CANTON The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
That was the message to SUNY Canton graduates from keynote speaker Dr. David J. Dupree during the colleges 106th commencement ceremony Saturday morning.
Dr. Dupree, Ogdensburg native and director of robotic surgery at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, N.J., joined the more than 1,000 graduates gathered in the schools Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center. Introduced as the first to perform single-incision surgery at Riverview, he has appeared on ABC News and on the CBS-TV show The Doctors in 2012 after his life-saving removal of a 51-pound tumor from a patient.
A specialist in minimally invasive abdominal surgery, Dr. Dupree told graduates that his journey to success started with his failure, flunking out of SUNY Canton in 1991 with a 1.66 grade point average. On Saturday he received the associate degree in applied science that he started working toward 23 years ago.
And I am so proud, he said. But I am here to tell you that the concept of life and success is actually very simple. You have to close the gap between who you are right now and who you want to be, living your dream in the future.
That gap is divided and you are going to have to navigate it with many countless but necessary disappointments and many distractions, he said.
Im there now, but it took me forever to get there. Im the man I always wanted to be. Dont do what I did. Prepare yourselves. Stay prepared and do it the right way first. I never failed. I never failed. I just found a thousand wrong ways.
Acting SUNY Canton President Joseph C. Hoffman, who will be returning to SUNY Maritime as a distinguished learning professor when Zvi Szafran begins his Canton presidency in early July, told the students they have grown and matured in ways they may not yet comprehend fully.
You have learned to think on a different level, Mr. Hoffman said. You have learned the value of self-discipline and strong work ethic. Today you are experiencing a dream come true that is the result of your hard work and determination.
This was Mr. Hoffmans first and last commencement and he thanked the students, faculty and staff for making it the most rewarding experience of my life.
Among the graduates receiving special recognition were Chancellors Award for Student Excellence recipients Lydia C. Dale, a graphic and multimedia design major from Norwood, Meghan P. Gibson, a sports management major from Canton and Tiffany V. Moore, a veterinary science technology major from Brooklyn. Ms. Moore also received the Outstanding Graduate Award at the associate level.
Ms. Gibson, 21, and her longtime friend and classmate, Kyle R. Clark, 21, also of Canton, both said their graduation is bittersweet. The pair graduated from Canton High School together and are going their separate ways as a part of the first class to graduate from SUNY Cantons new sports management program.
When I went to high school I took all the pre-veterinarian classes, but I just cant bring myself to put an animal down, Ms. Gibson said. When I started working with SUNY Canton Sports Information Director Matt Metcalf, I really got into talking sports photos and writing about sports. You just get to do something different every day.
Ms. Gibson plans on heading to SUNY Cobleskill to work with its sports information program for the summer while she looks to get into a masters degree program to continue her education in sports administration.
Mr. Clark said he isnt quite ready to leave Canton and will continue to work at the Partridge Run Golf and Country Club. He said his love of golf is what brought him into the program; next year he plans on going to Florida where he hopes to continue working in the golfing industry as a tournament director or teacher.
He and Ms. Gibson said they wouldnt be where they were today if it werent for SUNY Canton.
We finally have to grow up and go into the real world after 16 years of school, Mr. Clark said. We are leaving a lot of people behind, but we are starting a new chapter in our lives and we couldnt have done it without this program.