June 7, 2013

Student Success Highlights SUNY Empire State College Northeast Center Graduation

The College’s Presidential Medal Awarded to Susan Dake

Master’s recipient Michael DeMasi of Clifton Park, is joined on stage by his daughters as Tai Arnold, acting dean of the School for Graduate Studies, left and Acting President Meg Benke, right, look on.

Master’s recipient Michael DeMasi of Clifton Park, is joined on stage by his daughters as Tai Arnold, acting dean of the School for Graduate Studies, left and Acting President Meg Benke, right, look on.

(ALBANY, N.Y. – June 8, 2013) The 287 graduates of the SUNY Empire State College Northeast Center are among the more than 3,400 to earn degrees with the college this year.

 The college’s Presidential Medal was awarded to Susan Dake, president of the Stewart’s Foundation, for her philanthropic and community leadership and in particular for her support of the Stewart’s Shops Community College Scholarship, a multi-year commitment to Empire State College students.

Acting President Meg Benke, left with the college’s Presidential Medal recipient and Stewart’s Foundation President Susan Dake, and Hugh Hammett, the college’s vice president for external affairs.

Acting President Meg Benke, left with the college’s Presidential Medal recipient and Stewart’s Foundation President Susan Dake, and Hugh Hammett, the college’s vice president for external affairs.


“Congratulations to the Northeast Center class of 2013 and to the family, friends, faculty and staff of SUNY Empire State College, thank you for your support,” said Acting President Meg Benke. “SUNY Empire State College has been a leader in innovative and flexible learning methods since its inception.  Interestingly enough, what was once seen as the exception – educating nontraditional-aged or part-time students balancing work and school - is now the new ‘normal.’  So, if anyone asks, graduating class of 2013, you are the new face of higher education. You are equipped with a personalized education connected to your own learning goals. You have worked closely with high-quality faculty who collaborated with you as you.”

“Graduation at Empire State College is different than at other colleges,” said Gerald Lorentz, dean of the college’s Northeast Center. “This difference isn’t noticeable in the nature of the ceremony, but it is apparent in our students and in the divergent and unique paths they’ve taken to get to this point.  We’ve been proud to support them in their pursuit of their educational goals and congratulate them on achieving their degrees.

Northeast Center student speakers Donald Ellis, Lisa Michaels and Dennis Kramer share a smile right before the 2013 graduation.

Northeast Center student speakers Donald Ellis, Lisa Michaels and Dennis Kramer share a smile right before the 2013 graduation.

Students Donald Ellis, Dennis Kramer and Lisa Michaels offered remarks to fellow graduates

“Congratulations go to my fellow students on completing their degrees,” said Ellis. “Empire State College provided the opportunity to achieve a long-time goal and I am grateful for the support of my faculty mentors for their support and guidance throughout my time at the college. The feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction for a job well done are so rewarding and I am honored to share this day with all of you.”

“My formal education ended when I had to drop out of high school,” said Kramer. “I took the opportunity to complete the GED process for my high school diploma, but I felt that college was out of the question, though it has always been a dream of mine. Personally, I can attest that you are never too old to learn. I had been pursuing this dream for more than 40 years when it was pushed to the forefront of my life. I am looking forward to taking my skills, competencies, learning and experience to seek employment in the area of my concentration of business and public relations.”

“I extend a warm welcome to all of you who have journeyed with each of us to see our dreams and goals finally come to fruition. I really need to emphasize just how much your encouragement, support and insights have truly played a significant role in our success as members of the Empire State College learning community.  We could not have done this without you,” said Michaels. “On this incredibly special day we not only gather to acknowledge our individual achievements, but also to celebrate Empire State College’s unique approaches to teaching and learning and a philosophy of education that has personally served me well as both an undergraduate and graduate student.

“In 1971, Dr. Ernest Boyer, former chancellor of the SUNY system, had a vision and an idea that was somewhat radical for that time. He wanted to establish a space in higher education that would foster the needs of adult learners. Within this new paradigm students could flexibly and creatively earn the credentials they needed to pursue a variety of careers. In addition, Boyer was responsible for cultivating an unprecedented approach to teaching and learning that is grounded in the ideal that students and professors, who we refer to as our beloved mentors, learn together and from one another.  As a student and secondary educator, I have experienced time and again the positive impact the mentor/mentee relationships has on the process of one’s learning they have indeed been a critical piece in the pursuit of my own studies.”

The ceremony was, Saturday, June 8, at The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

About Susan Law Dake

As president of the Stewart’s Foundation, Dake oversees the allocation of funds to hundreds of nonprofit organizations in communities in which Stewart’s Shops are located.

In addition, she serves on the nonprofit boards of St. Peter’s Health Partners, Siena College, The Saratoga Foundation, The Arnold Cogswell Fund of the Community Foundation and the Philly and Charlie Dake Foundation and has raised funds for the YMCA of Saratoga, Skidmore College, The Community Hospice, Saratoga Hospital, St. Peter’s Hospital, Emma Willard School, the National Museum of Dance, Home Made Theater and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Previously, Dake was responsible for communications and public affairs for Stewart’s Shops, an employee- and family-owned convenience store chain, based in Saratoga Springs and founded in 1945.

She began her professional career as a teacher. Dake first served as an assistant for the Katrina Trask Nursery School and then taught at Greenfield Elementary School and other schools within the Saratoga Springs City School District.

Dake earned a master’s in reading from the State University of New York at Albany and a B.S. in theater from Skidmore College. Dake resides in Saratoga Springs with her husband Bill; together they have six children and 12 grandchildren.

About the Presidential Medal

The highest award the college bestows, the Presidential Medal recognizes outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in the professions, noteworthy public service or humanitarian endeavors, societal impacts, innovation, courage, character and ability to inspire students.

The medal is an occasional award. Nominations are made by the college community at any time. The award is given on appropriate occasions in the life of the college. While the award is meant primarily to recognize external contributors, nominations of current or former employees also may be considered.

About Lisa Michaels

Lisa Michaels, a native of Rotterdam and current resident of Guilderland, will graduate from the college’s School for Graduate Studies in the spring of 2013 with a Master of Arts in Teaching and a GPA of 3.97. In April of 2013, she was named a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

In 2001, after working as a photojournalist, Michaels discovered her passion for teaching, reading and writing when she joined a team at Alton U. Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland that provided reading support for students in need.

Currently a teaching assistant at Farnsworth, Michaels won the School for Graduate Studies’ Dean’s Medal in 2012 for her research as a member of the college’s first cohort in the clinically rich residency program for teacher preparation.

Using her positions at Farnsworth and the college, Michaels was instrumental in developing a track for the college’s teaching assistants within the residency program to gain certification. The college now employs this model for its teaching assistants with urban school districts across the state. In addition, Michaels worked to establish new partnerships with school districts to expand the college’s residency program.

Michaels’ success has garnered statewide attention. The New York State Reading Association selected her to edit the organization’s quarterly newsletter, The Empire Reading Science, and she wrote columns for the NYSRA peer-reviewed journal The Language and Literacy Spectrum.

Michaels is working to become a doctoral candidate at the University at Albany this fall. She earned her undergraduate degree with the college in 2008 and an associate from Hudson Valley Community College in 2006.

About Donald Ellis

Ellis, resident of Troy, will earn a B.A. in historical studies at the college’s Northeast Center. 

Ellis is completing a senior thesis research project, “The Troy Lockout of 1886: Its Impact on the National and Local Labor Movement and on the Local Business Owners of the Troy Collar Industry.” He intends to present a copy for placement in the archives of the Rensselaer County Historical Society where he conducted much of his primary source research.

Ellis was recruited to participate on the center’s panel for the collegewide “Vote 2012” event, where he discussed the historic role and contemporary relevance of political third parties and took part in the Q & A session following the presentations. Ellis was the only student participant chosen for this program.

Ellis was selected as one of the inaugural group of the center’s peer coaches for fellow students in 2011. He has offered to continue to do so beyond graduation. 

Ellis has since been nominated by the center’s Office of Academic Support for a 2013 College Reading and Learning Association Outstanding Tutor Award, a national honor awarded by the body that oversees and certifies peer tutoring and support.

Ellis also has volunteered to serve as a speaker at center outreach and information sessions. Currently, he is employed as a health insurance claims quality analyst.

About Dennis John Kramer

A resident of Saratoga Springs and full-time student for the past three years, Kramer will earn a B.S. in interdisciplinary studies at the college’s Northeast Center. 

A volunteer ambassador for the center, Kramer earned high marks and has distinguished himself as an independent learner by proposing, designing and participating in a study on integration in Major-League Baseball.

Kramer has decades of experience as a volunteer and employee with the Jaycees, United States Junior Chamber, a leadership, training and civic organization for people between the ages of 18 and 41.

His areas of emphasis are business development, management skills, individual training, community service and international connections. Kramer attained the status of certified national trainer in the Jaycees and in 2006 received the U.S. Junior Chamber International Senate Thomas Humphrey Memorial Award for outstanding leadership.

His work with the Jaycees focuses on educating youths about the dangers of smoking as well as encouraging the young to exercise their right to vote. Kramer works at an area screen printing and embroidery shop as a customization associate and as a mutual bay supervisor for the New York Racing Association at Saratoga Racecourse.

About SUNY Empire State College

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 66,000 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.



Graduation contact: Pat Pillsworth

518-783-6203, ext. 5965



Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918


518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)