October 25, 2013
President Merodie Hancock presents 2013 Student Academic Conference Art competition winner Stephen O’Donnell Sr. with a framed copy of this work, “Pleasure.” Joining them is O’Donnell’s wife Sue Jean O’Donnell. (Photo/Empire State College)
(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Oct. 25, 2013) Stephen P. O’Donnell Sr., 46, a student at the SUNY Empire State College Hudson Valley Center, was awarded first place in the 2013 Student Art Competition for his work, “Pleasure,” an abstract acrylic on canvas.
Richard Labonte, a student at the Genesee Valley Center, earned second place for his photograph, “Hurricane Sandy from Canada,” and Yasmin Arif, a student at the college’s Center for Distance Learning earned third place for her work, “Let's Protect the Rainbow of Life.””
College President Merodie A. Hancock presented O’Donnell with a framed poster of “Pleasure” in recognition of his achievement as part of the college’s annual Student Academic Conference.
“Stephen O’Donnell’s painting is remarkable and this year it has been judged as the best example among the many outstanding works of art produced by students from across the college,” said Hancock. “Stephen is typical of an Empire State College student in that he balances career, family, community commitments and attending college. He also brings with him a wealth of life experience. Stephen’s art is exceptional and I congratulate him on winning this year’s competition.”
“Pleasure,” an abstract acrylic on canvas, by Stephen O’Donnell Sr., garnered first place. (Image supplied by the artist)
“I am truly humbled by this experience,” said O’Donnell. “I don’t feel worthy of such an honor. It was only two years ago this October that I picked up a paint brush, without ever haven taken a lesson. What a fantastic journey. This, for me, has been a continuation of a lifelong spiritual journey, a path to self-discovery and self-improvement and to a deeper connection with the universe.”
The more than 100 entries from across the college were reviewed by a panel of six judges, which included arts faculty, administrators and an external peer judge from the arts community. The judges selected three winning pieces and awarded first, second and third places. Winners received a certificate from the college and a modest monetary award.
An award-winning emerging artist, O’Donnell’s style is characterized as abstract expressionist and reflects his diverse life experiences and complex personality. He admires such artists such as Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko.
He serves as a volunteer as a member of the Orange County Community College Board of Trustees and is the owner and president of O’Donnell & Associates, a financial planning firm. O’Donnell is working to complete his B.S. in community and human services with a concentration in law enforcement administration at the college’s Hudson Valley Center.
He developed a passion for mountaineering early in life, and at 13 was scaling 100-foot granite walls in the Rocky Mountains. At 17, O’Donnell enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
A master of the Japanese martial art Aikido, O’Donnell worked for various military and law enforcement government agencies during the 1980s and ‘90s. He trained law enforcement officers and other select professionals in defensive tactics and officer survival, known nationally as “The O’Donnell Continuous Control System.” OCCS has been in use for more than 15 years as standard recruit and in-service training in numerous states throughout the country.
O’Donnell and his wife of 26 years, Sue Jean, presently reside in Sparrow Bush, N.Y., with their 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who also is an artist. They have two sons, Stephen Jr., 25, and Ryan, 24, both of whom have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as Marines during the past six years.
“Hurricane Sandy from Canada,” photography, by Richard Labonte, earned second place. (Image supplied by the artist)
Second place in the competition was awarded to Richard Labonte, 30, of West Irondequoit, N.Y., a 2012 graduate of the college’s Genesee Valley Center, for his photograph, “Hurricane Sandy from Canada.” Labonte had been a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for more than six years and also is a former lieutenant with the St. Paul Boulevard Fire Department. Married to Christey, he has been the manager of the Delta Sonic Car Wash for more than six years and has been employed there for 12.
Labonte said he enjoyed his time at Empire State College and the contest was a great opportunity to showcase students’ work and creative talents.
Yasmin Arif, of Clifton, Va., who is studying information technology through the college’s Center for Distance Learning, earned third place for her work, “The Wildlife.”
“The Wildlife,” by Yasmin Arif, was awarded third place. (Image supplied by the artist)
SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.
In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.
The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in the state of New York and online. Its 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.
Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications
518-587-2100, ext. 2918
518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)
David M. Henahan, Director of Communications 518-587-2100, ext. 2918 David.Henahan@esc.edu
518-321-7038(after 5 p.m. and weekends)