Half-Century Grads Walk at Commencement

Half-Century Grads Walk at Commencement


The last time Carole Wilsey Phillips wore a cap and gown for SUNY Cortland’s Commencement, the Marshall Plan was just getting underway, Israel and North Korea had just declared themselves independent nations and gasoline cost 16 cents a gallon.

It was a different world. But Phillips, who graduated in 1948, remained involved with her alma mater as the decades ticked by. And on May 21 - 63 years after Phillips graduated from Cortland with an education degree - she and seven other proud members of SUNY Cortland’s Half Century Club once again walked in the College’s most important ceremony, dressed in full commencement regalia.

It’s the first time the College had honored members of the Half Century Club, which consists of alumni who graduated 50 years or more ago, by asking them to participate in Commencement.

Club members include 14 distinguished alumni, 77 C-Club Hall of Fame members, nearly 3,000 donors and are some of the institution’s best alumni volunteers. They have defended our nation, educated our country’s children and become leaders in our towns, states and nation. They represent Cortland’s long tradition of excellence and exemplify many of the principles espoused by our College today.

Half-Century Club
Attending the 2011 Undergraduate Commencement were, from the left: Carole Wilsey Phillips ’48, Rosemarie Luppino Kleinspehn ’49, Kathryn Fenton Saunders ’61, Arnold Rist ’47, Henry Veix ’60, George Breen ’56 and Ed Sliva ’59. Dorothea Kreig Fowler ’52 was seated with the platform party.

Half Century Club alumni returning from World War II in 1945-47, along with our dedicated alumnae, built up SUNY Cortland’s physical education and athletic programs. These alumni helped the College become one of the leading physical education schools in the nation as well as an athletic powerhouse. Alumni from the ’50s and ’60s ushered in a fresh wave of community outreach and Cortland spirit that created strong bonds to one another and to Cortland. To this day, these alumni are loyal, dedicated and passionate supporters of their alma mater.

The eight who walked during the Saturday afternoon Undergraduate Commencement were:

George Breen ’56

An Olympic swimmer who earned one silver and two bronze medals, he is a member of the C-Club Hall of Fame. Breen, a physical education major, coached championship swimming teams for the University of Pennsylvania as well as a variety of swim clubs. He lives in Sewall, N.J.

Dorothea Kreig Fowler ’52

Fowler taught in the Cortland and Homer public schools for 21 years. She also is the former owner and retired CEO of R.H. Fowler, Inc., a petroleum refining company. She is a member of the Cortland College Foundation Board and a former member of the College Council. Fowler received the College-Community Appreciation Award last year for her philanthropy and the entrance hall of Old Main was dedicated to her in October.

Rosemarie Luppino Kleinspehn ’49

She is a former elementary school teacher who retired after 31 years in the Addison and Fillmore central school districts in New York. Kleinspehn is also a partner in Seneca Trails and Travel Service. She was named a SUNY Cortland Distinguished Alumna in 1992 and has been the driving force behind the Alumni Association’s popular post World War II  Reunion.

Carole Wilsey Phillips ’48

She is a retired teacher from the Chenango Valley School system and lives in Binghamton, N.Y. Phillips was among the first recipients of the President’s Philanthropy Medal in 2002. 
“Pudgie,” as her sorority sisters from Alpha Sigma Alpha know her, was also a valued member of the Cortland College Alumni Association for many years.

Arnold Rist ’47

Rist is a former teacher, coach and school administrator, is founder, owner and president of Rockland Educational Services in Nanuet, N.Y., which offers reading, learning and test-preparation courses to students in grades 8 through 12. He is a member of the C-Club Hall of Fame and a long-time member of the Cortland College Alumni Association. Rist earned a doctorate in education and developed programs for both under-achieving and gifted students in several school districts. A veteran of World War II, Rist was among the U.S. soldiers who tore down the gates of the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau and was a driving force behind the installation of a plaque commemorating the 20th Armored Division’s role in the camp’s liberation.

Kathryn Fenton Saunders ’61

An elementary education major, Saunders is a retired third-grade teacher from the Caledonia-Mumford School District in Caledonia, N.Y.  An alumna of the Sigma Delta Phi, Saunders helped organize her sorority’s first reunion in 2010.  She currently resides in West Henrietta, N.Y.

Ed Sliva ’59

A retired New York City teacher and coach, Sliva, an elementary education major, is currently an advocate for the United Federation of Teachers. He is also an actor and a playwright and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Henry Veix ’60

Veix, who earned a doctorate in education, retired as a physical education instructor for the United States Military Academy at West Point after a 30-year career. After retirement, he supervised student teachers in physical education for SUNY Cortland. The Portsmouth, R.I., resident was named to the National Association of Underwater Instructors Hall of Fame in 2009.