May 19, 2007
SUNY Cortland graduation —
30-year wait not too long for man to finish college studies
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
David Hamilton plays a piano in a Dowd Fine Arts building classroom. Hamilton graduated from SUNY Cortland this morning with a major in recreation and a minor in music.
CORTLAND — David Hamilton stumbled upon the Recreation and Leisure Studies Department at SUNY Cortland when looking for an easy major for his return to school in January 2005.
He will be among about 1,330 graduates to receive bachelor’s degrees during two ceremonies at SUNY Cortland today. The keynote speakers are Sylvia Earle, a National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee and oceanographer, and Robert Antin, a 1972 Cortland graduate and chairman and chief executive officer of the Veterinary Centers of America.
Hamilton is scheduled to participate in the morning commencement ceremonies.
“My original goal was to get a four-year degree as quickly and easily as I could,” Hamilton said of returning to college. “Then I discovered what a gem the recreation department is.”
Hamilton, now 51, had started college again after receiving his associate degree in music performance from Onondaga Community College in 1975. He had graduated from Homer High School in 1973, married the summer of 1975, and started at SUNY Cortland in the fall. He had planned to major in music education, but, a trumpet-player, his lip started splitting and he was unable to continue playing the trumpet.
Hamilton did continue playing the piano, an instrument he learned to play at the age of 5, and minored in music at SUNY Cortland when he returned to college.
When Hamilton left college in 1975 after one semester, he became a baker at Tops supermarket. He and his wife started a bakery in Ithaca which they ran for a couple of years before he turned to computer processing work. He and a partner started a computer software business called RP Solutions, on Triphammer Road in Ithaca, in January 1995. He sold his interest as a co-owner to build a home for his family on Sundown Road in Dryden, but remained an employee until being laid off just before he went back to school. His wife also left him.
“I always wanted to go back (to college) — I thought I would do it after my children graduated from college,” Hamilton said. But only his oldest son, Ted, 31, is finished with college. His son Timothy, 22, is studying to be a physical therapist and his daughter Kyle “Ellie” is a pre-veterinarian major in Georgia. His sons are both married.
“I really didn’t know if I had the stuff for college,” said Hamilton, although he had taken college computer and accounting courses at Tompkins Cortland Community College to improve his work skills.
He soon found out otherwise. Graduating with a 4.02 average, he said he had all A’s the first semester and all A-pluses his second semester.
Lynn Anderson, professor and chair of the recreation department, said Hamilton excelled academically and in service to the community. She said these factors made him an excellent choice for the Harlan “Gold” Metcalf Award, which he received this year. “It’s the highest honor for a student,” said Anderson, noting the recreation department gives the award out.
“He showed excellence in everything he did,” said Anderson. “It was refreshing and wonderful to have someone with more maturity, a broader life view.” She said he enriched the classroom environment with his varied life experiences.
His maturity shines through.
Anderson said every year the department sponsors a recreational conference in the fall, which is run by the students and Hamilton took on a leadership role with the fall one. She said he also successfully completed an internship in Groton Connecticut working with the Parks and Recreation department. “He did excellent work,” Anderson said, adding he would be an asset as an administrator or director of a parks and recreation department.
Karen Zimmerman, chair of the Performing Arts Department, said she does not have many nontraditional students. “It was a lot of fun to work with a student who was more mature. He had such a wonderful work ethic. The man doesn’t do anything unless he does it well,” she said.
“As a musician, he’s very talented. He’s very dedicated to anything and everything that he does,” Zimmerman said.
She said he received the Andrew Banse award, which goes to the graduating student who minors in music and has the highest grade point average. “He was probably the only student I’ve given an A-plus to,” Zimmerman said. She gave him that grade in piano lessons.
Hamilton has racked up several other awards while at Cortland, including being named outstanding non-traditional student of 2006 and received a chancellor’s award for excellence in scholarship and community service.
Hamilton said he worked hard at SUNY Cortland.
“My goal was to get the maximum benefit from my education,” he said.
Hamilton is looking for a job now either in the area or in a community near his children. He said he would like to work with young children or adults, in particular with swimming, for a non-profit organization or town government recreational department. He said he has certification as an aquatic pool operator and for four years prior to his internship was head coach to the Dryden Aquatic Racing Team, a community club. He said he usually worked with the youngest children, ages 5 to 10. He also continues to flag for the Finger Lakes Microd Driving School. He said all three of his children have raced in the past.
Hamilton said some of his professors have suggested furthering his study so he could teach at the college level. “I’m not sure I want to stay in school at this point,” Hamilton said.
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County may loan companies money
The Budget and Finance Committee Thursday endorsed two $10,000 allocations out of the county’s Grow Cortland Fund, supporting businesses that have moved to the area.
The allocations, which were recommended by the Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency, would go to Cortland Plastics and Cayuga Press to reimburse moving costs for both companies.
The funding comes from a $50,000 allocation set aside by the Legislature in 2005 for the 2006 fiscal year, aimed at giving benefits to businesses that move to the area that might not be eligible for state benefits.
“This is something that, between the county and our agency, we come up with to help out when state funds run short,” said Karen Niday Empire Zone Coordinator for the BDC/IDA. “They’re generally a reimbursement for moving equipment or training … for Cayuga Press it was for moving a new printer from Germany and for Cortland Plastics it was a number of new machines.”
Essentially the funding acts as a loan until the companies reach certain employment benchmarks, Niday said.
“It’s a grant that has a recapture callback clause— if they don’t reach certain agreed upon goals, it is treated as a loan and they have to pay it back,” she said. “If they do reach the goals, it remains a grant.”
Niday was not certain of the terms of the agreements for Cayuga Press and Cortland Plastics, or of the goals the companies need to obtain.
BDC/IDA Executive Director Linda Hartsock would have that information, she said, but Hartsock is out of town.
The committee supported the allocations, but did question what happens when the employment benchmarks are not met.
For instance the only allocation prior to the two in question — $10,000 to DB Gatti Design and Molding — did not pay off, Newell Willcox (R-Cortlandville) noted, as that company has apparently folded.
Willcox was the only committee member to vote against the allocations.
“I just can’t see giving out $10,000 unless we have personal guarantees from the people coming here,” Willcox said after Thursday’s meeting.
Niday said that it was unfortunate that things didn’t work out for DB Gatti, but said that its owner, Mike Boylan, has said he intends to pay the county back.
“Really it’s too premature to act on it at this point, but he’s said he intends to pay it back 100 percent,” Niday said.
In DB Gatti’s case, there is still time for the company to meet its thresholds Niday noted — Boylan agreed to create 15 jobs within two years of receipt of the grant, which came in March of 2006 — but if it doesn’t, the company will have to repay the loan.
“Unfortunately with business that can be tough if things start to go wrong, but the agreement will be enforced,” Niday said. “Of course we’ll always try to work with the company first, especially if they’re still in business locally, but it’s something that, if we need to, we can enforce through the courts.”
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