By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — SARANAC LAKE — Surrounded by community, students and SUNY leaders, Dr. Steven Tyrell formally took charge of operations at North Country Community College.
The school’s sixth president was hired last summer.
But inauguration ceremonies gave pause for a moment to celebrate amid snowy skies and early spring bluster.
Master of Ceremonies Professor Emeritus Bob Brown said Tyrell is the final piece in an old-fashioned type of jigsaw puzzle, the kind you build by sorting the edge-pieces first.
“I want to promise Dr. Tyrell that we have a good base for (him) to work with,” Brown said in welcoming the new president.
His metaphor put Essex and Franklin county communities as the puzzle frame, with pieces inside composing the 25 different college programs, professors and staff.
“The last piece of that puzzle was President Tyrell,” Brown said of the years since he taught the first class at NCCC in the late 1960s.
“What do you do when you finish a puzzle? Stand back and admire it? That’s not Steve Tyrell.
“It’s now three-dimensional. Think of a puzzle that’s more like a kaleidoscope.
“Everyone in the new jigsaw puzzle sits in this room. We can do everything and anything we want,” Brown said.
Brown said completing the NCCC puzzle makes everyone in surrounding communities more prosperous.
“We can gain economic prosperity through higher education.”
Brown’s remarks captured the tone of the inauguration, the first held here in 21 years; Dr. Carol Brown, Tyrell’s predecessor, had opted not to have the installation.
The event on Friday filled much of Sparks Complex gymnasium, complete with the flourish of bagpipes, choral performances by the Adirondack Singers, and an “Inaugural Fanfare and Salutation” written by NCCC music instructor Mike Saulpaugh and Adjunct Instructor Charles Watts.
STUDENTS IN FOCUS
State University of New York Chancellor Dr. Nancy Zimpher offered remarks, welcoming Tyrell to lead NCCC.
“This is a great community college,” she said, expressing confidence that his experience “in the public and private sector will serve to grow this campus. Dr. Tyrell has spent his career keeping students at the center of his focus.”
The SUNY chancellor proceeded with formal investiture, placing a large medallion around the new president’s neck.
Tyrell thanked previous president Dr. Gail Rogers Rice for her support; she was seated in the front row beside former interim President Fred Smith.
He also thanked his wife, Sharon, and their children, Zach and Emma, for supporting his several moves through higher education.
Interposed with music and poetry, the ceremony balanced between pleasantry and formality.
The newly installed president drew from Brown’s long history at NCCC, suggesting the pathway for the future lies deep in rich community heritage.
“He always looked for opportunities to bring the NCCC community together with the Saranac Lake community,” Tyrell said.
With three campuses in three communities spread across 3,600 square miles in two counties, NCCC encompasses the largest service area in the SUNY system, he observed.
But, Tyrell said, that breadth provides opportunity to grow the college-town concept here into something larger, blending private and public sector facilities to build economic strength.
New student housing in Ticonderoga was generated by a private sector developer to include space for shared retail business, Tyrell said.
And a similar public-private project — as yet unannounced — is in the planning stages in Malone.
“The SUNY college/municipal collaboration is equally important to the village and to the college,” he observed.
And to do its part, NCCC has identified 60 strategic action items, looking to connect its programs to the Adirondack experience in more specific ways.
The goal in the coming years is to address key skill gaps in the rural mountain region’s professional areas of allied health, engineering and tourism.
NCCC is also a vital resource, he explained.
The facilities here, students and staff spend more than $26 million annually in Franklin and Essex counties, Tyrell said.
“With an impact of over $49 million.”
And the college faculty and staff, he observed, truly believe in human potential.
Local and state lawmakers helped usher the new college president into office, along with the NCCC Board of Trustees and presidents of eight area and SUNY colleges, including Dr. John Ettling of SUNY Plattsburgh; Dr. John Mills of Paul Smith’s College; John Jablonski of Clinton Community College; and Valerie Nixon, interim president of Alfred State College.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) considers the new president a tremendous asset to the region.
“His vision is amazing. He is just going to bring a whole new level of enthusiasm, not only to the college, but also to the community,” she said.
Town of Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee, who is on the Essex County Board of Supervisors, said the ceremony and camaraderie was great.
“I think he is a builder,” he said.
“I think he’s going to build on what is here — he’s young, he’s ambitious, he is a good fit for the college.”
“We’re pleased to have him,” NCCC Board of Trustees President Gerald Blair said after the inauguration.
“He is out talking to people, getting people to support the school in a different sort of way,” he said.
“He is in all of the different communities.”
A reception following the inauguration featured an artistic installation of “The Daffodil Forest,” created by NCCC students and their art professor Carol Vossler.
The display will remain up through the Daffest festival in Saranac Lake, which begins the last weekend in April.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org