Banging the Drum for the Bills

Onondaga Community College is well represented in the Buffalo Bills drumline, “Stampede.”

Onondaga Community College Alums are doing their part to fire up fans of pro football’s Buffalo Bills on game day. The Bills drumline, Stampede, plays in the parking lot of New Era Field before games and in the stands during games. One of Stampede’s members is an OCC Alumnus, Andrew Hook who plays the bass drum. “Being part of game day is exhilarating. I love it so much,” Hook said. “Being able to do what I love while performing for the Bills is basically a dream come true.” Hook is a 2015 graduate of Oswego High School who earned a Music degree from OCC in 2017.

Stampede was started by five men who at one time performed with OCC’s drumline: Dan English, Mike English, Erik English, Chris Ganey and Dan MacCollum. MacCollum, Ganey and Erik English are also graduates of OCC. Their mentor on campus was Professor Rob Bridge who teaches percussion at OCC. Professor Bridge is also Drum Line Instructor for the Syracuse University marching Band.

Another current member of Stampede is Josh Dievendorf, a 2016 graduate of Phoenix High School. The upcoming season will be Dievendorf’s fourth with Stampede. “I’ve played almost every part there is in the drumline so whenever there is a need for an individual part I can always be of service.” In May Dievendorf earned his General Studies degree from OCC. “I was able to attend a school with so much to offer and so many wonderful professors and a strong percussion program. OCC is an incredible school and it is open to everyone who wants to start on a path to higher education.”

We wish Stampede and the Buffalo Bills much success in the 2018 season! The first regular season home game for Stampede and the Bills is Sunday, September 16.


Instilling A Legacy: London Ladd ’95

When acclaimed, Syracuse-based, children’s book illustrator London Ladd was asked to be part of a project to help revitalize the gateway to the Southside of Syracuse he jumped at the opportunity. The walls beneath the bridge at the corner of Salina and Taylor Streets would become his canvas. He would paint on them the images of Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass. On the surface these two would make for obvious choices, but for Ladd the meaning runs much deeper. “Both of these men came to Syracuse to speak at the height of some of the most pivotal times in American history (King with the Civil Rights Movement and Douglass during the Civil War) so their voices were echoed on these streets in this zip code. Bringing that history back to life fills me with pride.”

These are his second and third murals. The first was of Underground Railroad Manager Jermaine Logan and his family at the corner of Cherry Street and Lexington Avenue. Doing something in a public forum on such a big scale presents a unique set of challenges. “It’s great to work large, but I realized quickly there is an equal amount of fun and terror because everyone is watching the process so I need to be on my game at all times.”

Ladd says the response was overwhelmingly positive with many people from all walks of life watching the progress of the murals which he hopes will have an impact long after they are complete. “Legacy is the word I most attribute to this work. For me, the purpose of these images is much more than visual. It’s an inspiration of hope.” Douglass’ story in particular resonates with Ladd, in how a former slave could become one of the nation’s most renowned orators of our time.

Across from the Douglass mural there will be one of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Ladd hopes to have them done by the end of July, and will then focus his time on other writing and illustrating projects as well as a new venture. “I’m looking to get back to my roots even further and open an art center where people can come and create, with no judgement, and just have fun with the process of art.” This “community” as Ladd calls it harkens him back to his childhood when he was first introduced to art. He wants to share those same feelings with others.

Ladd is a 1995 grad of OCC and was recognized as an Alumni Face Honoree in 2015. For more on his work please visit his website.

Strengthening The First Year Experience

Dr. Dan Ryan is the Director of OCC’s First Year Experience program. He’s pictured in the new Student Resource Center, located in Ferrante Hall room 262.

Onondaga Community College has a new program which is focused on helping new students of all ages succeed. The First Year Experience is the subject of our podcast, “Higher Education News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.”

Dr. Dan Ryan is the Director of the First year Experience. He’s a native of Chicago who came to OCC one year ago and began crafting the program. The First Year Experience will include weekly Student Success Sessions which focused on a variety of valuable topics including :

  • Relationship building with faculty
  • Time management
  • Money management
  • Health and wellness

The First Year Experience will include First Year Mentors. These will be returning students who will share their knowledge with new students and help guide them.

The First Year Experience’s home on campus is the Student and Faculty Resource Center in Ferrante Hall, room 262.

The First Year Experience is the product of an outstanding cross-campus collaboration between Dr. Ryan and the following members of his work group: Jackie Barstow, Meredith Cantor-Feller, Denise Johns, Thomas Keenan, Ryan Nellenback, Lindsey Reider, Joseph Sullivan and Leanne Waterman.

Enjoy the podcast!

Summer Learning

OCC Biology Professor MaryAnn Page shows wide-eyed students what the inside of a frog looks like during the YMCA’s Power Scholars Academy.

Students enrolled in the YMCA’s Power Scholars Academy spent a day learning about biology in OCC’s Ferrante Hall. The students rotated through five classrooms where they engaged in hands-on learning activities with OCC professors. Lesson topics included:

  • Human skeleton with professor Emily Gardner.
  • DNA with Professor Leslie Lane.
  • Benefits of house plants with Professor Peter Kraai.
  • Aquatic insects with Professor Justin Fiene.
  • Survey of animal diversity and how to use microscopes with Professor MaryAnn Page.

YMCA Power Scholar Academy students in grades 3, 4 and 5 came to the campus from the East Syracuse Minoa and Syracuse City School Districts. A photo slideshow can be viewed below.

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With Love, Palestine

Nujoud Makhlouf is the new entrepreneur-in-residence at “With Love, Palestine.” The restaurant opens with its new cuisine Wednesday, July 18.

Food has always been at the center of Nujoud Makhlouf’s life. She remembers when she was 3 years old and her great grandmother gave her the opportunity to work in the kitchen. “She said to me, ‘you’re a smart girl. I know you know how to peel the garlic.’ She let me peel it, then gave me a mortar and pestil. She let me smash it. She was glowing. ‘Look! She knows how to smash garlic!’ That was my moment. My great grandmother told me I was good and that carried me through.”

Makhlouf also remembers being obsessed with her mother’s baking pantry. She enjoyed staying in there and spinning the lazy susan. “I loved the smell of spices and sitting amongst the different ingredients, taking out my Mom’s mixer and helping make all of our foods. I always had an obsession with food.”

She will have an opportunity to share her obsession with food as the new entrepreneur-in-residence at “With Love, Palestine,” Onondaga Community College’s teaching restaurant located on Syracuse’s North Side at 435 North Salina Street. The restaurant’s cuisine changes with the entrepreneur-in-residence. Previous cuisines have included Pakistan, Burma and Savannah, GA. With Love, Palestine will open Wednesday, July 18.

Makhlouf’s parents are Palestinian refugees. She was born and raised in Central New York. Throughout her formative years food was always the constant. She had four younger sisters and enjoyed cooking for them. She loved cooking with her father and learning new dishes from him. She also cooked regularly for friends from school. “Our door was always open and we were always cooking. The whole concept of ‘families that eat together stay together’ was inevitable with us. We were always eating together.”

After graduating from Liverpool High School in 1993 Makhlouf attended Syracuse University. She earned her degree and became a teacher. Eight years later she put her teaching career on hold when her twins were born. Two more children would follow. Makhlouf stayed home to raise them and continue to cook. “I knew I wanted to cook Arabic food for my children and my husband. I wanted to give them those flavors.”

Within the past year she gave substitute teaching a try but continued to have an overwhelming passion for cooking. At her church she enjoyed teaching and organizing cooking classes and events. “One of the last cooking parties I threw, I got a lot of positive feedback from people who had recently come here from Syria. They said, ‘I haven’t had anything like this since the old country! How do you make it? Can you teach me the recipe?’ It was a major affirmation.”

When Makhlouf heard “With Love” was looking for its next entrepreneur-in-residence she decided to pursue it, aced the interview and was selected. “I’m approaching this like a six-month internship. I don’t know why this door has opened for me but this is my opportunity and I’m taking it.

The With Love, Palestine menu will include Makhlouf’s chicken dish, flipped rice dish and vegetable dish. Customers will also be treated to za’atar. It’s similar to an artisan flatbread and the recipe includes wild thyme, toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. Makhlouf already sells  za’atar at local farmer’s markets. Her other products include pink hummus infused with beet juice and handcrafted yogurt cheese which you can either put on top of something or use as a dip. She sells under the brand name, “Small Mountain Za’atar.”

The July 18 opening of “With Love: Palestine” will also signal the beginning of expanded hours. The restaurant will be open for lunch (12-2 p.m.) and dinner (5-8 p.m.) Tuesday through Friday.

Lazers Competing Around The World

The World Lacrosse Championships faceoff Thursday in Netanya, Israel. The week-and-a-half long event will feature more than a dozen former Onondaga Community College Lazers competing for their national teams. The list of alumni includes:


  • Peter Kwas



  • Tyson Bell



  • Holden McDonald



  • Aaron Cahill



  • Austin Staats
  • Randy Staats
  • Jerry Staats
  • Warren Hill
  • Jeremy Thompson
  • Jerome Thompson
  • Vaughn Harris



  • Jalen Paul



  • Justin Hussey


Puerto Rico

  • Dezi Gonzalez


Good luck to all of our Lazers in the World Championships!

Celebrating P-TECH

(Left to right) Robert Felder, Lilly La and William DeJesus are members of the first class of P-TECH students and 2018 graduates of the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central.

The accomplishments of the first graduating class of the P-TECH program were celebrated during a roundtable discussion on education and workforce development. “P-TECH helped prepare me both academically and with my vocational skills,” said Lilly La. She’s a member of the class of 2018 at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central (ITC) and one of the top students in the P-Tech program.

P-TECH stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. The program creates individual pathways for students to simultaneously obtain their high school diploma, earn an associate degree and obtain workplace learning experience. La and her classmates came to Onondaga Community College and took classes in Mechanical Technology or Electrical Technology while in high school. La will be attending Syracuse University in the fall.

P-TECH students (left to right) Robert Felder, William DeJesus and Lilly La share their stories with Congressman John Katko and White House Adviser Ivanka Trump.

The discussion was held at ITC and moderated by Congressman John Katko. White House adviser Ivanka Trump participated in the event along with Syracuse School District Superintendent Jaime Alicea, Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill and several other local college and high school administrators and leaders from the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and CenterStateCEO.

Another graduating student, Robert Felder, told the audience how P-Tech made a difference in his career path. “Through P-Tech I had an opportunity to start an internship at United Radio and it turned into a job.” Felder will attend Alfred University in the fall.

William DeJesus will continue pursuing his Mechanical Technology degree at OCC this fall. DeJesus overcame a learning disability, earned 32 college credits while in high school, and plans to earn his associate degree next May. “Coming into high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. With P-Tech, I had Electrical Technology and Mechanical Technology. It gave me options other kids didn’t have.”

OCC President Casey Crabill congratulated all three students on their accomplishments and their decisions to continue their education. “We are very proud of them. We are as excited about the fact they’ve made choices to go on in various directions as we would be had they all come to us. We think part of the power of P-TECH is expanding student’s understanding of what is possible so they can make the best choice for themselves.”

OCC will be starting two new P-TECH programs this fall in the Public Service Learning Academy (formerly Fowler High School) in Computer Information Systems and Drone Technology.

Sharing Wisdom: John Dau ’05


There is no slowing John Dau. The President of the John Dau Foundation, which provides healthcare and nutrition programs to the citizens of South Sudan recently published his third book. His latest work, “The Pillars Of Wisdom” is a collection of stories and folk tales that are told in the traditional Dinka style, which instill values and lessons through the adventures of animals and humans as they interact with nature. When John lived in Sudan before civil war ravaged his homeland and forced him to flee, he was and still is a member of the Dinka tribe.

The Dinka pillars of wisdom are: respect, empathy, honesty, fairness, sharing, listening, welcoming, brother/sisterhood, friendship, love, perseverance and other subliminal lessons. “In my homeland, we told stories to help fill the young with wisdom acquired from the tribe. They rang true when I struggled to maintain my identity, my faith, and my hope as a Lost Boy of Sudan in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya (…) They ring true today, as I live and work as a U.S. citizen, husband, father, and foundation president in New York and Virginia.”

_V6B9010John has received numerous awards for his humanitarian efforts, chronicled in his 2007 book “God Grew Tired Of Us,” which documents his time as a child growing up in Sudan, escaping his homeland due to civil war, and his journey to America. The book was later turned into an award winning documentary.  He was honored as an OCC Alumni Face Recipient in 2007 and was most recently recognized as an American Association of Community College Outstanding Alum in 2014.

To purchase the book visit John currently lives with his wife and four children in Virginia.

Minnesota Vikings Running Back Returns to Hometown to Help Students Go to College

Latavius Murray 16 (Blog Article Resized)
Latavius Murray speaking at OCC Advantage Event 

Latavius Murray, a running back with the Minnesota Vikings, came back to his hometown last week to support a fundraiser for the OCC Advantage program. OCC Advantage helps students from East Syracuse Minoa, Solvay and Onondaga Central (Murray’s Alma Mater) earn a tuition-free scholarship to OCC provided they meet certain requirements. Proceeds from the June 26th fundraiser at Beak & Skiff will go towards the scholarship fund.

The priceless moments, though, was seeing the looks on the faces of Murray’s fans when they got to meet their role model and hometown hero. Check out some of the highlights below.

Thank you Latavius Murray, for graciously spending your Tuesday evening with us – signing autographs, drawing raffle prizes, and talking with everyone who attended. A special thanks goes out to Rob Price and Tim Mumford from Onondaga Central Schools for helping coordinate Murray’s visit.

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Professor’s Song Honors Service

OCC Music Professor Emeritus Donald Miller wrote “Here Rests In Honored Glory” as a tribute to Veterans who paid the ultimate price and their surviving families.

Don Miller’s lasting tribute to the military is the result of service he narrowly missed out on. Miller was growing up in southwestern Ohio when the Vietnam War started. He expected to be drafted and was prepared to serve his country but  was never selected. “I felt guilty. I wanted to make some sort of contribution because I wasn’t called,” said Miller.

He would go to college, earn multiple degrees and become a Music professor at Onondaga Community College in 1971. OCC had just moved to its new campus on Onondaga Hill and initially, the Music department was located in the Service & Maintenance Building. That’s where Miller would begin his 30-year career teaching students Chorus, Music History, Music Appreciation and Classical & Jazz Guitar.

Despite his professional success, the feeling of guilt never left him. Two decades after not being drafted, Miller created his own way of contributing. In 1986 he composed “Here Rests In Honored Glory,” a song based on the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Miller used two hymn tunes within his composition, “All Glory Laud and Honor” along with “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” as a tribute to multiple religions. “The Unknown Soldier is representative of all religions or persons of no religious belief,” he said. “An unknown soldier can be a non-believer, a Muslim or whichever religion he or she observes.”

Miller with medals he was awarded for Here Rests In Honored Glory. On the left is the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. On the right is a D-Day Medal from the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in France.

In the more than three decades since Miller composed the song it has been gaining prominence in and around the military community. Here Rests In Honored Glory was adopted as the Official Hymn of Mourning by two organizations; the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America. All of Miller’s composer royalties were split evenly between the two organizations. He has not and will not profit from the song.

In 2006 the work was recorded by the North Carolina Master Chorale in Raleigh as a CD. You can listen to it here. All proceeds from the sales went to raise money for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS is a national non-profit organization made up of, and providing services to all those who have lost a loved one on active duty with the Armed Forces.

In 2009 Miller’s composition won the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The Watauga County Community Band and choral group in Boone, NC will perform the arrangement this fall for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. At the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in France, the CD is played each June 6th in commemoration of D-Day which was the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.

During the 2018 legislative session, the New York State Assembly and Senate both approved designating Miller’s song as the Official State Hymn of Remembrance in Honor of All American Veterans. Its passage was spearheaded by Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli and Senator John DeFrancisco. The bill now waits for the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo. “I thank our lawmakers for everything they’ve done,” said Miller. “If it helps our Veterans and recognizes Veterans and their families, it is wonderful.”

Most rewarding for Miller and his wife Mary are the stories they have heard from those impacted by the song. “Through TAPS we got to know a lot of families. One of our friends from their lost their son 14 years ago. They listen to the song regularly and it brings them relief,” said Mary Miller. “We know a family that plays the song at the grave of their loved one in Arlington,” added Don Miller. “It comforts them. It’s how they celebrate.”

Recently the Miller’s were contacted by leaders of the United States Army Band in Washington DC, informing them the band is considering performing Here Rests In Honored Glory. It’s another level of recognition which would expose the song to a larger audience. “All of this is very humbling. I’m so grateful and want to thank those who gave the ultimate for their country,” said Don Miller.


  • Here Rests In Honored Glory is published by Mark Foster Music, a division of Shawnee Press, Inc. and exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation.
  • The Miller’s wish to thank OCC’s Susan Tormey, Music Professor Dr. David Rudari and OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill for their continued assistance and support.
  • OCC would like to thank Donald Miller for his 31 years of service to the College. He and his wife Mary raised five children. Three of them along with a son-in-law are all Veterans.