Kara Anderson is drawn to the logic behind math and science, the clear paths that take the seeker to the ultimate answer. For Marilyn Peterson, it’s the love of the sea and all of its diverse life, while Trinity Purdy is intrigued by the intricate details of a new building as it takes shape. For Douglas Trotter, the answer is simple arithmetic: He’s good at math, and what you’re good at often ends up being your passion.
The 30 high school seniors receiving the Frank G. Paul Medal of Excellence have different paths and different dreams, but they share a love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). On May 15, they were honored for the academic success in a ceremony on the SUNY Broome campus, receiving the medals they will proudly wear during their high school commencement ceremonies.
Kara, from Johnson City High School, will study computer science at the University at Buffalo, while Marilyn, from Whitney Point, will study marine biology at Stony Brook University. “I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist since I was 5,” she said.
Douglas, a student at Windsor High School who plans to major in finance at Binghamton University, said he was honored and grateful to receive the award – a sentiment shared by many of his peers.
“It influenced me to look into what the award might mean and who is behind it,” he said.
The Medal of Excellence’s namesake, Frank G. Paul, spent more than four decades as an IBM engineer and believed in math, science and education. Frank Paul served as a SUNY Broome trustee as well as president of the Broome Community College Foundation, which provides scholarships to many students.
“My dad was just a community-minded man,” said his daughter, Rebecca Komorowski, who has been awarding the scholarship for the past 23 years. She is a SUNY Broome alumna herself, having graduated from the nursing program, she said.
Another future Hornet alumna is Trinity Purdy. The Vestal High School student will attend SUNY Broome for the next step in her journey toward becoming a civil engineer.
Trinity has an added honor, along with Steven Thomas from Union-Endicott, Nathaniel Hrehor from Susquehanna Valley and Marrissa Rogers from Chenango Valley: All four will receive Francis and Lillian Paul merit scholarships valued at $1,000 per year, with an additional $1,000 a year when they transfer to a four-year school to complete an engineering degree.
“It boosts my confidence a lot more and makes me feel ready to go into the field,” Trinity said.
When SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm looked out at the young faces during the Medal of Excellence reception, he saw more than standout students. Some may become engineers or mathematicians, researchers or professors, inventors or entrepreneurs, surgeons or even zoologists.
“Some of you will create technologies we can’t even imagine today. I certainly couldn’t imagine this when I was your age,” he said, holding up his smartphone.
A STEM career can lead in unexpected directions — something that the keynote speaker, SUNY Broome’s Associate Vice President and Dean of STEM Michele Snyder, knows from her own trajectory.
Dr. Snyder started her career in radiologic technology, with an Associate’s degree from SUNY Empire State College. During her eight years in that field, she had the opportunity to become one of the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technicians at the hospital where she worked.
While common today, MRI was an emerging field back then, and Dr. Snyder was intrigued by the science – the mathematics, physics and chemistry – that made the technology possible.
“It was a new opportunity for me, and you’re going to have those all the time. You never know what will come your way,” she told students.
Her interest in science inspired her to return to school for her bachelor’s, master’s and ultimately her doctorate. As a master’s student, she conducted research on algae concerning a mitochondrial pathway that helps plants deal with abiotic stresses. While the topic may seem obscure, it actually has real-life applications – such as how our flora can adapt to climate change, she explained.
Just as one research project can lead to another, so too can other opportunities. A mentor suggested that Dr. Snyder teach a night class at a community college. She loved the work, and ended up becoming a full-time professor in biology and chemistry at Clinton Community College, eventually joining the administration there.
Coming to SUNY Broome, she appreciates the college’s culture of sustainability, exemplified by the geothermal system and solar panels powering the recently renovated Calice Advanced Manufacturing Center. Her background in biology has also proved helpful as the college moves toward creating a new controlled environmental agriculture facility.
While Dr. Snyder’s career has changed significantly through the years, she owes her success to her foundation in math and science, and her deep love for the STEM field. She encouraged the Medal of Excellence recipients to draw on that same foundation as they build their futures.
“Capitalize on the opportunities presented to you. Always ground yourself in the discipline you love and it will take you places you haven’t even considered,” she said.
This year’s medal recipients, by high school, are:
Owego Free Academy
Seton Catholic Central