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This Month From Cliff- September 15, 2011

The President’s Report

September 15, 2011

Cliff L. Wood

The following remarks were given by President Wood at the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony held at Rockland Community College on

September 9, 2011.

9/11 remembrance poster

September 11th will forever be etched in the consciousness of all Americans, of caring people everywhere, and of all who work or reside in Rockland County.  It is a day when we remember the victims of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack on America that occurred 10 years ago.  It is a day when we remember our vulnerability, when we reflect on all the privileges and all the opportunities given to us as citizens of this great land, a day when we are reminded that our way of life, our values are viewed negatively by some, and it is a day when we come together, despite any cultural or political differences we may have, to honor the memories and spirits of those who lost their lives that fateful morning in 2001.  Workers, students, passers-by, heroes and victims—all innocent and valuable individuals.  We mourn their loss and we mourn our loss of them.

They came from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and lifestyles.  They were old and young and in-between.  They came from Rockland County and from around the world.  They represented achievement and potential, beauty and hope.  They symbolized us, all of us, in their last moments.  They gave us strength, unparalleled unity, fierce determination, and unfathomable courage.  They will forever be a part of who we are and what we do.  Today we honor their memories and reach out to their families whose void cannot be filled but whose courage and strength to carry on is a heroic example to us all.

I have asked Rabbi Dov Oliver to begin our commemoration today with the sounding of the Shofar, the ram’s horn that is traditionally sounded in the week leading up to the Jewish New Year.  The stirring sound of the Shofar inspires reflection and soul-searching.  It is a personal and communal wake-up call, reminding each of us of our responsibility to create a brighter future for our world.

Today as we read the names, now sacred in our hearts, we read them not only to remember these victims, these loved ones, but also to remind us all of the work we must individually and collectively do to bring peace and understanding to our world, so that we are truly safe.  While we must work to be prepared, the bigger vision is to create a lasting peace as we learn to live together in this world that grows ever smaller.

Now, as we read the names, we will stop periodically and mark the occasion with the sound of a gong. The one we are using was inspired by persons seeking peace and understanding in the world.  For, this gong belonged to the parents of Bob Kowles, our Theater Manager at RCC.  His dear parents were missionaries in the Far East during the forties and fifties.  Hear what Bob says about them and their gong:

“My family was relocated from China to the Philippines in 1949, fleeing the communist takeover of China.  My parents were assigned to work within a Muslim tribal group (the Yakan) on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines.  Basilan has been the location (since 9/11) where US military personnel have assisted the Philippine military fighting Al Qaeda linked terrorists.  These days it is unsafe for outsiders to visit the island, and several missionaries were kidnapped and held hostage there a couple of years ago.”

“Back in the days following World War II,” Bob says, “a forward-looking Muslim chieftain (Datu Unding Cuevas), realizing his people were at a severe disadvantage without an education in the modern world, donated  property to the mission board for the purpose of building a school to educate the Yakan children.”  The gong we are using today was originally a gift from the chief to Bob’s parents to use as an alarm to summon assistance from their Muslim neighbors should there be an emergency or if they should be in any danger.  Bob adds that his parents’ relations as Protestant missionaries from the US with their Muslim neighbors could not have been better and they lived for many years in complete safety amongst them.

So, the gong represents our call to one another and to our neighbors; it is a call to our friends and to all who will hear its sound.  It is a call to join as one in the striving for peace; it is a summons for unity of purpose, and a cry for acceptance and understanding of all who may be different.  In its ringing we remember that every individual is sacred, and special, and that the individuals whose names we read today are a part of us.

Then, when we end our ceremony today, we will hear Taps.  Taps is a bugle call created in 1862 as an adaptation of the military bugle call to “Extinguish Lights” or as a signal to end the day. It was adapted by General Adams Butterfield of New York State and his brigade’s bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton.  Today the haunting melody is used widely in every branch of service as a symbol of remembrance and honor.

Please leave here today with the names of those who were lost on 9/11 etched in our collective hearts, our collective conscience, and may we all commit ourselves to the peace and understanding that will end terrorism and guarantee our children a future that is bright with promise.  May the sounds of the Shofar, the Gong, and Taps linger in our hearts as we remember who and what we honor today.

I am pleased to share with you poems of 9/11 by three distinguished Professors of English at Rockland Community College.  The poems below were written by Dan Masterson; Poet Laureate of Rockland County, Suzanne Cleary and Reamy Jansen:

Twin spotlights blast the night

Sky high from the bullet-proof

Windows, flicking shards of light

Into their stainless steel façade

That shimmers like giant tuning forks

Stuck in the veined sidewalk here on

Vesey Street. The dark will be held

At bay until the tapestry gets hung,

Its bloody bull’s-eye strung high &

Taut against the 95th-floor extrusions,

Giving their corporate suites the dust

& acrid odor of scorch-blackened tombs.


Two young guns, whose buildings have

All been mountains, are nearly ready

To hang the target, a thing limp as

A shroud, before rappelling back down,

Snapping the hem-grommets to the pitons

They intend to install on the way up,

As they slide handheld willigs along

The window-washer tracks that ascend

To the pinnacle, trusting they’ll hold

The canvas slings they’ll ride in.


They’re giving 10-to-1 odds they’ll be

Down, coiling their mile of rope around

Their stanchions, before the morning

Bells toll in Saint Joseph’s belfry at

The end of the block. But now it’s time

For them to lace on their spirit-gum

Shoes & begin to walk the sunny side

Up, 13 hours before all bells on Earth

Will toll, when the target is hit & torn

Asunder, turning the tower to rubble.

-Dan Masterso

Hotel Amerika

Target with Four Faces

(an oblique rendering of a Jasper Johns canvas encaustic with plaster casts: “Target with Four Faces”)

“Permit 66Q6391-1845 hereby issued to Nabilat Productions for filming to be completed no later than 9/12/01.  Access limited to grid defined by Vesey, Church, Liberty, and West Streets, for affixation of a 70’ by 70’ cloth bearing the replication of Jasper Johns’ ‘ Target with Four Faces.’”

-NYC Office of Film, Television, and Broadcasting, August 03, 2001.



for Jim Terry


The game old-fashioned even in my grandparents' time--

Thomas with his suspenders, Anna with her seamed stockings--

still, we stand in your back yard


this first year of a new century, tapping wooden balls

toward wickets invisible, nearly, in the dusk.

It is two weeks before the World


Trade Towers each will flare, collapse

as time collapses, into itself.

But my poem is getting ahead of itself


as we, the four of us, kept getting ahead of ourselves,

taking our turns out of order, confused by the game of croquet,

which makes time move so slowly we kept rushing ahead.


I want my poem to stay in your yard,

to linger beside the flagstone walk, beautiful, impractical,

the assortment of green and yellow birdfeeders


in the red maple outside your kitchen window.

I want to pause, study the pale three-quarters moon

dangling like a holy medal from Orion's neck


that clear evening the terrorists ate dinner together,

as we did. Maybe they watched a movie

or took a walk, enjoying the first shock


of autumn chill. It is possible

to imagine their doing so many things,

the blessed, vanished ordinary, before


they did what I cannot, even now,

imagine: the unimaginable.

That cool August night I had wanted to ask


what made you think of croquet, wheel the game

from its dark spot far back in the garage.

It was dusty and we stared at it, admiring

how the pieces fit so neatly together

on the scarred cart: the balls slid and clacked

into a channel at the center, the mallets and stakes balanced


to either side and, finally, the metal wickets fit,

tight, into their slot at the top.

Thirty years of dust coated the pastel stripes.


I saw a lake cottage I can barely remember,

my entire family in sweaters and cloth hats, standing in a circle

on a wide lawn, waiting for someone to take a turn.


In your back yard we chose colors.

We stepped onto the cool grass.

We said we would play until dark,


whoever was ahead when it got too dark to see,

that person would win.


-Suzanne Cleary

Trick Pear, Carnegie Mellon UP 2007


I’d forgotten him completely

Although I’d given Gabe his book

Gabe, my second, my daredevil boy

My partner in risking everything together

Climbing cliffs where the rock flakes off

In the hand, like a theme tablet,

Like this one here, the one

I’m writing on now and tomorrow is


Nine eleven, nine one one

And I’d forgotten about Philippe Petit

And my students didn’t know his name at all

Philippe Petit and so I told them

Of a small young man who fooled officials

So he, his team and his cable, one inch

Around, made it to the top of Tower One

And how they used a bow

To shoot a line so heavy in mid air so Philippe

Petit could follow such a course, so thin, one

Quarter of a mile from the ground

Where the crowd could just about spy a small being

On a grey thread, and the policeman

Who was his audience and was there waiting

To arrest him saw Philippe cross the open space

The shortest distance between two points

Which is what the imagination does sometimes

Even when it takes a while and Philippe

Made a circuit back and forth, seven, eight times

Making the line a loop and smiling,

That’s what the young cop said as he watched him dance

Upon the cable and then he lay down, he said

And he thought he was smiling then, too.


And now Philippe Petit is 64 and is

Still petit and then his rope was a filament

At the top of the world and tomorrow is

Nine eleven and then the cop, Officer Gonzalez,

He said he’d never seen anything like it,

Not ever again.

-Reamy Jansen

(Philippe Petit traversed the towers in August 1974. His book is To Reach the Clouds.)


On September 9 Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and other  state / local officials attended a special 9/11 memorial at Rockland Community College.  RCC was chosen by Governor Andrew Cuomo as one of 30 sites in the state to display the “New York Remembers” memorial, a tribute to those whose lives were lost in the tragedy.

In addition to the Lieutenant Governors visit, Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the college on Sunday, September 9 for another memorial that was held.

Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy with Dr. Wood


On September 9, the RCC Foundation received a check for $100,000 from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 333. This check will fund five new scholarships at RCC, each for the benefit of veterans and their families. Details of the scholarships will be announced on Friday, September 16 at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Veterans Lounge. The scholarships are named in honor of Ruth May Seberry, a lifelong Rockland County resident who passed away in 2004 and arranged a generous bequest to Chapter 333 from her estate. Each of the scholarships has specific criteria, but all require Rockland County residency and an Honorable Discharge, or to be the spouse or child of a service member who was killed in action. The Vietnam Veterans of America are dedicated to ensuring that, "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another," and they offer emotional and financial support to all veterans. Two members and past presidents of the chapter who were instrumental in dedicating these funds to RCC's student veterans are Ed Frank, and Howard Goldin, both RCC alumni.  Frank speaks about the VVA desire to overcome any negative stereotypes and to help veterans and their families with the support that was often missing when his generation returned from war.  Goldin, a Purple Heart recipient, speaks of the honor and privilege it is for the VVA to give back to the veterans’ community, and views endowing these scholarships for future generations as a way to embrace  all veterans.

$100,000 check from Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 333

Thanks to the generosity of two local transportation companies, RCC will be able to offer a new Automotive Technology course in Air Brake Repair Certification next semester. Through the efforts of the NYS Small Business Development Center at RCC, two Rockland companies, Brega DOT Maintenance Corp. located in Valley Cottage and Chestnut Ridge Transportation, in Spring Valley have agreed to donate a full size school bus and classroom space and bays/lifts to run the program this year.

Group with banner in front of bus

(from left to right) Thomas Morley, Director, NYS SBDC; Jason Brega, Manager, Brega Transportation; Stephanie Brady, Director, Workforce Development NYS SBDC; Richard Brega Jr., President, Brega Transportation; Dr. Cliff L. Wood, President, RCC, RCC Alumnus Frank Sparaco, Rockland County Legislator, District 11; Bill Baitzel, RCC Faculty, Automotive Technology; Sean Corr, Fleet Management, Chestnut Ridge Transportation; John Corr, President, Chestnut Ridge Transportation.

On Tuesday, September 13 an Open House to “Prepare for a Green Career” was held at Rockland Community College.  With funding assistance from New York State Energy Research & Development Authority, CETT is fulfilling demand in the Hudson Valley for training and re-tooling our workforce.  The consortium consists of five community colleges from the Mid-Hudson Valley: Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, and Rockland, coordinated by SUNY Ulster's Continuing and Professional Education. The event welcomed consortium members: Richard Syrek, Dean, Center for Personal & Professional Development, SUNY Rockland,  Barbara Reer, Program Manager, Clean Energy Technology Training, Continuing and Professional Education, SUNY Ulster, Howard Aschoff, Novel Approaches, Renewable Energy Contractor and Educator, Pat Courtney Strong, Mid-Hudson Energy $mart Communities, Dan Smith, Building Performance Institute (BPI), James Albert, Regional Director, Alteris Renewables.



Rockland Community College was awarded the Green Council Award in the government/education category by the Rockland Business Association.

Rockland Economic Development Corporation selected five people from the Rockland Community College community for recognition and inclusion in this year’s Forty under 40 program. Recognition is reserved for young leaders with professional, academic or entrepreneurial accomplishment who also enrich life and demonstrate a positive impact on Rockland County by giving back through community involvement. The five are: Christie Cruse, Director of Title III / First Year Experience; Christopher Plummer, Performing Arts; Dr. Melanie Rie, Instructor, Biology; Giovanni Scaringi, Adjunct Instructor, Business; and Dr. James Siegel, Dean, Student Development.

Collette Fournier, Adjunct Faculty, Art, and Educational Support Specialist for Campus Communications, is included in “Small Matters of Great Importance,” an exhibit at the Hopper House in Nyack. Her photographic work is titled, "Nova Scotia Rain." The exhibit runs from September 22 to November 13, with an opening reception Saturday, Sept. 24 from 5 pm - 7 pm.

Robert Gulack, Chair of the Departments of English, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, has written a short play about the Thirteenth Amendment, titled Freedom’s Price. The play was chosen by the Blue Curtain Theater to be presented at the Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village the evening of Sunday, Sept. 25. The performance will feature an all-Equity cast and will be directed by the author.

The International Society of Political Psychology held a panel discussion of Professor of Social Sciences Dr. David Beisel ‘s book, The Suicidal Embrace, at their Annual Scientific Conference held this year at Bilgi University, Istanbul, Turkey. The conference theme was, Cooperation and Human Societies: Towards a Multidisciplinary Political Psychology. The panel discussion was titled, “Munich and Czechoslovakia in Psychohistorical Perspective: Re-Evaluating David Beisel’s ‘The Suicidal Embrace’”.  Also, the September 2011 Edition of Clio’s Psyche, the professional journal subtitled, Understanding the “Why” of Culture, Current Events, History and Society, published “The David Beisel Symposium on Military and Diplomatic Blind Spots and Traumatic Reenactments.” The symposium includes commentaries from seventeen scholars, as well as Dr. Beisel’s essay and reply on the subject.

For the Fall 2011 semester, The Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL) introduces, The Last Good Book Colloquium.  This Colloquium will feature classic or recently released books from across the academic and literary spectrum.  Presenters from across the disciplines will summarize and discuss a book of her or his choice.  This will encourage sharing of intellectual interests and learning about a broad range of topics. The Colloquium is coordinated by Professor David Lucander.  For more information on the Fall 2011 Schedule, visit the CETL website at

Bill Baker and Dr. Kristopher Baker

In the August 22, 2011 edition of HVBiz, father and son team of Rockland Community College, Bill  Baker, Professor of Biology and Dr. Kristopher Baker, Division Chair, Math, Natural and Health Science, were featured in an article titled E=RCC2 Father, son part of the formula for college expansion written by Bill Fallon.  The article focused on the new and upgraded labs at RCC that are being prepared for the upcoming school year.



The following students completed the EMS Education Paramedic Program and were honored at the Paramedic Program Completion Ceremony which was held on August 23.  The Paramedic Class XVII students are; Kyle Black, Rory Brannigan, Edward Fox III, Vito LaVilla, Ana Molina, Matthew Mulvaney, Brandon Smith, Abraham Taub, Elyokem Ungar, Michael Will, and Tiffany Williams.


President’s Mail Bag

From a student:

Dr. Wood,

I just read your email and wanted to say “Thank  you.”  You see, my husband worked by the “Bull” and by the Grace of God, managed to survive 9/11.  While we were speaking on the phone he saw the second airplane crash into the World Trade Center and the phone went dead (that is the short version).  My family was so grateful for his survival.  However, we were not so lucky because I became a widow on 9/11/05 leaving me to raise my then 7 year old daughter.  I plan to visit your 9/11 display of artifacts because I honestly don’t want to go to the museum, unless my daughter wants to visit.  Bitter sweet, isn’t it?


From Walter Fiedler, President of the RCC Senior Club:

Thank you so much for your appearance and talk at and to our club.  I appreciate the support (we all do) and the approachability you and the college have given us.


From Joseph N. Hankin, President, Westchester Community College, SUNY:

Dear Cliff,

Many thanks for sending your Summer 2011 SCENE Newsletter.  It is a wonder to behold!  I will pass it on to key people here on campus as a model.

Enjoy the remainder of this pleasant summer.

Cordially yours,