|June 14, 1998|
A sampling of interesting people in Commencement 1998
'Pop' and Circumstance is a family affair for Union grad and granddad.
Raymond Dematteo, 79, has always looked forward to experiencing the pride of seeing his beloved granddaughter, Maria, accept her diploma from Union College. But, Raymond would never have dreamed of the chance to be part of the ceremony. Yet, thanks largely to Maria's efforts, he will. After learning of a program at Union that awards degrees to alumni who have completed at least three years of study at the College, have received an advanced degree and have attained distinction in their field, Maria immediately thought of her grandfather, who attended Union in 1941. She remembered him telling her how, in 1942, his college plans were interrupted with the nation's entry into World War II. That year, Raymond left his native Schenectady to serve in the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he returned to Union but, due to funding restrictions imposed by the G.I. Bill, he could not complete his degree requirements. The Bill did, however, provide funding for Raymond to continue his studies at Albany Law School, where he received his law degree. On Sunday, June 14, Raymond and Maria will receive their diplomas together at Union's Commencement ceremony. Says Raymond of his pride and joy, "being part of this special time in her life is truly wonderful."
He walked out of the LSAT for entertainment.
In the middle of his Law School Aptitude Test, Doug Schneider decided that he wanted more than a career in law. So he put down his pencil and left. "I walked out right in the middle," said the history major who graduates from Union College this Sunday. "I was doing great too. I told them I had to pee." Schneider, who said he had been preparing to be a lawyer "my whole life," decided that he wanted to explore another love the entertainment industry. So, the West Windsor, N.J., native who minored in theater, plans to live in Israel, where he says he will study their thriving entertainment industry. He plans to gain some experience with which to write. (He's already written a screenplay.) Schneider wrote his thesis on "The Evolution of the Jew in American Film," a project he says was launched by an argument he had with Spike Lee during the director's 1996 appearance at Union. Schneider said he challenged Lee for defending Marlon Brando's anti-Semitic remarks about the Jewish influence in Hollywood. Has Schneider closed the door on law? "I don't believe in closing doors," he said. "But if you're on too straight a path, you don't get the most out of life. I can do law, but I want to know what else there is that I can do."
COCOA House founder: "I'm going to miss the kids"
Rachel Graham has more on her mind than missing her fellow Union students after graduation. "I'm going to miss the kids a lot," she says. "The kids" are the 75 Hamilton Hill children who were part of COCOA House, an afterschool mentoring program that Graham started in 1996 at Grace Temple Church of God in Christ. (Graham, a 1994 graduate of Guilderland High, is the daughter of the church's pastor, Marvin L. Graham, who is delivering the invocation and benediction at Union's Commencement on Sunday.) COCOA (Children of Our Community Open to Achievement) activities include planting shrubs at the church for Earth Day, field trips and scavenger hunts at Union College, and reading … lots of reading. "I loved to help the kids learn to read," Graham says, adding that My Messy Room by Mary Packard was a favorite among the elementary-aged children. Graham said she draws comfort from the knowledge that five Union students will carry on the program, but she will miss the children who came every week and were serious about their work. Some of them, she hopes, will end up at a college like Union. Graham, a geology major and arts minor, recently received the Human Rights Youth Achievement Award from the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission for her founding and direction of COCOA House.
Juggling motherhood, career, college
As if working a full-time job and being a mother of two teens wasn't enough, Gretchen Turner of Rexford decided in 1993 to take a "few" courses. A "few" turned into many and this year she graduates with honors from Union with a bachelor's degree in visual arts. Turner, 46, who works as the technical secretary for the civil engineering and geology departments at Union, has specialized in printmaking, specifically etchings. She received a grant from the College to pursue an internship to examine the polymer plate printing with artist Thom O'Connor of the University at Albany. Her work will be on display this summer at the College. She is interested in museum conservation programs, and is considering pursuing a master's degree in arts. Besides her academic load, Turner has been busy with committee work at the College. She finishes a three-year term as a member of the College's Planning and Priorities Committee, which examines a number of budgetary issues of the College. She also served as a member and chair of the College's Human Relations Committee. Turner says she is pleased to have reached her goal just as her two children -- Jason, 17, and Elizabeth 15 are about to finish high school and embark on college themselves. "It's like going through labor," Turner says of her last five busy years. "And now that it's over, I can say I'd do it again."
Union College grad a star in the net and in the classroom
"I know that it is because of my education that I will continue to have quality choices throughout my lifetime." While this is not an uncommon statement coming from a typical honors graduate, throw in a couple of offers from teams in the National Hockey League and the comment becomes a lot more striking. Trevor Koenig, Union College's record-setting goalie has his eyes equally fixed on academics and professional hockey. Currently talking with NHL teams in North Carolina and Calgary, Trevor is naturally excited about a potential professional hockey career. Yet, as much as he works to improve his goal-tending skills, Trevor remains committed to sharpening his mind as well. A stellar undergraduate at Union, Trevor has been accepted into the College's Master's of Arts in Teaching, a highly competitive graduate education program. "I have always believed that a strong education makes for a well-balanced athlete," Trevor says. And balanced he his. Currently in nomination for the coveted ECAC Robbins Award for academic and athletic excellence and achieving a 3.34 G.P.A. in math and English, Trevor also led the nation in 1996-97 with a .931 save percentage, is a first-team national All-American and holds more than 10 hockey records at Union. Whether it's Calgary or the classroom, it seems the future is indeed bright for this Union grad.
She runs, she swims, she studies
Kelly Jamieson of Herndon, Va., arrived on campus in 1994 with a bold proposition: she would participate in three grueling endurance sports -- cross country, swimming and track. Each of these sports is demanding; that the seasons overlap makes doing all three impossible. Or so her coaches thought. "She'll be back in a few weeks to cut back on something," one of her coaches said. But she never said a word. Now, she graduates having done three sports for each of her four years, and serving as captain for each during her senior year. It was common to see Kelly drag herself home at the end of an exhausting 12-mile training run saying, "I have SO much work to do tonight." What few realized was that she wasn't going straight home; she would be stopping at the pool to join her other teammates for her second practice of the day. Somehow, Kelly figured out a way to do the impossible ... and do it well. Throughout, she has maintained her trademark spirit and contagious sense of humor that got her elected by her peers as captain of cross country, swimming and track. A German major, Jamieson plans to pursue a career abroad.