By Matt Youngfrau
LOCH SHELDRAKE May 22, 2001 Each generation hopes that the following one will be more successful than they were.
And that is the story for three generations Betty Murray, her daughter Beth Murray, and her granddaughter Jennifer Muthig who have graduated from Sullivan County Community College.
On Saturday, May 19, Muthig became the latest member of her family to graduate from the college at SCCC's 37th Annual Commencement.
"I am honored and proud to be walking in the footsteps and tradition of my mother and grandmother," Muthig remarked.
"I am very proud of my daughter," Beth Murray added.
Murray, besides being a graduate, is also the secretary of SCCC's Division of Liberal Arts, Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
"I am glad she did so well at Sullivan," she said.
Muthig managed to go to school full time, work two jobs, and help out at home. She also maintained a high grade point average and served as the president of the colleges SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) Club. For these and many other reasons, her grandmother was duly enthusiastic.
"Jenn has worked hard balancing school and her jobs as a bank teller and as a tutor. Her grandfather and I are very proud of her," Betty Murray said in an interview by phone from her Georgia home. "The first time Jenn visited SCCC was in the spring of 1981 when she was around two months old, and Beth brought her to see me receive my degree. Don't know how much of the graduation ceremony either she or Beth managed to witness that day, but it was an extra special day for this new grandma to have them there."
Muthig's was not the only special story on Saturday, however. Over 300 students graduated from Sullivan that day some right out of high school. Many returned after years away from school, while others juggled school, work, and family. Each had a story, and all had a great deal to be proud of.
Yet there was even more to celebrate. The college honored six members of their faculty. Four were retiring, and two received the highest educational honor in New York State, the Chancellor's Award for Excellence.
Those retiring were Dr. Richard Dunn, Jerry Gittleman, Anne Lavelle, and Richard Sush. These four were noted for their contributions to SCCC during their tenure, as Dunn helped to create the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Program, Gittleman helped to build the library into one of the premier libraries in all the school systems, Lavelle helped to make the nursing program one of the recognized finest in the state, and Sush served many roles at the college, most notably in Counseling and as Dean of Students.
The Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching was given to Ron Bernthal, who is credited with making the Travel and Tourism program one of the best in the state. He is also heavily involved in the college's Holocaust remembrance events each year.
The Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service was awarded to James Winderl, the director of Financial Aid. (When a student needs help with their financial aid, it is well-known that they should seek out "Uncle Jim.")
Others were honored as well. Charles Perry Jr. was given the Trustees' Award for Civic Achievement. Melinda Sue Ketcham received the Faculty Award for General Excellence. Ketcham was also the keynote speaker.
"I learned what's important and to stay focused," Ketcham said in her address. "You don't have to be a follower. You can be a leader."
"Today is a celebration of accomplishments," Dr. Mamie Howard Golladay stated. "It is a tremendous pleasure to be a part of this. I believe that education is the key to success and citizenship. I know these students will use their knowledge and the skills they gained."
When it was over, the packed Paul Gerry Fieldhouse was filled with tears and laughter. Over 1,200 family and friends came out to celebrate with the graduates and honor their hard-earned accomplishments.
And for Beth Murray and Jennifer Muthig, it was just another beginning. Both plan to return to Sullivan to pursue further degrees.