Impact

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Gifts from alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff make an immediate difference in the lives of students and faculty and also ensure that future generations receive a transformational experience. Your support strengthens every area of the university, from scholarships to academics, the arts, athletics and more.

SUNY Cortland creates leaders, innovators and visionaries who are ready to tackle the challenges of an ever-changing world. Giving to SUNY Cortland keeps this tradition of excellence alive by allowing the next generation of students to have ample opportunity to make their mark.

Donor Stories

These stories highlight the generosity of individuals who have found unique ways to honor the causes, people and parts of SUNY Cortland that mean the most to them.

Michael Bond ’75, M.D.

Bond with two students holding Science Symposium posters

Bond with biology major Marissa Kordal, and biology and anthropology double major Kiley Stoj.

Michael Bond ’75, M.D., is quick to credit independent undergraduate research as the key to his success.

“It gives you a confidence and a euphoria for learning,” said Bond, retired medical director of Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Orlando, Fla.

Bond, who was inducted into the SUNY Cortland Academic Hall of Fame in 2016, said the research skills he learned at SUNY Cortland still motivate him today to learn, explore and innovate.

As the second SUNY Cortland alumnus to be directly accepted into medical school, Bond said his hands-on research opportunities set him apart from the field.

Bond and a former classmate, Wayne Marley ’75, M.D., have made a major gift to the university, establishing the David F. Berger Summer Research Fellowship in honor of a professor who inspired his own research. The award supports Cortland’s top undergraduate pursuing independent research in biology, chemistry or psychology.

In addition to the fellowship, Bond has given greatly of his time to return to campus and encourage today’s students to pursue all of the opportunities available to them. Recently he made a planned gift commitment to endow the annual on-campus science conference that will now carry his name, the Dr. Michael J. Bond ’75 Alumni/Undergraduate Research Science Symposium.

“It’s the responsibility of my era to make sure there are as many opportunities as possible for them to take advantage of,” he said. “We can’t do the work, but we can work hard to get them what they need to do it. I am euphoric about all this. All I see is the tremendous upside that this thing can have through the years as we rotate speakers and change the subjects and get in more and more.”

The Pittorino Family

Pittorino family

When Bill Pittorino '85 (center) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his Cortland buddies made sure he wouldn't face it alone. On either side are Scott Williams '82 and Jim Mackin '82. Pete Shaw '81 and Joseph "Jeff" McGuigan '82 are in the back row.

The late Bill Pittorino ’85 was a larger-than-life figure on the SUNY Cortland campus.

He was a physical education major, a key member of the football team in the early 1980s and was active with Beta Phi Epsilon (1927-1995), making bonds with classmates that lasted for decades. Pittorino’s relentless energy kept those friends in contact despite the years and the miles. They enjoyed each other’s company at Cortaca Jug games and Alumni Reunion weekends.

When Pittorino passed away in April 2018 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer, his widow, Deborah Rivera Pittorino, wanted to create something to pay tribute to her husband’s legacy. The William F. Pittorino ’85 Humanitarian Memorial Scholarship will provide financial support and it will also lean on his giant circle of friends to deliver mentorship to Cortland students who embody his generosity and toughness.

“My husband was a real humanitarian,” Deborah Pittorino said. “Let’s find someone who might not have a great GPA or might not have come from the easiest circumstance and let’s give that person some help. We will form a board that’s going to help kids find a job in the summertime or help them buy their first car or help apply for jobs or give advice.”

Julie Gentner Murphy ’03

Murphy and family in front of the Gentner Press Box

Left to right: Courtney Wormuth, Associate Director of Athletics; Julie Lenhart, Former Head Coach, Softball; Ella, Gentner's granddaughter; Sally Gentner, Gentner's wife; and Julie Gentner Murphy ’03.

As a child, Julie Gentner Murphy ’03 followed her father to the softball diamond. As a teenager, she decided to attend his alma mater for college. As a professional, she works at the financial consulting firm he partnered for nearly 40 years. She even coaches varsity softball at Williamsville South High School, where she worked alongside her father  a former standout athlete at Cortland.

So when Gerald “Gerry” Gentner ’66 passed away after a four-year battle with cancer in 2012, Murphy considered ways to keep her father’s memory alive.

One was the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association’s Western New York Golf Tournament. For the first time in 2013, the tournament was known as the Gerry Gentner ’66 Memorial Western New York Golf Tournament, named after a man who showed unwavering support for his alma mater and those associated with it.

Another took place during Alumni Reunion 2019. Murphy, a member of the SUNY Cortland C-Club Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in softball and field hockey, named the softball press box in memory of her father.

“People always say that they’re trying to live their life more like Gerry,” Murphy said. “He was always so positive and so willing to give back.”

Janet Richards Whitaker ’65

Whitaker canoeing

Whitaker (shown in the stern, wearing a blue shirt and sunglasses) practicing with the 2012 Wounded Warrior Team. The double-hulled crafts are the same type she gave to the university.

Janet Richards Whitaker ’65 is one of the country’s foremost marathon canoeists, winning more than 30 United States Canoe Association national championships and earning induction into the Canoeing Hall of Fame.

She got her start at the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education at Raquette Lake, where she first learned to canoe.

Whitaker is giving a number of gifts to the college as a way to pay tribute to the skills she gained and to support Cortland’s commitment to outdoor and recreation education.

She donated a double-hulled outrigger canoe that will accommodate paddlers with or without physical or intellectual disabilities.

A Lofty Elm estate commitment has allowed Whitaker to name both the renovated dock at Huntington Memorial Camp and an accessible lean-to planned to be built between the shore and the ropes course.

The dock will be named “Aloha” as a welcoming gesture to those embarking on exciting outdoor adventures. The lean-to will be called “Sisu,” a Finnish word that translates as “Tenacity, unwavering determination, a quality that everyone needs when faced with challenges on a pathway to a goal,” Whitaker said.

Recipient Stories

Scholarships enable our students to explore their passions and pursue their dreams. The stories below feature some recent graduates who benefitted from scholarships during their studies.

Camilo Fredes ’19

John M. Fantauzzi ’58, M ’60 Scholarship Recipient

Camilo Fredes

Camilo Fredes ’19 found he had a lot in common with his classmates when he arrived at SUNY Cortland.

He attended Locust Valley High School on Long Island, where he played tennis, ran track and field, wrote for the school newspaper and volunteered in the community through the local Boys & Girls Club.

Yet when those classmates asked where he was from, Fredes had a long answer.

The son of immigrants from Chile, where he was born and lived until he was 9 years old, Fredes is a first-generation college student. He discovered that his voice was unifying on the Cortland campus. He understood those who were born and raised in America because he largely had that experience himself. Fredes also found it easy to connect with those who came from different backgrounds, as he did.

Fredes was a recipient of the John M. Fantauzzi ’58, M ’60 Scholarship, which supports children and grandchildren of immigrants and first-generation college students.

A dual major in Spanish and communication studies with a concentration in journalism, Fredes was able to attend college thanks to the scholarship. He made the most of his time at Cortland as a member of La Familia Latina, a reporter for The Dragon Chronicle and in various roles including president, vice president and treasurer of the Spanish Club.

Following graduation, he is working as a reporter for The Cortland Voice and is supporting his parents, Americo Fredes and Jenny Silva, who sacrificed so much for him.

John Swedin ’19

Future New Yorker Award Recipient

John Swedin

John Swedin ’19 set foot on campus with hopes of majoring in biology and becoming a dentist.

Instead, he decided to follow his dreams of making it big on the big screen.

Before he walked across the stage at Commencement, Swedin had added director, writer and actor to his resume.

His short film, “Soup,” was screened as part of the Blackbird Film Festival held on campus each April. Swedin, who changed his major to communication studies, wrote and directed “Soup” as part of an advanced filmmaking course he took during the fall semester of his senior year.

Swedin, from Ringwood, N.J., was a recipient of Cortland’s Future New Yorker Award, which eases out-of-state tuition for select students. He used his apartment’s kitchen as a set and convinced friends to act in a story of a nervous college student trying to impress a date through cooking with some hilariously unexpected — and disgusting — results. In addition to a pair of six-hour filming blocks, Swedin spent countless hours editing his film and tweaking the audio through Foley techniques, a sound editing trick that uses everyday objects to produce an effect onscreen.

He is considering careers in film or the music industry.

Rebekka Higgins ’19

Esther K. Hawthorne Scholarship Recipient 

Rebekka Higgins

Rebekka Higgins ’19 has leaned heavily on lessons she learned in and out of the classroom.

Higgins, the winner of the SUNY-wide Benjamin and David Scharps Memorial Legal Essay Award contest in 2019, used her experiences as an intern with the City of Cortland Police Department, the Cortland County District Attorney’s Office and the office of Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin in penning her winning entry.

A dual political science and criminology major from Queens, N.Y., Higgins explored the topic of concealed carry on campus for the contest. She was given a hypothetical case and a number of real cases and sources on which to base an argument.

Higgins was the recipient of a number of awards during her time as a student, including the Esther K. Hawthorne Scholarship. It is given to students with academic ambition and financial need.

She credits political science faculty members Timothy Delaune and Robert Spitzer for giving her an understanding of the law and gun control issues through their classes.

Breanna Washington ’19

Lambda Phi Delta Service Scholarship Recipient

Breanna Washington

Breanna Washington ’19 is passionate about education and SUNY Cortland gave her opportunities to pursue that dream. A member of Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators (C.U.R.E), Washington, a dual major in special education and childhood education with a concentration in the social sciences, got hands-on experience in the classroom as an undergraduate. She also did so abroad, teaching English to children in Thailand.

She also excelled in the scholarship of teaching, winning an Outstanding Writing Award for “How Assessments Affect Students of Diverse Demographics,” which she composed in a foundations of education course.

Washington was an active member of the campus community outside of her classes, working as a resident assistant for three years, volunteering on the Auxiliary Services Corporation executive board and serving an undergraduate fellow for the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office. A recipient of the Lambda Phi Delta Service Scholarship, which is awarded to students who have a positive record of impact and service to campus, Washington is thankful for the support that allowed her to grow into a leader and chase her goals.