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Ted Waddell | Democrat

JANNA WORDEN OF Grahamsville looks around the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse before Saturday's processional. She was awarded a nursing degree.

His fourth 'R' is redemption

By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE — May 20, 2008 — On Saturday, May 17, Sullivan County Community College held its 44th annual commencement exercises in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
Several hundred folks turned out to watch the proud grads walk up to the podium to receive their diplomas from Dr. M Howard-Golladay, college president, Phyllis Coombe, chairperson, board of trustees, and Dr. Ellen Galligan, vice president for academic and student affairs.
The highlight of the rite of passage was the awarding of an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Sandra Gerry by Dr. Dennis Golladay, vice chancellor for community services of the State University of New York (SUNY).
“She is so deserving of this prestigious honor . . . for all she does for the future of Sullivan County Community College, our community, and beyond,” said Dr. Howard-Golladay. “She herself is a teacher, and has led her students, the residents of Sullivan County, with grace, gratitude, appreciation and an enthusiasm, from which we can all benefit.”
In accepting the honorary degree by SUNY’s vice chancellor of community college’s, Gerry told the Class of 2008 that lessons learned from Sullivan Renaissance hold true in life after graduation, as the thousands of volunteers, working on over 250 community projects in the county’s 15 towns and villages, have been instrumental in “revitalizing their main streets, parks and neighborhoods.”
“To receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters is an incredible honor and a great privilege,” she said.
Class speaker Phillip Chris Tully visibly moved the crowd with his talk about a personal rite of passage, a message that “It is never too late,” a journey through like that for 22 years was spent “. . . going around in circles, using a horses’s rear end as a compass,” a trip that 100 weeks ago ended in an orange jumpsuit.”
After bailing out of jail, he called “my dear friend and mentor, the founder of this school’s counseling program, Dr. Dick Dunn.”
“In his powerful and no-nonsense demeanor, he told me how it was,” said Tully. “Get help or get going.”
So the class speaker-to-be enrolled in the college’s Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Counseling Program in January 2007, and in May 2008, he stood proudly before his fellow grads.
“To quote the incomparable Dr. Tom Lambert, ‘Honor your life force. Be all you can be,” said Tully in conclusion.
Following the benediction by Allan Dampman, former associate dean, the faculty and grads walked down the aisle to the strains of Elgar’s traditional “Recessional.”

Gerry surprised by honorary degree

By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE — A highlight of Sullivan County Community College’s 44th Annual Commencement Ceremony was when Sandra Gerry stepped up to the podium to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York (SUNY).
In the past 14 years, she has served as chair of the college’s foundation scholarship benefit gala, a popular event that has become known as the “social event of the year.” And through corporate sponsorships, auctions and raffles, has added approximately $100,000 annually to the college coffers.
During Gerry’s tenure at the helm, nearly $1 million has been generated in scholarship funds for students of the local community college.
Sandra and Alan Gerry served as honorary co-chairs of the 2003 SCCC Foundation’s capital campaign to raise a $1 million challenge grant to their $3 million gift to construct the Lazarus I. Levine Student Residence Hall, a dormitory that has added greatly to student life on the campus.
Seven years ago, she spearheaded the creation of Sullivan Renaissance, a county-wide clean-up and beautification program that brought a new vision to the area.
Gerry was previously honored by the New York Community College Trustees (NYCCT) with its Benefactor Vision for Tomorrow Award, in recognition of her dedication and commitment to the local two-year institution of higher learning.
In 2005, she was named a Woman of Distinction by NYS Senator John Bonacic, recognition that honors “New York Women who exemplify personal excellence, or whose professional achievements or acts of courage, selflessness, integrity, or perseverance serve as an example for all New Yorkers.”
“Sandra Gerry is a true humanitarian in that she cares for the well-being of people in all walks of life, of all races and religions, and of all economic backgrounds,” said Dr. M. Howard-Golladay, SCCC President.
“Her philanthropic spirit has helped thousands of people of all ages over the years… she is so deserving of this prestigious honor.”
Dr. Dennis Golladay, Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges (SUNY), presented the honorary doctorate to Gerry.
In accepting the honorary degree, Gerry said it was an “incredible honor and a great privilege.”
She noted that as a result of the SCCC Foundation’s scholarship program, many in the Class of 2008 were able to earn their diplomas “Because you had the opportunity to avail yourself of the scholarships that have enabled you to continue your education.”
Gerry credited SCCC with helping her with “something that is very close to my heart, Sullivan Renaissance… [it] has offered scholarship opportunities to volunteers who have participated in our local beautification grant program, significantly spurring youth participation and volunteerism.”
She noted that Sullivan Renaissance and the college share similar goals: as the grassroots beautification organization focuses on “environmental issues in an attempt to become good stewards of our planet earth,” the college is “addressing some of the challenges of global warming by creating educational opportunities and promoting green business development.”
Gerry added that, while working with the gala committee and the legions of Sullivan Renaissance volunteers, she learned valuable lessons, which she passed along to the graduation Class of 2008.
“I have discovered that when one gives back to their community there are wonderful and unforeseen rewards… friendships established, new skills learned, discovery of hidden personal talents, [and] a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction,” she said.
“And look, an unexpected honorary doctorate degree!!”

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