife, Nancy Grochmal '71, while they were students at Hudson Valley. He belonged to a fraternity, and Nancy to a sorority. There were four young men from his fraternity who married four young women from his wife's sorority.

"We developed great relationships with folks from that, including many we're still friends with," he said.

Scarchilli first enrolled at Hudson Valley fresh out of high school. His family couldn't afford a four-year school at the time, and yet he knew education was important. He took a semester off, was drafted into the military, returned to complete another year, and then transferred to Siena College, where he earned his bachelor's degree.

Scarchilli joined Pioneer Savings Bank as an assistant auditor in 1977, rose through the ranks, and was designated as CEO and elected to the Board of Trustees in 1997.

He was named Hudson Valley's Distinguished Alumnus for 2002.

Both John and Nancy sing in their church choir where John also plays the guitar as well as in a select ensemble that performs at events such as the Victorian Stroll in Troy.


Peter SemenzaPeter Semenza '84
Marketing
Chairperson, Hudson Valley Alumni Council

Peter Semenza '84 led his staff and campaign workers to raise $3.7 million last year for the two charitable foundations he heads at St. Peter's Health Care Services in Albany, but the fund-raising executive still finds time to volunteer his own time and energy as chairman of the Alumni Association Council at Hudson Valley.

"Under the leadership of (President) John Buono, this college is growing faster than anyone can imagine," Semenza commented. "I think there's great potential for the annual Alumni Campaign to play a more significant role."

Originally enrolled in the former Data Processing program at the college, Semenza credited Hudson Valley faculty for helping him discover his own "people skills," leading him to switch his concentration to marketing. After graduation, Semenza transferred to University at Albany, studying full time to complete both a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's degree in organizational communications.

His experience with charitable organizations began early, with positions at New York Easter Seals Society and the Center for the Disabled. Semenza was named executive director of the St. Peter's Hospital Foundation in 1997, and later assumed leadership of the Community Hospice Foundation as well.

"Hudson Valley spent the time with me to get me focused on what I really wanted to do," Semenza said. "It may not be the last school our alumni attend, but it plays a very meaningful role: it certainly pointed me in the right direction, so I've had this allegiance, and I hope other alumni will feel the same."


Nancy Laiacona ShishikNancy Laiacona Shishik '80
Math and Science

Nancy Laiacona Shishik '80 knew she wanted to be a pharmacist even before she enrolled at Hudson Valley, but she had been out of school for eight years, and was raising two very young children.

"I started with basic math and ended with four semesters of calculus, but it all helped me for the pharmacy curriculum at the end," she said, and every credit she earned at Hudson Valley was accepted when she transferred.

Now working for Bristol-Myers Squibb as a senior psychiatric institutional specialist, Shishik said that maybe she's most proud of being an independent, professional woman.

"Basically, I started out with kids, and it was a struggle, but I set goals and met them. At one point my license plate said, 'My Turn.'"

But at Hudson Valley, she said, "Even my electives held a lot of weight: there weren't many women then, and my courses made me more rounded."

Shishik's brother also attended Hudson Valley and then RPI, before going to work for Squibb.

Both her children are now pharmacists, also.

"Back then, I set my alarm for 4 a.m., and I got up and studied. I'm thrilled with what Hudson Valley did for me, and what I've been able to accomplish."


Barry Sparks IIIBarry Sparks III '2000
Human Services

Barry Sparks III planned to continue his education after graduating in 1976 from Cardinal McClusky High School, but instead he found himself continuing to work in his family's dry cleaning business.

Today, Sparks still works with his dad in the business, but he earned that degree he wanted in 2000, having attended Hudson Valley full time since the fall of 1997, when he enrolled to become an x-ray technologist.

"I was overwhelmed pretty quickly, but a counselor at the college worked with me, identifying strengths and weaknesses. I did an internship with Rensselaer ARC, and worked myself into a service coordinator's position, and then realized that maybe I wanted to work with a different population: maybe young males, for whom I could be a role model," he explained. "I can build people up and give them hope; I like to use that gift."

Sparks acknowledged God as head of his life, and said, "He is my Lord and my Savior," and identified Metropolitan New Testament Baptist Church as a big part of his life.

"I'm engaged, I have a 14-year-old daughter and I'm blessed, and glad to be alive. I had mentors at Hudson Valley who were instrumental in my doing well there. I was fearful, but I allowed my faith to overcome that fear, and then I did well."


Bonnie M. StolikerBonnie M. Stoliker '96
Human Services

Bonnie Stoliker drove a school bus for Waterford Schools for 20 years, in the same district where her husband taught and her children attended school. Life was fairly predictable until she took a single college class and discovered learning and possibilities.

At 42, Stoliker began dreaming of becoming a social worker. Most semesters she took just one course at Hudson Valley, although she "doubled up" near the end. Later, she earned a bachelor's degree at the College of Saint Rose, and her husband presented her with a necklace spelling "BSW" - bachelor of social work - in diamonds.

Today, Stoliker supervises two programs at St. Catherine's Center for Children, where she began her new career as a case worker.

"Hudson Valley was so accommodating," Stoliker said. "Even as night students, everything we needed was right there for us: reserve materials, internships - Hudson Valley made sure we had what we needed, when and where we needed it."


John E. SweeneyJohn E. Sweeney '79
2001 Distinguished Alumnus

Congressman John E. Sweeney first came to Hudson Valley Community College when he was just 17, in 1974. He "lasted" about a year and a half, but a few years later he returned, re-enrolled in a number of classes, and moved on to earn bachelor's and law degrees.

"I kind of breezed through high school," the congressman said, "but at Hudson Valley I had to earn it, and at that stage I didn't have a handle on who I wanted to be, or where I wanted to go. I played baseball, and I did a lot of social stuff."

He said it might have been embarrassing for him to return to struggle again with Composition 101, but instead, the professor worked with him, keeping him focused and gaining commitment.

"At the same time, I had classes I truly enjoyed, like Russian, which opened my eyes to the world out there," Sweeney said. "Here I was a guy who hadn't passed Comp., but I was really involved and learning. That second tour of study at Hudson Valley, I was a changed person. I found the desire to learn, and the discipline required to do well."

Sworn in as a member of the 106th Congress on Jan. 6, 1999, Sweeney serves on the influential House Appropriations Committee, and the subcommittees on Transportation and Related Agencies, Treasury Postal and General Government, and the District of Columbia.

He was named Hudson Valley's 2001 Distinguished Alumnus.

"When I went to law school, many of the skills I had learned at Hudson Valley were really applicable. Law schools try to scare you out, and I credit Hudson Valley with that second chance that made the difference for me, and allowed me to go forward," Sweeney said.

"It wasn't gratuitous: you got out of it what you put into it. I didn't get that the first time. I had to learn."


Eloise TrainorEloise Trainor '73
Liberal Arts

Eloise Trainor's parents were caretakers on an estate in Canaan, where the owner had a small golf course. From that childhood exposure to the sport, she went on to establish the Futures Tour for women golfers, offering a link to the LPGA Tour.

Trainor attended Hudson Valley a few years after finishing high school. She wanted to learn about recreation for the elderly, but there was no such program. She golfed, studied, graduated and moved to Florida.

"I wanted a career in professional golf, but I needed experience," she said. "I was becoming more competitive, but I found there was nothing there for me, or for any professional woman golfer, so I chose to organize tournaments." According to a feature piece in Golf World (Jan. 21, 2000), Trainor and an early partner turned a mini tour into a developmental tour, basically running the tour from the trunk of Trainor's Volkswagen, which she once parked beside a par-3 green as a hole-in-one prize (nobody won).

Trainor sold her shares in her tour in 1999, when more than 160 Futures alums had moved on to the LPGA Tour, winning more than 200 LPGA events and 21 major championships, according to Golf World.

"I loved working with the players and getting to know them before their professional careers began," she said last spring, while she was readying a new miniature golf course, "The Gardens" on Route 20 in New Lebanon. Plans were to include a coffee house, which Trainor would oversee while being caretaker for her 94-year-old mom.

"I loved my two years at Hudson Valley," she said. "It was a very positive experience, with a complete, all-around education." She was awarded the college's Guenther Award for scholastic and athletic accomplishment.


Stewart C. WagnerStewart C. Wagner '58
Mechanical Technology
1985 Distinguished Alumnus
Past Director, Hudson Valley Community College Foundation

Stewart Wagner remembers playing softball on the winning intramural softball team, the "M-10s," while a student at Hudson Valley in the mid-50s.

"We didn't have a campus, or parking, and our machine shops used equipment left from WW II," he recalled. "We played ball in a church field, but it was one of the few intramural sports available there at the time."

Wagner also remembers the red five-gallon pails filled with water or sand, and painted with the word "FIRE" across them, which comprised the fire safety equipment of the 1879 college building in downtown Troy during his student days.

Today, Wagner is president and owner of Northern Industrial Services, an Albany contract manufacturer providing services to commercial and governmental clients. He bought the business in 1973, after working on early missile projects.

His company employs from 35 to 100 people at any one time, and he lists "family, employees and business partner" as those most important in his life.

Sometimes called "S2" by friends, Wagner is a collector of antiques, ephemera and old bottles relating to Albany and Troy. "When you're a subcontractor in our business, you need a safety valve or release to take the stress out of life," he explained.

Wagner also has served on numerous area boards and councils, earning not only Hudson Valley's designation as 1985 Distinguished Alumnus, but also inclusion in that same year's "One in a Million" booklet recognizing outstanding graduates of the entire SUNY system.


James A. WalshJames A. Walsh '61
Construction Technology

Jim Walsh '61 confesses to living two lives: one in a position for which his Hudson Valley education was invaluable, and the other in politics.

Graduating from Hudson Valley's Construction Technology program, Walsh started work in that field at Niagara Mohawk, advancing to become a draftsman and then a consumer representative, and finally and area manager.

At the same time, he became active in local politics, and was elected to Rensselaer County's Board of Supervisors in 1963, and then later, three times to the County Legislature.

Currently chairman of the county's Republican Party, he believes that "somewhere that door will close, and I'll go find another open one."

Life without politics? Walsh doesn't consider that possibility, and is proud that he's been able to mix politics and religion. He has been active with St. Joseph's Church in South Troy his entire life.

Still, he counts his biggest achievement as watching his children grow, and hoping he's helped them meet some challenges.

Three of his four children also graduated from Hudson Valley, and Walsh's oldest brother was a student at the vocational school that was the college's predecessor.


Judith WildzumasJudith Wildzumas '88
Human Services

Judy Wildzumas is completing her master's requirements in educational psychology at the College of Saint Rose, majoring in religious studies and minoring in English, as a platform for teaching.

A wife and mother, she described herself as "older, really old." She returned to Hudson Valley at age 40, spent three years earning her degree, and graduated in the top 10 percent of her class.

"I'm finally completing things I desired all my life," she said. "I'm sorry it isn't a four-year school, because I would have stayed forever."

Instead, she transferred to University at Albany, earning a bachelor's in social work.

Around that same time, Wildzumas developed a brain tumor. A religion teacher for her parish and now a certified catechist, she credits God for her recovery after successful surgery. "Prayer works," she said. She has no hearing in one ear, where the tumor was involved with a nerve.

Wildzumas and her husband, Michael, who is retired from the Colonie Police Department, began a horticultural nursery 22 years ago (Osborne Mill Nursery, Albany). "We have a passion for it," she explained. "And we live right here at the nursery."

"It all started with Hudson Valley, which gave me a chance, through an open door," she said. "I remember at that time there was a billboard nearby that said, "Hudson Valley produces leaders."


Gordon N. ZuckermanGordon N. Zuckerman, CLU, CLFC '62
Chemistry

Gordon Zuckerman remembers that his chemistry classes were on the fifth floor of Hudson Valley's original downtown building, but the water pressure didn't go above the third floor.

"My Class of 1962 was the first to move to the new campus," he recalled, "and there were about 10 of us in chemistry."

"We had lunch every day at the "G Building" (Country Grove), but we didn't drink. We started at about 8:30 in the morning and had classes through 5 or 5:30, because we had six hours of lab time for each chemistry class we took."

Still, he said, it was fun and social, and Zuckerman believes he received a much better education at Hudson Valley than at Stonybrook (where he played a lot of bridge) or at Union College, where he later earned his bachelor's in Math and Chemistry while working at GE. "Maybe the teaching capabilities elsewhere weren't as good as at Hudson Valley," he commented.

Zuckerman joined the Army Reserve, and his unit was activated and sent to Vietnam. When he was discharged and was finishing his studies at Union, "about 17 insurance agents wanted me to convert my military insurance," he said. One of those agents suggested Zuckerman enter the insurance business.

He did, and said he's never looked back. Now president of Murray and Zuckerman Inc., a nationally recognized life, health, group and annuity brokerage firm, Zuckerman believes his business partnership works because it's "equitable," rather than "equal." He served on "maybe 16" boards for area not-for-profits this year.

"We give back to the community," he said.

Asked if he's looking toward retirement, he replied with the question, "From what?"