SUNY CUAD Award Winners

OCC was well represented when the State University of New York Council for University Advancement (SUNY CUAD) Awards for Excellence were handed out at the 2015 conference in Rochester. The College’s Marketing & New Media and Advancement Communications offices took home four judge’s citations for their professional excellence in the following categories:

  • Advertising – “Smarter/Wiser” campaign
  • Community Relations – “Lincoln: The Constitution & Civil War Exhibit”
  • Effective Efficient and Elegant Publications – “Report to the Community”
  • Electronic Communications and Interactive Media – “Continuum”

OCC’s Amy Kremenek was inducted into the SUNY CUAD Hall of Fame. Kremenek is the College’s Vice President of Human Resources and External Relations.

Gladys Thomas

Gladys Thomas’ story is as remarkable as any you will ever hear. At the age of 74 she graduated from OCC, earning a degree in Professional Communication May 2015. Her performance as an adult learner was so outstanding she was named the top student in her major during April’s Student Honors Ceremony.

Thomas’ journey to a college degree was lengthy and often difficult. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 22. Her mother died of a stroke. Her son struggled with kidney failure for more than a dozen years. Her daughter battled a drug addiction, leaving Thomas to raise her three grandchildren. “Despite everything I went through I never lost my desire to go to college,” Thomas said.

She made the decision to give college a try and enrolled in OCC in 2012. “When I went to register, I felt inferior to the younger generation because it had been over 50 years since I was in a class room. I told myself that all of us were there for the same reason, to get to the next level.”

Thomas received the curriculum honor award for the Professional Communication major during the Student Honors Ceremony. She is pictured receiving her award from (left) OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and (right) Professor Karen Harrison.
Thomas received the curriculum honor award for the Professional Communication major during the Student Honors Ceremony. She is pictured receiving her award from (left) OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and (right) Professor Karen Harrison.

Thomas said she brought a level of life-experience to class other students simply couldn’t. “As a 71 year old African-American female student who had seen history first hand, I brought diversity to the student body at OCC. I added a unique perspective to class discussions. I wanted to be a model of dedication, perseverance, enthusiasm, integrity, and self-respect for the younger students.

Thomas found strength in her faith and decided to share her message with others. “I had been encouraged through the word of God and came to the conclusion other women needed to be encouraged as well.” She started a religious show on radio station WSIV 1540 am. It airs every Saturday from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. “Having a close relationship with Jesus Christ and applying the word of God to my life every day keeps me strong spiritually, mentally and physically.”

When Thomas walked across the stage at commencement and received her college degree, she became the first of her 13 siblings to do so. Her academic success carries deep meaning. “It was important to show everyone I could do this. If I can do it, they can do it. I leave my family this legacy.”

Meet The Faculty: Donna Stuccio

Donna Stuccio
Professor and Department Chair, Criminal Justice and Public Safety

Hometown: Forty-Fort, Pennsylvania

Education: B.S. and M.S., Syracuse University; M.F.A., Goddard College.

History at OCC: In 1990 I began as an adjunct in Criminal Justice while also working as a patrol officer and evidence technician for the Syracuse Police Department. I began teaching full-time in 1994 and became department chair in 2012. I have also taught acting and playwriting here.

Favorite Student Story: New York State Trooper Craig Todeschini, who died in the line of duty in 2006, was my advisee, intern, and student while completing his criminal justice degree. We would engage in friendly banter in class as I attempted to sway him over to consider the Syracuse Police Department. But he was steadfast in his commitment to his life long quest to become a New York State Trooper. I remember him often smiling in the back row, unwavering every time we debated the pros and cons of each. Craig successfully completed our program and won a coveted spot with the law enforcement agency of his dreams. The tragedy of his untimely death overshadows the memory sometimes, but whenever I think of him, I do smile. Craig had that glint in his eye signalling the energy, focus, and determination to succeed which I hope takes hold of every student who crosses our threshold.

Little Known Fact: In June of 1972, I lived through a devastating flood in my small hometown of Forty-Fort. More than 2,000 coffins from the centuries old cemetery tucked into a bend in the Susquehanna river were unearthed by the force of the water breaking through the levee and they cruised through the town and beyond. The sight of water everywhere was peppered with the incongruency of burning buildings. I’m still trying to figure out how to turn it all into a stage play.

Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: The late Joseph Lotito produced and directed my very first play, “Blue Moon,” at Salt City Playhouse in 1999. It toured a bit and was published in the Journal of Women and Criminal Justice. I have been writing plays ever since. I currently serve as artistic director of Armory Square Playhouse, a playwrights collective that champions new plays written by local playwrights.

Gratitude: The opportunity to work at OCC changed the course of my life. I have been fortunate to work with so many spectacular people and engage with countless numbers of wonderful students. To quote my colleague, Professor Emeritus James Coates, “It’s the best job in the world.”