Veteran Professor Shares Words of Encouragement with Genesee's Class of 2009

College Celebrates its 20,000th Graduate
When:     Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where:    Genesee Community College, One College Road, Batavia, NY 14020

Who:       Genesee’s Class of 2009 with nearly 900 Graduates
                Commencement Speaker Dr. Ruth Andes

Genesee Community College’s 41st Commencement was a bitter sweet moment for the audience of more than 2,000 proud parents, friends and family members, and the President, Board of Trustees and faculty. The 2009 Commencement speaker was Dr. Ruth Andes, Genesee’s Professor of Sociology and Assistant Dean of Assessment and Special Projects, who recently announced her retirement after 39 years of dedicated service at Genesee. Dr. Andes has been a member of Genesee's faculty since 1970 and she is the most-honored SUNY award recipient at Genesee Community College. She was the first-ever recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching at Genesee (1973) and the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty Service (2004). In 2006, the State University of New York conferred the rare title of "Distinguished Professor" on Dr. Andes, one of only three community college professors in the SUNY system to have received the honor at that time. She is also the only faculty member to have been invited by the College to give a Commencement speech.

Dr. Andes compared the turbulent times during her college graduation in 1967, including the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the difficulties of today with “less than positive economic times.” But, Dr. Andes stated: “…Difficult times are also times of fabulous change. I hope that as you go forth, you will be part of that change. There is still lots of work to be done. We still need peace. We still need civil rights – though we’ve come a long way. And we still need people committed to making the world a better place.”

As she recounted the early stages of her career, she reflected on her initial reluctance to accept a teaching assistantship because she felt research was her strength. Nonetheless, she persevered and “by mid-October, I found I was enjoying it …that was one of the greatest surprises of my life.”

“When people tell you the odds aren’t very good, don’t listen to them. Tell them they are wrong. Go ahead and do it anyway…Listen to your heart. Trust in yourself.”

After thanking President Steiner for encouraging her professional growth, Dr. Andes also thanked her colleagues for the last 39 years. Then, she thanked the students. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have taught me. Teaching is a two-way street, and I have learned as much from you as I have tried to share with you. It mattered that you opened your eyes and expanded your horizons.”

A photograph of Ruth Andes is available by going to

Genesee’s 41st Commencement Ceremony also included special recognition of the College’s 20,000th graduate. Jennifer Bryant of Batavia received an award representing Genesee Community College 20,000 graduates, and her many accomplishments as a Genesee student. After four years in the military as an MP with two tours in Iraq, Jennifer’s efforts at Genesee have been equally impressive. She served as president of Alpha Iota Upsilon chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and was named to the President’s list for three consecutive semesters. She actively promoted green alternatives in the community, and participated in the College’s Honors Program and school newspaper. Jennifer was nominated for the Coca-Cola and USA Today sponsored All-USA Academic Team and was named as a Gold Scholar. She was also named as one of the 10 students to make the All-New York State Academic 1st Team, she is a SUNY Chancellor’s for Student Excellence honoree, and she received the College’s Board of Trustees Award. Jennifer was nominated to take part in the International Scholar Laureate Program on International Relations and Diplomacy. She now plans to attend SUNY Brockport majoring in International Relations with a minor in Environmental Studies, and one day she hopes to attend Columbia Law School.

A photograph of Jennifer Bryant is available by going to