Grateful for “The OCC Effect”

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).

Your stories keep coming in! Since launching “The OCC Effect” we’ve heard from dozens and dozens of former students who were so positively impacted by their time on campus. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you. If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us your story. In the meantime, here are a few more for you to enjoy.

JoAnne Bakeman, ’73

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Adjunct Faculty at OCC
  • Resides in North Syracuse

“When I graduated from Onondaga Valley Academy, some of my classmates were starting at OCC, the brand new college in Midtown Plaza, where my mother had worked for the L.C. Smith Typewriter Company, but I was going away to Rosary Hill, a Catholic women’s college in Buffalo. I graduated from there, followed my husband to Army bases until he went to serve in Vietnam, and then started teaching in the Syracuse Inner City. When I went on maternity leave for my second child, I knew that health and wellness was going to be my focus, and as part of that, I wanted to begin the nursing program at OCC.  I started taking classes at Midtown Plaza, then at the County Home, then at the new campus in the Service and Maintenance Building. By the time I graduated from the nursing program and obtained my registered nurse license, I had also started a master’s degree program in Health Education at SUNY Cortland, determined to begin a professional career in health and wellness.  That led me to establish the Center for Holistic Living, where I learned about the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction.  I attended a brand new training program at Syracuse University leading to the credential in substance abuse counseling. I put that credential into use at Crouse Hospital Chemical Dependency Treatment Services, and found out that my registered nurse license allowed me to practice independently as a substance abuse therapist, which I have been doing now for over 30 years.  Imagine my thrill when I was hired to begin teaching in the HPER program at OCC in 1999, and in the Human Services program in 2002!  I still feel the joy in coming up that hill as I have been doing my entire life, and approaching the college that I have seen grow from the ground up. I consider the time I spent in attending OCC to  have been the basis of everything I have done subsequently.”


Richard Calagiovanni, ‘68

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Production Manager, WCNY-TV
  • Resides in Syracuse

“When I started at OCC I wasn’t sure if I would last a semester. I had some great professors and administrators who were truly interested in their students including Mary Stiles, Norma Foody, Margaret Tubbert, Dean Dorothy Kelly, College President Dr. Marvin Rapp and Student Government Advisor Bob Weathers. All of these people were supportive and instructional.

My sophomore year I served as student government vice president which was a great experience. I met some great kids who are still friends today.

Marvin Rapp used to take me to county Legislature meetings to talk to the representatives who would vote on moving the college forward to a new location on Onondaga Hill. In the summer of 1967 I participated in one of the two ground breaking ceremonies for the new campus. Little did I know that I would wind up married and living a mile for the campus.

I was impressed with the dedication of community leaders like Ephraim Shapero and Don Mawhinney who passionately supported the college.

I lasted not just one semester but four and completed my degree. I took one Radio and TV Course with Dr. Richard Cobb and became convinced that I had selected the right major at Syracuse University. I went on to spend 29 years in television production at WCNY TV. I never could have gotten into SU out of high school. OCC gave me the chance to turn my academic achievements around earn a four-year degree.

Many of us from the 60s often said that we didn’t know where we’d be without OCC and the opportunities it offered. And it all started in Midtown Plaza!”


John and Bea Ceilly

John Ceilly, ’90

  • Major: Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Retired
  • Resides in Fayetteville

“After researching a career change at age 45 I decided to get out of sales and go into the health field. I was able to do part time volunteer work at Syracuse Developmental Center for over two months.  I worked with a team of therapists covering Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapies. I decided to become a Physical Therapy Assistant and also met my future wife Bea, a Speach Therapist on the team. I graduated two years later and we married soon after. There were 20 students in that first PTA class whose ages ranged from 20 into the 50s.  A small group of us non-traditional older students formed a study group. We would meet outside of class to review difficult topics and study for tests. I was very fortunate to be part of this group. We all flourished in our studies and formed great  friendships. My experiences at OCC enriched my life and provided a very positive base for my new career.”


Jodi DeAugustine, ’89

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Banking
  • Resides in Cicero

“OCC set the standard for my future education and for my professional career. The professors I had at OCC helped me believe that I could go on and further my education and did not have to settle for the narrative others had written about me. I had two professors at OCC and I recall my Business Law professor to be so encouraging.  She allowed me to explore the analytical side of my brain and I realized that I had a strong acumen and interest in law. After leaving OCC, I attended University College at Syracuse University and received my Paralegal Certification from the American Bar Association through that program. I recall having another professor see something in me and saying to me, ‘Jodi, you are a leader and I think you should pursue a further degree because I don’t ever see you truly being happy working for someone else.’  How insightful that comment turned out to be as well! I was so intrigued by this Economics Professor and what I had learned in those early classes that after becoming a Paralegal, I went after my Bachelor’s Degree. I chose SUNY Cortland were I majored in Economics and minored in Management. Many years have passed and regretfully I do not recall these Professors names, but to them both I am forever grateful because they had quite a bit to do with who I am and where I sit today.  Which is leading women with passion and entrepreneurial spirits to gather their confidence and meet their own drive for success!”


Megan Dorey, ‘14

  • Major: Human Services

“While I was a student at OCC, my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I would go to school from 8am to 3pm, then go to my mother’s house to cook her dinner, bathe her and do household chores. The semester I was graduating would also be the last one with my mother here.  She was so proud of me, a full time mom going back to school.  My mother did not want me to be a waitress forever.  While I was attending OCC I really had no idea what sector of human services I would like to go into.  Shortly after graduation, my mother passed away.  I took it really hard, I stopped caring about the world in which I lived.  During the summer of 2016 I began to process my feelings about my mother passing.  I had a moment where I swear I heard her say ” Make me proud, do something with your degree!! ” The next day I quit my job as a waitress and began to job search. I was lucky enough to find a job in supported employment. During the next year I grew emotionally and physically. I finally had found a job I loved. I love teaching people about the world of work and how they can become part of it. I can’t even begin to tell everyone how important my schooling at OCC was. I can’t put into words what OCC did for me because it really did give me the world.”


William Patton, ’02

  • Major: Business
  • Occupation: Chief Financial Officer
  • Resides in Liverpool

“I first attended OCC fresh out of high school. I had a lot of fun, but didn’t attend very many classes. I returned about 10 years later and despite working a full-time and a part-time job and having a new baby at home, I fully committed to my education and it paid off! Thank God for second chances. I was able to learn important business skills like accounting, supervision and economics, while becoming a better rounded person with classes in Western History, Poetry Writing and Chemistry. I also was able to glean some valuable leadership skills as the student government Treasurer. Looking back, I am still impressed at the level of knowledge, experience of the professors and even more so at the encouragement and support that the professors and staff gave, not only to me, but to anyone who was willing to try. My degree led me to a Supervisory position at Lanpher’s Transport, which has led to my becoming CFO. OCC taught me the importance of ongoing education, how to problem-solve and, most importantly, that I can achieve excellence if I strive for it. If I wasn’t allowed that second chance at Onondaga Community College, I cannot imagine where I would be now.”


Tom Rasley

Tom Rasely, ’71

  • Major: Music
  • Occupation: Musician

“I have been a musician practically my entire life. I come from a musical family, but I also received an excellent musical education that started in high school. After HS graduation I was accepted at OCC in the Dramatics curriculum, but transferred into the music department the next year; that was the year that the school started to move up to Onondaga Hill. The instruction and encouragement I received during those two years has carried me though a very long career as a guitarist and composer. The experience of working with Dr. Donald B. Miller in the choir and Professor Phil Klein on piano harmony and Horace Hall as a voice teacher were invaluable encounters for me. Over the nearly 5 decades since, I have taught privately, performed in a wide variety of large and small venues all over the country, including twice at the White House. As a composer, there are now nearly 700 titles in my catalog. I encourage as many young musicians as I can to consider starting their musical training at OCC.”


Michael Rendino, ‘13

  • Major: Business/Accounting
  • Occupation: Financial Analyst
  • Resides in Manlius

“I was 36, had spent more than a decade with the same company and was frustrated with the lack of advancement opportunities because I did not have a four-year college degree. I took a chance and decided it was time to go back to school and earn my bachelor’s degree.

OCC provided me with a clear pathway that was pivotal to my academic success and I cannot thank you enough for this experience. The professors and administrative staff were extremely friendly and understanding of my situation as a non-traditional student and it meant and still means so much to me that they were right there with me from my first day of class until graduation.

It had been over 19 years since the last time I was in a classroom setting and the prospect of going back to school terrified me because I did not know if I would have what it takes to succeed. Fortunately for me the professors and administrative staff were extremely patient and willing to work with me as often as they could. If not for their support my educational journey would have been more difficult than it was.

My two years at OCC laid the foundation for my present personal and career path. With only one semester left at OCC until graduation I applied and was excepted into the Le Moyne College Accounting program. I would graduate from Le Moyne with honors and a B.A. in Accounting with a concentration in Management Information Systems. The following year I was one of three graduates from Le Moyne’s new master’s program.

During the latter half of my senior year and my entire Master’s program studies at Le Moyne I became employed full time with a wonderful local company, ADMI. I am still employed there today. My boss is an amazing person both personally and professionally. My quality of life has improved by leaps and bounds. I would not have made to where I am today without the guidance and support of everyone at OCC.

I would like to give special thanks to the following people in the Accounting Department: Professor Jane Stam, Professor Michele Ley, Professor JT Ryan and Betty in the Accounting Office; in the English Department Stephanie and Sophie; all of the tutors in the Math Lab and finally my classmates Liz and Barb. I owe all of you a great debt of thanks and I will never forget you.”


Jane Slabowski

  • Occupation: Dietitian and Adjunct Instructor at OCC

“I had a dream to become a registered dietitian/nutritionist.  I was a first generation college student and second generation American with a strong family emphasis on the benefits of higher education along with good grades in school. Nutrition is a heavily science based program. I didn’t have the confidence to pursue this in my initial college career. Instead I majored in elementary education, then obtained a master’s in special education from Syracuse University.

I then began to attend OCC to take the undergraduate pre-requisite courses to enable me to apply to the Nutrition Science program at SU. I took general chemistry, organic chemistry, physiology, microbiology and two economics courses. Through an incredible amount of hard work, I managed decent grades and admission to SU. I finally obtained my masters, completed an internship and ultimately sat for and passed the RD exam.

My career has been circuitous and I’ve moved between education and nutrition positions while raising a family. My passion was always nutrition education. When Jillann Neeley offered me the position to teach basic nutrition as an adjunct, I felt that I’d come full circle.  For me, it was a proud moment.

I tell this story to my students each semester.  For me, OCC was the pathway toward accomplishing a personal vision.  Though I haven’t achieved riches or fame, when I look back, I have to say – OCC was the vehicle that allowed me to ‘achieve the dream.’”


Jack Trenchard, ‘72

  • Major: Music
  • Retired Music Teacher
  • Resides in West Seneca, NY

“I remember OCC as looking like a large parking garage or utility building. The staff was wonderful. I remember my voice teacher Mr. McCullough, my music theory teacher Mrs. Lyons and the great times that I had singing in the chorus.”


Mark Venesky

Mark Venesky, ‘76

  • Major: Humanities
  • Occupation: Cicero Town Supervisor
  • Resides in North Syracuse

“1975 and 1976 were focusing years for me. I buckled down and got serious about learning and OCC was the vehicle that allowed me to grow academically and socially. I will never forget the caring professors and staff who encouraged me and the friendships that I made, especially those with the returning Vietnam veterans. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University, enjoyed a 36-year career with UPS and am now in my second career as Supervisor of the Town of Cicero.

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