College Meets Boots On The Ground



Knee high muck boots beneath their academic regalia, The Fabulous Beekman Boys debate the reality of life after college

Reality television’s accidental farmers, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, presented a highly unusual Commencement Address Debate to the graduating class of The State University of New York (SUNY) at Cobleskill during its 97th Annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Donning their signature knee high muck boots beneath their academic regalia, Dr. Ridge and Mr. Kilmer-Purcell engaged in a great debate of encouragement in front of 423 SUNY Cobleskill graduates, their families, friends and guests. Each competitor responded with the hope of being selected as the best advisor in a war of wisdom for the graduating class.

Moderating the debate, Dr. Debra H. Thatcher, Acting President of SUNY Cobleskill, presented Dr. Ridge and Mr. Kilmer-Purcell with advice from other notable commencement speakers – from Jon Bon Jovi to actress Kerry Washington to Oprah Winfery. View excerpts from the debate, “The Reality of Life after College,” here.

“Brent and Josh – In 2001, upon receiving his Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, singer Jon Bon Jovi told the graduating class of Monmouth College: “Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate. The world doesn’t need any more gray.” We’ll begin with Brent, do you agree or disagree,” asked Dr. Thatcher.

In response, Dr. Ridge remarked, “I spent 8 years pursuing my MD degree, and after working in medicine for only three years, I realized that it wasn’t my passion. I’d chosen medicine as a career because it felt safe. I realized that my real passion was entrepreneurship – creating something from nothing. So, I went back to school for another 3 years to earn my MBA … But looking back, whatever price I paid to become a doctor was actually a bargain. Because it made me realize that “safe” wasn’t actually better than “sorry.” “Sorry” is only a temporary moment on the path to something better. “Safe” is an eternity of “what if’s.”

In his rebuttal, Mr. Kilmer-Purcell argued that solely possessing passion may leave you living on a prayer. “For the last several generations, society has taught us that chasing our passions is our most noble pursuit. But you know what else is honorable? What our grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ did. They worked a steady job to keep a roof over their family’s heads and decent shoes on their kids’ feet … Passion is just one ingredient of a successful life. Single-mindedly chasing your passion does not insure that you will catch it. In fact it might mean that you spend the remaining 70 or so years of your life living only on a prayer.”

Graduates voted with roaring applause for each candidate, at which point Dr. Thatcher called the debate a tie. Dr. Ridge and Mr. Kilmer-Purcell both received Honorary Doctorates at the ceremony awarded by the SUNY Board of Trustees in recognition and high praise for their significant achievements. Dr. Ridge, with his medical expertise, entrepreneurial ingenuity and compassionate nature, has enhanced the local and regional community. An accomplished author, Mr. Kilmer-Purcell explores universal themes of love, loyalty, emotional honesty, and the pursuit of dreams with his story-telling prowess. Together, both gentleman have funded philanthropic ventures in rural New York State through their successful business ventures, including the “Mortgage Lifter” program – supporting creative projects designed by local farmers to enhance farming operations.


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