Mary Joy Greene Sherlach ’78, a school psychologist killed in the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings last year, will be posthumously recognized as a SUNY Cortland Distinguished Alumna during Alumni Reunion 2013.
Sherlach, pictured at left, will be this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association’s highest honor, at the Alumni Luncheon at noon on Saturday, July 13, in the Corey Union Function Room.
“Mary’s heroism and dedication to the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School have earned her a special place in all of our hearts,” Alumni Association President Peter Kanakaris ’70 said. “The board was unanimous in agreeing that her memory would best be served by making her the sole recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award.”
Sarah Child ’07, a scientist who studies Antarctic glaciers, will be named this year’s Distinguished Young Alumna at the Reunion luncheon.
Louise Conley, retiring chair of the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors, will be named an Honorary Alumna of SUNY Cortland at the event.
Mary Joy Greene Sherlach ’78
Sherlach, a school psychologist since 1994, was one of six adults and 20 first-grade children killed Dec. 14 during a shooting spree that shocked the world and ignited national debates about gun control, mental health care and school safety.
When gunman Adam Lanza first broke into the school, Sherlach was one of the school officials who ran toward him in an effort to protect Sandy Hook’s children. She became one of the massacre’s first casualties.
“Mary’s actions exemplified courage, compassion and dedication,” College President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “We are proud to call her one of our own.”
Mary met her husband, Bill Sherlach ’80, at the College, graduated cum laude with a degree in psychology and was an active member of SUNY Cortland’s alumni family. She and her husband frequently visited campus and returned annually for Cortaca Jug football games. The couple’s most recent visit was less than a month before the attack and this summer would have marked her 35th College reunion.
Earlier this year, the College held two well-attended public “teach-ins” on gun control and mental health issues in Sherlach’s memory. The Student Government Association last week formally announced they would re-name their annual children’s festival in Sherlach’s memory. This fall, a scholarship in her name will be offered to a deserving psychology major.
Sarah Child ’07
Where most people see giant masses of ice, Child sees a lifetime’s worth of work in the more than 130,000 glaciers across the globe. The second-year doctoral student of glaciology at the University of Kansas already has traveled to East Antarctica multiple times to study the Byrd Glacier, one of the continent’s largest and least-studied glaciers, and its potential contributions to a rising sea level.
The former geographic information systems (GIS) major developed her passion for research at SUNY Cortland, where she pursued several independent studies projects under Associate Professor Scott Anderson and Distinguished Teaching Professor David Miller from the College’s Geography Department.
Child, a native of Cooperstown, N.Y., also excelled for four years as a member of SUNY Cortland’s field hockey team.
Twice her research has brought her to Antarctica to use a network of global positioning units to track Byrd Glacier’s ice speed and surface elevation changes from tidal fluctuations. Those observations, in turn, improve current ice flow models and predictions related to the behavior of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Child takes what she learns and shares in unique ways; this summer, for instance, she will discuss the importance of glacial research at the 2013 Association of American Women in University Tech Trek Camp, a weeklong experience for 12-year-old girls to gain hands-on experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the University of California in San Diego.
“My hope is to inspire these young girls to grow up to become scientists,” said Child, who has presented her research in locations ranging from the United Kingdom to Alaska.
Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, Child earned a master’s in geographic information science from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. She performed GIS work during that time for scientists and contractors in Greenland and Alaska, locating roughly 78 percent of the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Antarctic aerial imagery collection, which equates to approximately 280,000 photos.
Child plans to teach undergraduate GIS skills and continue her glaciological research with her doctorate, which she is anticipated to earn in 2015.
“With over 130,000 glaciers in the world, they will provide a lifetime of research, which I love and find hugely fascinating and important,” she said.
Louise M. Conley, Ph.D., the chair of the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors, did not graduate from the College. Her Cortland roots, however, run deep.
Conley, a licensed psychologist from Princeton, N.J., is the granddaughter of Francis J. Cheney, the second principal of the Cortland Normal School. Her mother, Clara Cheney ’17, and her father, Rollin McCarthy ’16, also both graduated from Cortland Normal School.
In the mid-1990s, Conley reconnected with the College and in the time since has blended her rich family history with a personal belief in philanthropy. She became the first person who did not graduate from SUNY Cortland to offer the institution a million-dollar gift when she endowed the Louise M. Conley Chair in Educational Leadership in 2011.
The first endowed chair naming in the College’s history, Conley’s transformational gift allows funding for a faculty member in the Educational Leadership Department to support research and teaching. The department is one of four within SUNY Cortland’s School of Education and prepares educational leaders by integrating theory and practice — a skill the Cheney family clearly holds in high regard.
Conley created and co-sponsored the Francis J. Cheney Educational Issues Conference at SUNY Cortland in the late 1990s, named after her grandfather, the Cortland Normal School principal from 1891 until his death in 1912. The conference, held annually, brings influential leaders in education to the SUNY Cortland campus to share their strategies for improving teacher education programs and the education of students from kindergarten through college. Conley regularly attends.
Another initiative funded by Conley, the Francis J. Cheney Scholarship, provides $1,000 annually up to four years to admitted first-year students who are majoring in the area of education and who demonstrate the highest academic achievement and greatest financial need.
She also supported the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House when the Alumni Association purchased it in 2004 and funded the Louise McCarthy Conley Room, which encompasses the mansion’s master bedroom.
Conley continues to run a private psychology practice in Princeton, N.J., two days each week while commuting to Cortland regularly, keeping her family’s longtime commitment to the College strong.