Dr. Helen Suchanick, '89, was one of 40 distinguished alumni recognized at the Anniversary Celebration of the EOP program in SUNY.
With three graduates among the 40 honored, SUNY Fredonia was well represented when the State University of New York celebrated the 40th anniversary celebration of its Educational Opportunity Program.
The gathering recently at the Marriot Hotel and Conference Center in Albany commemorated the EOP milestone and formally recognized 40 distinguished alumni from across the state – one for each year that the program has assisted students from disadvantaged backgrounds. All have gone on to successful careers.
The three Fredonia alumni were: Gopal Burgher (Political Science, Philosophy, ’94), a corporate attorney with McKee Nelson LLP, New York City; Charles Green (Political Science, ’93), a public defender for the State of Connecticut; and Helen Suchanick (Biology, ’89), D.O., who has a medical practice in Dunkirk and is affiliated with Brooks Memorial Hospital.
Kathleen Bonds, director of SUNY Fredonia’s Educational Development Program, and Barbara Yochym, program secretary, joined the festivities, as did two additional SUNY Fredonia alumni, Fatima Rodriguez Johnson (Sociology, ’96), coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services at SUNY Geneseo, and Albin “A.J.” Cich (English, ’05), a residence hall director at SUNY Delhi. Dr. Suchanick was not able to attend the gathering.
SUNY Fredonia established its EOP in 1970, and went on to rename it the Educational Development Program to emphasize the development process that students go through to become successful.
“They are the true success stories of how students can raise their performance as long as they have somebody who believes in them, who is willing to help guide them and support them. And that’s what this program is all about - providing guidance, encouragement and expectations of excellence,” Ms. Bonds said.
“I was very proud of them in terms of their professional and academic achievement,” added Ms. Bonds, who joined the staff in 1986 and became director in 1992. “They were very complimentary to the program in terms of our role in forging their success.”
Mr. Burgher, who earned a Juris Doctorate from New York University School of Law in 1997, said the “sense of family and community created by the program was of immense value, making an otherwise completely foreign environment seem awkwardly familiar. The EOP contributed to my successful transition from a clueless high school kid to a college student with purpose and determination.”
Mr. Green, recipient of a Juris Doctorate from Southern New England School of Law in 2005, said the tutoring, counseling and peer mentorship provided by the program were responsible for his achievement. The financial assistance enabled him to clear a significant hurdle. “I am giving my clients the opportunity to be heard in court, just like the Educational Opportunity Program allowed me the opportunity to attend and excel in college.”
Attending the EOP 40th anniversary celebration were (left to right) SUNY Fredonia alumni Charles Green, Gail (Frank) Green, EDP Director Kathleen Bonds, Fatima (Rodriguez) Johnson, Gopal Burgher, EDP Secretary Barbara Yochym, and Albin “AJ” Cich.
Dr. Suchanick, who received her Doctor in Osteopathy degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994, said SUNY Fredonia’s EDP enabled her to overcome fears of becoming a doctor that had been rooted in gender and ethnicity. “I soon realized that all people, despite culture and socio-economic status, had the ability to achieve their dreams and pursue career aspirations.”
Today, there are 146 students enrolled in SUNY Fredonia’s EDP, the most in 25 years and a far cry from the 35 welcomed in the inaugural fall term. Freshmen total 58, the most in 27 years. Over 1,880 students have been admitted to SUNY Fredonia through EDP in the last 37 years, and over 650 have earned degrees.
The size and quality of this year’s freshman class can be traced to an increasing role that the EDP staff played in the admissions process, according to Ms. Bonds. “We did more calling, more helping students through the application process, so we got a better result in terms of number of students who enrolled.” And every student who expressed a desire to attend SUNY Fredonia enrolled for the fall term.
“We have a nice group of students,” Ms. Bonds said
SUNY Fredonia’s EDP celebrated its 35th anniversary in the fall of 2005.
Over 10,000 students on 43 SUNY campuses are now enrolled in the EOP, and more than 50,000 EOP students have earned degrees from SUNY campuses.
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