Phi Kappa Phi Scholars Reveal Success Secrets

Phi Kappa Phi Scholars Reveal Success Secrets


What does it take to be a top student at SUNY Cortland? Six high-achieving members of SUNY Cortland’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest and largest honor society for all academic disciplines, have the answer to that question.

“I feel as if I live a balanced life, in which everything I do is a representation of myself as a person,” said one of the six, Nicholas Mangan of Orangeburg, N.Y., shown above left. “Scheduling and planning plays a big part, but I find a way to balance my school work with time to be active, time to help the community, time to make some money and time to relax with friends and family.”

Mangan and the others were recognized as “Scholars of the Year” by Phi Kappa Phi’s Cortland chapter on April 16 in the Corey Union Function Room. The scholars also received $50 and were recognized the same day during SUNY Cortland’s annual Honors Convocation ceremony in the Park Center Alumni Arena.

The honor was based on their academic accomplishments as well as their leadership and volunteer involvement at the College.

Founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi annually initiates about 30,000 new members from nearly 300 campuses in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

Nicholas Mangan

A senior physical education major with a concentration in adapted physical education, Mangan has received the 2010 New York State Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AHPERD) Outstanding Major Award and was named the 2010 AHPERD Future Professionals Student Delegate. He was named to the President’s List and the Dean’s List.

Mangan played on the 2008 men’s varsity soccer team, and served as both event coordinator and as vice president for the Alliance of Physical Education Majors. He organized and volunteered at many community events, including YMCA Teen Nights and Relay for Life.

The son of Helen and James Mangan, he is taking additional coursework in order to receive a health education certification.

“Upon graduation, my goal is to obtain a physical education and health position in a high school where I can also coach a variety of sports,” Mangan said.

“My goal is to help students live healthier lives and enjoy success on the athletic field.”

Kerrie Findlay

Some of the College’s most outstanding scholars, including junior Kerrie Findlay of Staatsburg, N.Y., were not always certain of their academic career path.

“I have always been one to set professional goals. Unfortunately, those goals usually have a short duration,” said Findlay. “My career aspirations have varied from princess (age 4), to paleontologist (age 8)…, and now finally, at age 20, university professor.”

Findlay ultimately declared a dual major in French and Spanish.

“This final choice is the one that I feel the most passionate and excited about,” Findlay said. “Now when I imagine my future self it is no longer in an idealized, fantastical sense but in a slightly more concrete one. The realization has finally begun to dawn on me that what I choose now potentially will be what I will be doing for the rest of my life.”       

Findlay was in the top five percentile of her class during her sophomore and junior years while consistently on the President’s List She studied abroad in La Rochelle, France, in Spring 2010, for which she received the College’s Kevin Rowell Study Abroad Scholarship.

The daughter of Dorothy and Stuart Findlay, she is an active member of several clubs on campus. Currently the president of the French club, Findlay has found language to be her most notable passion throughout her studies.

Erin Garvey

A senior dual major in childhood education and mathematics from Farmingdale N.Y., Erin Garvey has maintained a 4.01 grade point average (GPA) during her time at Cortland.

Her awards include the Presidential Scholarship for 2009-10. Garvey was consistently named to the Dean’s List and the President’s List and was ranked in the Top 10 Percentile of her class for all four years.

“I believe that my high academic achievements are in direct relationship with my high involvement with my family, jobs and the community,” she said.

The daughter of Beth and Ed Garvey, she is a four-year member of the Honors Program. Garvey has participated in College Singers and played on an intramural soccer team. A two-year member of Colleges Against Cancer, she has joined in Relay for Life annually.

“I grew up learning from some of the best educators I have ever met and will be forever grateful that they have influenced my life the way they did,” she said. “I am now passionate about learning and would love to someday ignite that feeling in other children.”

Grace McGeoch

A junior musical theatre major, Grace McGeoch has been actively involved in several aspects of Cortland’s performing arts department in addition to serving on the staff of Speak Magazine.

Grace McGeoch
Grace McGeoch

She has maintained a 4.08 GPA, making the Dean’s and President’s lists consistently. McGeoch has been ranked in the top five percentile of her class and received the Sigma Delta Phi Scholarship.

The daughter of Anne and Terry McGeoch, she hopes to have a career in musical theater and use theater as a teaching tool for children.

“Someday, I hope to start theater workshops in schools and communities where it might be harder for people to find opportunities to get involved in the arts,” said McGeoch. “I enjoy being involved in all the various aspects of a production and am working to improve my skills in all these areas.”

Jenna Lynn Monahan

A senior physical education major, Jenna Lynn Monahan of Holbrook, N.Y., is an active member of the Alliance of Physical Education Majors. She also is the presid

Jenna Monahan
Jenna Monahan

ent of the Running Club and a member of the Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority. She has participated in several community service projects, including Make-A-Wish Foundation and Relay for Life.

“Through knowing myself, managing my time effectively, and utilizing my resources, I am able to enjoy not only my school work, but also be involved in my community,” said Monahan.


She has received various awards, including Team Conference Champions and All-American at Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio. In addition, she was awarded three department chair “Target Student” recognition letters at Cortland.

“Upon graduation, I hope to continue my education and earn a Ph.D. in adapted physical education so I can do further research in the field,” noted the daughter of Marylee and James Monahan.


“I want to discover new ways to involve students requiring adapted services with non-adapted students through the use of technology in physical education.”



Michael Tota

A junior business economics major concentrating in financial management, Michael Tota of Penfield, N.Y., is a very active member of Cortland’s campus.

The captain of the varsity lacrosse team, he also serves as a member of the Economics Club and a tutor on campus. He is involved in Relay for Life and Habitat for Humanity.

“Integrating all aspects of my life with high academic achievement also involves professionalism,” said Tota, “No matter what activity I am participating in, I try to conduct myself in a professional manner.”

With a 4.08 GPA, Tota has made the Dean’s and President’s lists and is a member of two honor societies. He received the SUNY Cortland Merit Scholarship, in addition to various athletic awards, throughout his time at Cortland.

“My future goals include becoming a financial advisor, an area which I have grown to enjoy,” said Tota, the son of Melissa and David Tota. “I hope to make a difference in today’s society by using my knowledge to help people make sound financial decisions.”