2018 Class of Alumni Faces

The latest Alumni Faces honorees are recognized on the first floor of the Academic II building.

Six distinguished former Onondaga Community College students have been named 2018 “Alumni Faces” honorees for their professional achievements and contributions to the college and the community. They will be honored for their accomplishments during an induction ceremony Wednesday, October 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. Their likenesses will be added to the Alumni Faces display in the Academic II building.

The 2018 class of Alumni Faces is:

David Bamonte, ’81
High School: North Syracuse
Major at OCC: Music
Profession: Educator and Trumpet Player

David has traveled the world playing the trumpet with acclaimed conductors such as Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta. Today he is a member of the Oregon Symphony and a professor at Portland State University.

 

Jim Campagna, ’79
High School: North Syracuse
Major at OCC: Radio & Television
Profession: Television News Director

Jim is News Director at WSYR TV, Newschannel 9. Throughout much of his career he shared his expertise with the next generation of professionals, serving as an adjunct professor in OCC’s Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major from 2001 to 2015. Today he continues to serve as a member of the EMC Advisory Board.

 

Nancy Pasquale, ’90
High School: The Convent School
Major at OCC: Humanities
Profession: Educator and Advocate

Nancy was a founding member of the college’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges. She taught English at Fayetteville-Manlius and Solvay High Schools until she retired in 2015. Today she serves a co-chair of the OCC Advantage fundraising initiative.

 

Mark Re, ’85
High School: Bishop Ludden
Major at OCC: Business Administration
Profession: Real Estate Regional Manager

Mark is Vice President and Regional Manager of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. He has been a steadfast supporter of OCC, serving on the Foundation Board since 2004. He is co-chair of the OCC Advantage Fundraising initiative.

 

Jeremy Thompson, ’09
High School: LaFayette
Major at OCC: General Studies
Profession: Professional Lacrosse Player

Jeremy was an All-American lacrosse player at Lafayette High School, OCC and Syracuse University. He was also a two-time New York State Champion and a National Champion with the Lazers. He and his brother Jerome are the face of Nike’s line of Lacrosse gear and part owners of Thompson Brothers Lacrosse.

 

Jerome Thompson, 2006-2009
High School: LaFayette
Major at OCC: General Studies
Profession: Professional Lacrosse Player

Jerome and his brother Jeremy are the face of Nike’s line of Lacrosse gear and part owners of Thompson Brothers Lacrosse. Jerome helped lead the Lazers Men’s Lacrosse team to National Championships in 2007 and 2009. Both he and his brother Jeremy continuously give back to the Native American community and are revered as icons and role models for their work.

 

Congratulations to our Alumni Faces Class of 2018! You can see a complete list of all of our Alumni Faces honorees here.

Honoring Our 2017 Alumni Faces

OCC President Casey Crabill with the 2017 class of Alumni Faces (left to right): Ed Riley, Janet Riley, Marthe Ngwashi, Deirdre Hunter and John DelVecchio.

They returned to campus with their stories of success. There was a real estate developer, a nurse, a professor of engineering, a television director and an attorney. What brought them together was a common bond, Onondaga Community College. OCC paid tribute to these five former students on the night of November 1, recognizing them as distinguished Alumni Faces during a ceremony in the Recital Hall. “Each one of them has gone on to make their mark in Central New York and beyond with notable careers, service to community and living a life that exemplifies the importance of giving back to others,” said College President Casey Crabill during her opening remarks.

The Class of 2017 is:

John DelVecchio

John D. “JD” DelVecchio, ‘79

  • Major: Radio & Television (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • Profession: Television Director for the Golf Channel
  • High School: Corcoran, class of 1977

DelVecchio is an Emmy award-winning television sports director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Today he works for the Golf Channel. His resume includes the Olympics, College Football, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and the Cosby Show.

 

Deirdre Hunter

Deirdre N. Hunter, Ph.D., ‘02

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Profession: Professor of Engineering
  • High School: Jersey Village High School in Houston, class of 1998

Hunter fell in love with science and engineering while working on cars with her father in his auto repair business. She earned degrees from OCC, Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. She was one of the few women in her educational field and received many accolades for her research. Today she is a Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University in Houston.

 

Marthe Ngwashi

Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ‘03

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Profession: Lawyer
  • High School: Nottingham High School, class of 1994

After earning her associate degree at OCC and her bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College, Ngwashi worked in the State Attorney General’s Office where co-workers encouraged her to pursue a law degree. She took their advice and today practices law in her firm, Ngwashi & Associates PLLC in Buffalo.

 

Ed and Janet Riley

Edward M. Riley

  • Major: Architectural Technology
  • Profession: Developer
  • High School: Christian Brothers Academy, class of 1972

Riley is a nationally renowned developer. In 2016 he completed one of the hallmark projects of his career when he restored the old Hotel Syracuse. It reopened in August 2016 as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

 

Janet H. Riley, ‘74

  • Major: Nursing
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
  • High School: Bishop Ludden, class of 1972

Riley was a Registered Nurse at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, a Triage Nurse at Syracuse University Health Center, and held several nursing and management positions at SUNY Upstate Health & Science Center prior to her retirement.

Earlier in the day the honorees spent time with current students enrolled in the majors in which the alumni earned degrees. They told students about their journey from the OCC campus to where they are today, offered career advice and answered questions.

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In conjunction with the Alumni Faces being on campus the College announced a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” We’re asking former students to share their stories with the tens of thousands of people who make up the OCC community. If you attended OCC please take a moment, visit our alumni web page and let us know how your time at OCC impacted your life. Your story 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 about OCC’s effect on you. We’ve assembled a few stories about our alumni which we hope will inspire you to share your story with us.

John Dau, ’05

 

  • Major at OCC: Humanities
  • Home country: South Sudan

John is a “Lost Boy,” one of tens of thousands of refugees displaced or orphaned by war in the Sudan. He came to the United States in 2001 and began taking classes at OCC along with approximately 80 refugees. “OCC was like a family to us. The teachers helped with school work and life lessons. It created a strong bond with me and all of the refugees.” Today he is President of the John Dau Foundation which provides healthcare and nutrition programs to the citizens of South Sudan. John is one of OCC’s distinguished Alumni Faces honorees. In 2014 he received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

Alumni Faces Class of 2017

The etchings of Alumni Faces honorees are on display in the Academic II Building (above) and the Gordon Student Center.

Five former students have been named 2017 “Alumni Faces” honorees for their professional achievements and contributions to the college and the community. They will be honored for their accomplishments during an induction ceremony Wednesday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Academic II building’s Recital Hall. The honorees are:

 

DelVecchio

John D. “JD” DelVecchio, ‘79

  • Major: Radio & Television (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • Profession: Television Director for live sports events
  • High School: Corcoran, class of 1977

JD DelVecchio is an Emmy award-winning television sports director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Today he works for the Golf Channel. His resume includes Olympic Games, College Football, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and the Cosby Show.

 

Hunter

Deirdre N. Hunter, Ph.D., ‘02

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Profession: Professor of Engineering
  • High School: Jersey Village High School in Houston, class of 1998

Dr. Deirdre Hunter fell in love with science and engineering while working on cars with her father in his auto repair business. She earned degrees from OCC, Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. She was one of the few women in her educational field and received many accolades for her research. Today she is a Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University in Houston.

 

Ngwashi

Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ‘03

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Profession: Lawyer
  • High School: Nottingham High School, class of 1994

After earning her associate degree at OCC and her bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College, Marthe Ngwashi worked in the State Attorney General’s Office where co-workers encouraged her to pursue a law degree. She took their advice and today practices law in her firm, Ngwashi & Associates PLLC in Buffalo.

 

Riley

Edward M. Riley

  • Major: Architectural Technology
  • Profession: Developer
  • High School: Christian Brothers Academy, class of 1972

Ed Riley is a nationally renowned developer. In 2016 he completed one of the hallmark projects of his career when he restored the old Hotel Syracuse. It reopened in August 2016 as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

 

Riley

Janet H. Riley, ‘74

  • Major: Nursing
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
  • High School: Bishop Ludden, class of 1972

Janet Riley was a Registered Nurse at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, a Triage Nurse at Syracuse University Health Center and held several nursing and management positions at SUNY Upstate Health & Science Center prior to her retirement.

Congratulations to our Class of 2017! You can see a list of Alumni Faces honorees here.

2016 Alumni Faces Honorees

The Alumni Faces display in the Academic II building.
The Alumni Faces display in the Academic II building.

Four distinguished graduates have been named 2016 “Alumni Faces” honorees for their professional achievements and contributions to the College and the community. Jeff Cleland, Michael Meath, Kathy Rowe and Dr. Thomas Zengeya will be honored for their accomplishments during an induction ceremony Wednesday, October 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building.

Let’s meet the 2016 Alumni Faces!

Jeff Cleland, 2016 Alumni FaceJeff Cleland, ‘13

  • Major: Liberal Arts & Sciences – General Studies
  • Profession: Public Policy and Veterans Affairs
  • West Genesee, Class of 2005

Jeff Cleland was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corp. He worked as an Infantry Machine Gunner while serving in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After retiring from active duty Cleland began a career of public service at Clear Path for Veterans and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Today he is leading research and policy efforts for the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, TX.

 

Michael Meath, 2016 Alumni FaceMichael F. Meath, ‘87

  • Major: Fire Protection Technology
  • Profession: Strategic Communications Consultant
  • High School: Bishop Grimes, Class of 1975

Michael Meath has helped hundreds of businesses throughout the nation deal with crisis communications. When unexpected events occur Meath is called in to provide strategic insight and practical, down-to-earth business sense. Meath also shares his wisdom with college students by teaching public relations, business ethics and crisis communications at McMaster University and Syracuse University.

 

Kathy Rowe, 2016 Alumni FaceKathy Rowe, ‘80

  • Major: Radio & Television
  • Profession: Radio Personality
  • High School: North Syracuse, Class of 1977

Kathy Rowe was an on-air personality at radio station Y94 (WYYY-FM) for more than 30 years. She started working there in 1982 and was Y94’s morning show host for more than a decade. During her distinguished career Rowe also worked at Syracuse radio stations WAQX-FM and WOLF-AM.  Rowe is married to Syracuse Jazz Fest founder and executive producer Frank Malfitano, ’67 who is also one of OCC’s Alumni Faces.

 

Thomas Zengeya Wall of Fame photoDr. Thomas T. Zengeya, ‘02

  • Major: Mathematics & Science
  • Profession: Research Scientist

Thomas Zengeya is a native of Zimbabwe who came to the United States in 2001 to study science. He earned degrees from four SUNY schools including OCC, ESF, Oswego and Binghamton. Zengeya is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland. He has several awards, publications and presentations to his credit.

Congratulations to our 2016 Alumni Faces honorees!

2015 Alumni Faces Inductees

2015 Alumni Faces (left to right): OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill, Dinyar Vania, '99, London Ladd, '95, Anne Marie Abt, DPT, '75 and Richard Delmonico, Ph.D., '77.
2015 Alumni Faces (left to right): OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill, Dinyar Vania, ’99, London Ladd, ’95, Anne Marie Abt, DPT, ’75 and Richard Delmonico, Ph.D., ’77.

Onondaga Community College honored four distinguished alumni by naming them 2015 “Alumni Faces” for their professional achievements and contributions to the College and community. The ceremony took place Wednesday, October 28 in the Recital Hall of the Academic II building.

The 2015 honorees are:

Anne Marie AbtAnne Marie Abt, DPT, ‘75

Major: Mathematics & Science

Profession: Physical Therapist

Anne Marie Abt came to OCC from Bishop Grimes knowing she wanted a career in physical therapy. She earned her associate degree and graduated from Upstate Medical Center two years later. Today Dr. Abt is a physical therapist in the Jamesville-Dewitt School District where she works with students with diagnosed disabilities. Dr. Abt is also an adjunct instructor in the Physical Therapy Education Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University, teaching a pediatrics therapy course to doctoral students. She is a board certified pediatric clinical specialist and is part of the Fitness Inclusion Network affiliated with Upstate, which promotes inclusive fitness for children and adults with disabilities.

 

Richard DelmonicoRichard Delmonico, Ph.D., ‘77

Major: Humanities

Profession: Neuropsychologist

Richard Delmonico is a graduate of Liverpool High School who credits OCC’s Counseling Department with helping him decide on a major, consider career options and complete applications for bachelor degree programs. Delmonico also earned degrees from colleges in California, Connecticut and Missouri. Today he is the chief of neuropsychology at the Kaiser Permanente Rehabilitation Center in northern California where he specializes in working with people with neurological disorders such as traumatic brain injuries. Dr. Delmonico is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Brain Injury Association of California and the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Neurological Society.

 

London laddLondon Ladd, ‘95

Major: Art

Profession: Illustrator

London Ladd is an illustrator who creates the visuals that help tell the stories of some our nation’s most historic figures. The Corcoran High School graduate came to OCC as a Computer Science major, switched to Art and developed into a nationally renowned children’s book illustrator. He’s worked for some of the nation’s largest publishers including Scholastic, Disney/Hyperion and Lee & Low Books. His subjects have included Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglas. In between projects Ladd remains active in the community, serving as a facilitator for Syracuse’s Say Yes to Education after-school program. He is a member of the Syracuse Public Arts Commission.

 

Dinyar VaniaDinyar Vania, ‘99

Major: Music

Profession: Opera Tenor

Music always played a significant role in Dinyar Vania’s life, but he didn’t realize his greatest gift until he became a student at OCC. Vania graduated from Marcellus High School with the dream of being a percussionist. OCC’s Music faculty discovered he had enormous potential as a vocalist and worked with him to enhance those skills. After graduation Vania went to New York City, performed in several choral ensembles and earned principal roles on the main stage for the New York City Opera Chorus. Vania is now one of the most sought after talents in opera throughout the United States and Europe.

During the ceremony each recipient delivered brief remarks. There was also an outstanding performance of Brindisi from LA TRAVIATA. It was performed by 2015 Alumni Face honoree Dinyar Vania, OCC Student Vocalist Brittany Montpetit (Cicero-North Syracuse High School), the OCC Concert Choir and Pianist Katharine Ciarelli under the direction of Conductor David J. Rudari, D.M.A. You can view the performance here:

Earlier in the day the Alumni Faces honorees spent time on campus interacting with students in the disciplines they majored in. It was a wonderful opportunity for students to interact and receive valuable career advice.

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You can see a complete list of the College’s Alumni Faces honorees here.

 

 

Eye on the World of Sports – Andy Italiano, ’85

Andy Italiano discovered his passion at OCC. His desire to succeed has literally taken him around the world.

When Andy Italiano started taking classes at OCC in the fall of 1983, he was an ordinary student, unaware he had an extraordinary talent. Like many 18-year-olds, Italiano wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father Joseph taught Astronomy at OCC, but Italiano didn’t see his future in the stars when he graduated from Syracuse’s Nottingham High School. During his first semester at OCC everything abruptly came into focus. “As I was walking down the hall I passed the TV department and realized you could ‘do TV’ and make money at it,” Italiano said. In the last three decades he’s done much more than make a living at it. Italiano’s ability to operate a television camera at some of the biggest sporting events have literally taken him around the world.

Italiano (right) with EMC Department Co-chair Tony Vadala, '83.
Italiano (right) with EMC Department Co-chair Tony Vadala, ’83 in the control room of OCC’s television studio.

 

Italiano got his first break shooting live sports while he was a student at OCC. Tony Vadala, ‘83, who was an instructor’s assistant in what was then called the Radio TV department, remembers when he met Italiano. “He said to me, ‘I want to be the person up there on the scaffolding running camera at big sporting events.’” Italiano said it to the right person. When Vadala wasn’t teaching he was working on local cable sports telecasts. He got Italiano a job running camera during high school football games. “Tony gave me an opportunity. He trusted me. He put me in a situation where I succeeded, and it gave me the confidence in myself to know I could do it. He was so generous and gracious with me,” said Italiano.

Italiano continued shooting local live sporting events through his graduation in 1985. He transferred to SUNY Fredonia, where he majored in Communications Media and would graduate two years later. He returned to Syracuse and got another break, working for CBS when the network would come to the Carrier Dome to televise big Syracuse University basketball games. He was doing whatever was needed: running and getting things for people, hanging banners, helping in any way possible. It wasn’t operating a camera, but it was a foot in the door and a chance to make contacts.

Regular work, however, was hard to find, so Italiano packed up his car and headed west to Los Angeles. “I had enough money for three weeks. If I didn’t find a job, I planned to return.” After two weeks without any solid prospects, he took a job installing carpets so he could make money and stay in California longer. In his spare time Italiano kept making contacts in the television industry, either by phone or by knocking on doors. Eventually he was hired to work in a television studio, “Heart of the Nation,” which focused on religious shows. He did everything there from sweeping floors to running cameras to technical directing.

Italiano got his big sports break a short time later when someone who was supposed to work on a television crew covering boxing called in sick. “I wound up holding a microphone all night. At the end of the night the woman who hired me told me, ‘Andy don’t beat anybody up, work hard, and you’ll get a job again.’”

From there his sports career took off. Eventually he wound up where he was most comfortable: behind a camera. Today he is one of the most-sought after sports cameramen in the world. His annual calendar is a sports fans dream:

  • Every two years he operates a camera at the Olympics for NBC, most recently at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
  • Live photographer at the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament for CBS.
  • All San Diego Padres (MLB) home games for Fox Sports West.
  • Weekly NFL games on CBS, which require him to be in a different city every weekend from September through January.

Italiano has run camera at multiple Super Bowls, World Series, Baseball All-Star games, NBA Finals, and Olympic games, which are his favorite. “The whole world is represented there and the whole world is watching. There’s a real sense of brotherhood at the Olympics.”

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To accommodate his busy schedule, Italiano has homes on both coasts in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California. Despite his globe trotting and world-renowned success, which has resulted in him winning five prestigious Emmy Awards.

Italiano has never forgotten his roots. In between working the Winter Olympics and the NCAA Tournament, Italiano recently visited Onondaga and spoke with students in an Electronic Media Communications class. He gave them valuable advice:

  • Be persistent.
  • Always work at your craft.
  • Respect the job you have by acting professionally.
  • Embrace fear and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll do your best work when you are really on the edge.

Students listened intently to Italiano’s message and were impressed with what they heard:

  • “I learned it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard, you can accomplish anything.” -Jake Zahn
  • “It was very impressive to hear that he started at OCC and now is doing all of these amazing things.” -David Breur
  • “I was inspired when I found out he graduated from the same high school as me.” -Traevon Robinson

Robinson’s dream is to be a professional music video photographer. Ironically, it’s shooting music which Italiano says helped him improve his skills exponentially when he stepped away from sports for a year-and-a-half and went out on the road shooting exclusively with heavy metal band Metallica. “With music there are no rules as long as it looks good. I really got to know the camera and its capabilities better than ever before. When I returned to sports I was able to be more creative in the way I was shooting. It definitely made me a better photographer.”

The man who gave Italiano his start in 1984, Tony Vadala, is now Co-Chair of Onondaga’s Electronic Media Communications department. “Andy is very down to earth. None of this has gone to his head,” said Vadala. “Seeing him come back, share his stories and wisdom with students, and knowing it all started here is remarkable. It really validates everything we do.”

One of Italiano's five Emmy Awards.
One of Italiano’s five Emmy Awards.

Italiano has won five Emmy Awards for excellence in the television industry:

  • 2011 World Series, FOX
  • 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing, NBC
  • 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, Beijing, NBC
  • 2004 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, Athens, NBC
  • 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, NBC

In 2014 Italiano was named one of the College’s “Alumni Faces” for his professional achievements and contributions to the College and the community. “It’s a tremendous honor,” said Italiano. “To be recognized at the place where everything really started for me is a great feeling.”

Italiano was named one of the College's Alumni Faces in 2014.
Italiano with his Alumni Faces plaque.

 

Stories of Inspiration – Laurie Halse Anderson, ’81

CROPPED Laurie Halse Anderson AACC SpeechApril 21, 2015 was Laurie Halse Anderson’s special day. The OCC alumna and best-selling author received the Outstanding Alumni Award at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. She was one of only seven honorees nationwide. When Anderson received her award her remarks were brief and powerful. You can watch video of her story being shared with those in attendance and see her acceptance speech here.

Anderson’s novels have become required reading for young adults, providing them with an outlet as they undergo transformations in their lives. But her own story is as remarkable as any she has written. The best-selling author says she owes her success to her time spent at OCC. “It’s fun to think back on the very confused and very tired woman I was when I first showed up on campus a long time ago. I know looking back I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t started at OCC. There’s no question in my mind.”

Anderson was born in Potsdam, NY. She grew up poor and her family moved regularly. Her happy place was deep inside the books she read. “I found refuge from the real world in fantasy. I was always hauling around The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Anything that was science fiction or fantasy I read. I didn’t want to read about real life because my real life was much too painful. I found that magical transport into another world so inspiring.”

Anderson’s family wound up settling in the Syracuse area and she attended Fayetteville-Manlius High School. By her own admission she wasn’t a very good student. “I spent my senior year in Denmark as an American Field Service exchange student. I had no intention of going to college. I was tired of school and sick of it.”

After graduating Anderson changed her mind, decided she needed college and took a chance on OCC. She was a full-time student who was also working full time. “My days started early on a dairy farm in Marcellus. I’d milk cows and clean out the barn, then go to OCC. After classes I would go back to the farm for the afternoon milking.”

As she powered through life Anderson began to experience something in class that was new to her. “There were a couple of papers I got from English professors that had smiley faces on them. They wrote things like, ‘nice idea’ and they were very encouraging about the work I was trying to do. I had not seen that before.“

The positive reinforcement motivated her. In a short amount of time she went from the high school student who didn’t care to the college student invested in her success. “OCC is where I found my mind. I needed to grow up and get disciplined. The quality of the professors made a huge difference in my life. There was something about the attention I got from them that has never left me. It meant a great deal toward guiding me on the path to more education and more self-discovery.”

Anderson graduated from OCC in 1981 with a degree in Humanities. She transferred to Georgetown University where her transition to a four-year college went smoothly. “I didn’t have any trouble. I took a pretty heavy course load and kept working while I was in school. I came out fine.”

After graduating Anderson got married and started a family. They were living in Philadelphia and making ends meet was difficult. Her husband worked during the day and she worked at night because they couldn’t afford child care. She became a journalist covering news and writing for local newspapers but eventually realized her true calling. “After several years freelancing I began to think, ‘I have these kids in my house. I could probably write books for them.’ That’s where writing books started.”

Ndito RunsIn 1996 Anderson’s first children’s book was published. Ndito Runs was based on Kenyan Olympic marathon runners who ran to and from school each day. Her breakthrough novel would come three years later. Speak portrayed a high school freshman who was raped by an upper classman during a summer party. It chronicled her descent into isolation and depression before eventually finding her voice and strength on her way to vindication. The book became a New York Times best seller, was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award and was adapted into a film.

speakSpeak also became a fixture in school libraries across the country, where young adults found the book helped them with their own struggles. It also brought Anderson’s story full circle. “I had some very confused years as a teenager and I know how important books were for me back then. To think I could even have a little bit of an impact on the life of one person is remarkable.”

the impossible knife of memoryAnderson’s latest work is The Impossible Knife of Memory. It was inspired by her father’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since writing the book she has become an advocate for veterans suffering from PTSD, calling for more attention to the backlog of the hundreds of thousands of disability benefits distributed the Office of Veterans Affair’s that prevent military families from getting the treatment they need.

Larrabee (left) and Anderson (right) as children hunting for Easter eggs in Pulaski.
Larrabee (left) and Anderson (right) as children hunting for Easter eggs in Pulaski.

Just as her professional life has flourished so too has her personal life. After Anderson’s first marriage ended she reconnected with a childhood friend, Scot Larrabee. During a time when Anderson was living in Pulaski, her parents and Larrabee’s parents were best friends, and the families would regularly go camping together.

Larrabee and Anderson at a National Book Award event.
Larrabee and Anderson at a National Book Award event.

Today she and Larrabee are married. Their blended family includes four children. They live in a very rural area outside the Oswego County village of Mexico. Anderson says it’s the perfect place for her to work on her craft. “I love living where we do. I don’t think I could write if there were people living close to me.”

Anderson has published 28 books for young readers. She’s sold more than two million books and her titles have been translated into 27 languages. Her success as an author has made her a regular at schools speaking with students.

Anderson's writing cottage is where she turns her thoughts and ideas into best-selling books.
Anderson’s writing cottage is where she turns her thoughts and ideas into best-selling books.

She loves talking about her books and her educational background. “I’ve spoken to over a million high students in the last 15 years. I always make a point of telling them how important going to a community college has been for my life. I really encourage it. You look at the number of kids who get pressured into going to a four-year school right out of high school and it’s not the right time for them. If I can be a part of any type of movement to get more kids to consider everything community colleges have to offer I’m very proud to do that.”

"Winter is my favorite season and I'm definitely in the right part of the country for that," Anderson said. "Nothing makes me quite as happy as winter."
“Winter is my favorite season and I’m definitely in the right part of the country for that,” Anderson said. “Nothing makes me quite as happy as winter.”

In 2006 OCC honored Anderson by naming her one of the College’s distinguished Alumni Faces. Nine years later she was recognized nationally by the American Association of Community Colleges with their Outstanding Alumni Award. “It is an incredible honor. I’m a very typical example of a young person who was seeking my sense of direction. I never thought of myself as a really good student. There’s no way I would have ever predicted this. I was just trying to get by day to day and not be trampled on by bulls. That was a big priority of my existence back then. The fact I got published and people actually enjoy my books is an unanticipated thrill for me. I’m a pretty lucky girl.”