Alumni Spotlights - Class of 1980 - 1989

Arlene Wright '85

I received my AAS in Nursing from Orange County Community College in 1985. Little did I imagine, at that time, that my basic degree would catapult me to pursue advanced degrees. First I completed a MSN as a family nurse practitioner and then ultimately my Doctor of Nursing Practice.  I also assumed leadership roles at both the local, state, and national levels. Nursing has opened up multiple opportunities, allowing me to follow my passion not only as a strong patient advocate, but also in positions to influence health policy. I am currently the Director of Advanced Practice for Millennium Physician Group in Florida.

Richard Giordano '86

When I graduated Minisink Valley High School in June of 1984 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Like most teens I was conflicted on whether to go to college or start working full time. I decided to sign up for 12 credits at Orange county community college or O.C.C.C. I was in for a reality check when I scored poorly on the placement exams .SUNY Orange recommended some remedial course work in Math and English despite my regent’s diploma. This was blessing in disguise. The time I spent at SUNY Orange was undoubtedly some of the best years of my life. It was full of study, activities, intramural sports, and the culture of the campus was perfect. I was able to work part time while pursuing my degree A.A.S Marketing Management. I benefited greatly when I was able to transfer my entire degree over to SUNY New Paltz. While there, I studied business and communication and earned my BA in 1989. Looking back, I realize it’s the transitional part of most people’s lives that are most difficult. From college to career was no different. I struggled to find my purpose and identity and worked many thankless jobs before going back to school to study pre-med, this is when I would play golf at SUNY Orange. In 1996 I decided to start my own business, soon I was the owner/operator of a commercial cleaning and building Maintenance Company. We were proud members of the Chamber of Commerce and Builders Association. This was a great growing experience however; in 2009 I sold the company and needed to reinvent myself. One day while playing golf with friends I was asked if I could help teach golf at a junior golf camp. I accepted and enjoyed it so, that I went on to become a certified golf teaching professional. Within 2 short years 2010, I became a teaching pro at the golf club at Mansion Ridge and then in 2012 was named the Head golf Professional and business manager at the prestigious West Point golf Course. I was living my dream but something was missing. I had a higher calling. In December of 2012 I left golf and declared myself a teacher. I went to work for the New York State Department of Corrections as a Vocational Instructor. I was going to make a difference for the inmate population. For 5 years I worked helping inmates achieve certificate status so they could secure gainful employment. It was a tough and sometimes dangerous job but also very rewarding. In 2017 I had some health issues and needed to work in a less stressful environment. After my recovery, golf was calling to me…and I found it to be a place of healing. In 2018 I was offered and accepted the position of Head Golf Professional and Assistant General Manager for the town of Wallkill Golf Club. I realize now, I never should have left golf. We all think the grass is greener on the other side. Someone once said “If you do what you love….you will never work a day in your life.” This is where I’m at now… I hope you find this too.

Robert Shapiro (attended 1979-1981)

Often it takes years and some reflection to understand the value of something. Although I didn't know it at the time, SUNY Orange was the perfect choice for me. With the small classes and extra attention by faculty I was able to do very well. I participated in a club, a sports team and other social activities too. I became passionate about Geology because of a wonderful professor at SUNY Orange and that motivated me to finish with a degree in Earth Science from Penn State. I went on to a Master’s Degree and a successful career. SUNY Orange is where I first learned how to learn, and to be more independent without feeling overwhelmed. SUNY Orange is a great place to get yourself started.

Tanya Gardner '87

Tanya Gardner is an Associate Professor of Communications Studies at Delaware County Community College and a 2018 recipient of a Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. This award recognizes exceptional faculty in the Greater Philadelphia area who are committed to the intellectual and social development of students, and have a challenging, stimulating, and accessible teaching approach that extends beyond the classroom. Gardner holds an Associate of Arts in Communication Studies from Orange County Community College, a Bachelor of Arts in Radio Television and Film from Temple University, and a Master of Arts in Human Communication Studies from Howard University.

Charles Mitchell '87

Since Graduating Orange County Community College as the first wheelchair using Student Senate President, I went on to SUNY New Paltz and earned my degree in Political Science. I married the woman I met at Orange County Community College and we have three amazing adult children. I worked at City Hall in Middletown as the City Clerk, Orange County Government as a County Commissioner, and now back at City Hall as an Administrator. All this was achieved because of the success and confidence I gained from my time at Orange County Community College. As a newly injured young man trying to figure out life, I was accepted, elected, and NEVER rejected by the staff, faculty, administration, and students of the College. This gave me the courage and self-confidence I needed to go on to have a successful and productive life.

Dara Whalen '82

My time at Orange County Community College - SUNY Orange set my path in life in ways I couldn't have dreamed of when I was admitted to the OCCC nursing program in 1980. At the time I was a 20 year old single mother and my dream of finding my life's path came true as I graduated from the nursing program with my AAS in 1982. Since then I've lived and worked all over the United States and continued my education almost without interruption over the last 37 years. In addition to my clinical career I have been an educator for the last 17 years and earned my PhD in 2016. My work is fulfilling and meaningful and it wouldn't have been possible without the help of all the compassionate and highly qualified educators who helped to make me the nurse I am today. Thank you all.

Jeffrey Hall '85

Steve Jobs once said about life that we can only connect the dots looking backwards. That sentiment fits exactly for me at this point in my life. Recently, I was fortunate enough to retire from a rewarding career as an English as a New Language teacher at Liberty CSD in Sullivan County. My career path, however, was not a straight one by any account. After high school I served 4 years in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany for a few years where I first experienced being a second language learner myself. I had studied German for many years and was able to benefit from those skills. Upon leaving military service I was involved in local community theater and eventually met my wife during one of the rehearsals. It was at that time that I began taking classes at Orange County Community College in 1983. With no real plan, I majored in theater and was cast in the role of Judge Wargrave in a production of Ten Little Indians under the direction of John Blue. My wife and I were married in May 1985, the same week that I graduated from Orange County Community College. Following this I transferred to SUNY New Paltz and there completed my BA in Music History and Literature in 1985, less than 2 weeks after my daughter was born. After a decade away from the classroom I rebooted my career by enrolling in graduate school at New Paltz and earned a MS Ed and was certified to teach ESL which was highly in demand and was hired as soon as I applied to Liberty CSD. Now that I am blessed in retirement I am doing volunteer work at two nearby museums and audit upper level math classes as a senior which I enjoy greatly. At this point in my life I feel drawn back to where I began my academic journey as a lifelong learner and am looking for ways that I can give back some of what was given to me by doing volunteer work at SUNY Orange.