Arnold Rist ’47 and Ronnie Sternin Silver ’67 will receive the Outstanding Alumni Volunteer Award at a luncheon during SUNY Cortland Alumni Reunion 2011.
The Alumni Luncheon, set for Saturday, July 16, will be held in the Corey Union Function Room.
The SUNY Cortland Alumni Association established the award in 1999 to honor Cortland graduates who have been exceptional in their engagement with the College, donating countless hours of their time to improving alumni relations with the school. With these awards, to date, nine graduates have been recognized.
Arnold Rist ’47
Arnold Rist’s life boils down to one word: service. A humanitarian by every account, the graduate’s service involves his country, his students and his alma mater.
“My mother and father were always helping people,” Rist said. “It just came naturally.”
Rist, shown upper left, came to Cortland from his small Adirondack Mountain hometown of Newcomb, N.Y., before World War II interrupted his education. As a 20-year-old Army sergeant, Rist served in the 20th Armored Division that liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.
He obtained a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1947 and spent the next 60 years dedicated to the development of young people.
But Rist did not find his passion in teaching the most capable students. Rather, his focus was on the ones who needed and sought improvement.
His infectious smile aside, Rist is best recognized for his work with minorities and underachieving students. He led Rockland Educational Services, Inc. for 51 years, from 1955-2006. The firm, which he founded, offers speed learning programs, PSAT preparation programs and scholarships to deserving students in grades 8-12.
Rist maintained close ties with SUNY Cortland while he championed the educational rights of underprivileged students. In 1963, he worked directly with the local alumni chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to establish a scholarship incentive program for minority students in Rockland County. He earned a Certificate of Commendation for the Advancement of Minority Students from the trustees of the Rockland County Negro Scholarship Fund for his efforts.
“Arnie Rist has spent a lifetime quietly helping numerous young people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds realize their potential,” said Douglas DeRancy ’75, assistant to the College’s vice president of Institutional Advancement. “He has done it without fanfare. He is driven to create educational opportunity for those who are less fortunate.”
A former soccer and baseball player at Cortland, Rist was inducted into the C-Club Hall of Fame in 1987. His efforts, though, could not be measured in statistics.
Rist drove the endowment fundraising efforts of the T. Fred “Prof” Holloway Award in the late 1980s. This honor recognizes leadership, diligence and fairness in one male and one female physical education senior. Holloway, a former physical education professor and men’s soccer coach at the College, left a permanent impression on Rist.
In 2002, Rist established the Stefan Mascoll ’99/Brian Lange Senior Athlete Award in Track and Field. The accolade, like Rist’s lifelong pursuit, recognizes the track and field athlete who shows the most progression, not necessarily the greatest ability.
Rist received the Distinguished Alumni Award, SUNY Cortland’s highest honor, in 1993. He has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for the past 24 years and he has offered guest lectures relating to the Holocaust for the SUNY Cortland History Department for the past five years.
Rist, who resides in Nanuet, N.Y., earned two master’s degrees from Syracuse University and a doctorate from New York University. He and his late wife, Roberta, have two children, Kevin and Randy.
Ronnie Sternin Silver ’67
In the years following her graduation from SUNY Cortland, Ronnie Sternin Silver felt like she owed something to the College.
“Cortland was willing to do everything for us as students,” Silver said. “Why not give back?”
Ronnie Sternin Silver ’67
More than four decades later, Silver has repaid her alma mater with her post-graduate efforts.
She presided over the Alumni Association Board of Directors during 2008-10 and has served as a board member for the past 15 years.
As president, she oversaw the Strategic Planning Committee’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the Hezel Report, an evaluation strategy prepared for the College. Her tenure as a board member has coincided with a period of unprecedented growth at the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House.
“Ronnie Sternin Silver understands better than most the critically important role a public university like SUNY offers to the citizens and families of New York State and beyond,” said DeRancy ’75. “She has been, and will continue to be, one of our most committed alumni advocates and ambassadors for SUNY and Cortland.”
A physical education major at SUNY Cortland, Silver exudes passion for education, specifically the notion that every student deserves a quality learning experience.
Her educational resume runs long. In her career, she taught physical education in Iowa and served in a variety of roles for two school districts in California.
She assumed the duties of volunteer coordinator, Parent Teachers Association (PTA) president and chairman of the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee ? among other jobs ? during a 17-year stint in California education. She received a Santa Clarita (Calif.) Valley PTA Council Service Award and was recognized by the Los Angeles County supervisor for her outstanding service.
Silver relocated to Corning, N.Y. in 1996 and immediately recalled her time at SUNY Cortland.
“I needed a connection to the College when I moved back,” she said. “The anchor was truly my work at Cortland.”
Silver, who was a major contributor to the John L. Sciera Scholarship during her time out of state, joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors in 1996. She was introduced to an alumni network that she now considers a family.
“Everybody can do things their own way and accomplish something,” she said. “But at Cortland, it was never a one-person deal.”
Such was the case in 2002, when Silver attended her 35th Reunion at the College. The Class of 1967 banded together at a breakfast and decided to establish a scholarship on the spot.
“That’s what Cortland is all about,” she said. “It brings people together.”
Even though she spent several years away from New York, Silver never truly left Cortland.
When she spoke at the Commencement ceremonies in 2009 and 2010, she welcomed graduates to the College’s alumni family.
It is a group that boasts Silver as one its finest contributors.
Silver, who lives and substitute teaches in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., earned her lifetime teaching certification at the University of Iowa and completed course work in journalism at College of the Canyons in Valencia, Calif. She has four children: Amy, Leslie, Greg and Danny.