SUNY Cobleskill Honors Outstanding Alumni

ON HOMECOMING WEEKEND, the SUNY Cobleskill Alumni Association will honor seven alumni whose outstanding professional and personal achievements have brought distinction to themselves as well as to their alma mater. Recipients of the Outstanding Alumni Award, Distinguished Alumni Award and Young Alumni Award will come to campus to speak with students in the week before Homecoming. That weekend, they will receive their awards at the Alumni Awards Cocktail Reception.

Outstanding Alumni: Todd Lighthall ‘93 and Shari Lighthall ’92

Todd graduated from SUNY Cobleskill with an AAS and BT in Agricultural Business Management and now operates the Oswegatchie Educational Center. Shari graduated with an AA in Sciences and currently manages the Cornell Agricultural Outreach and Education program.

The couple met in SUNY Cobleskill’s Outing Club, where they learned that they shared a love for outdoor recreation. After graduating, they continued their education at Cornell University and graduated with master’s degrees in Agricultural Education.

Todd, with Shari’s support and organization, took over full-time management of both Oswegatchie and the New York Future Farmers of America Foundation at age 24. Since then, he has built Oswegatchie from a business with one employee to an organization with four full-time employees and 35 part-time employees in the summer, and has managed the construction of five new major structures at the facility. SUNY Cobleskill students are hired each year as summer staff, and Oswegatchie has provided many internships for students in culinary, environmental education, and more.

After working as an agriculture teacher for a year at Hamilton Central School, Shari was hired to work for the newly formed Cornell Agricultural Outreach and Education (AOE) program, which was formed to support Future Farmers of America and provide professional development opportunities for agriculture teachers. For the last 18 years, AOE has developed and matured under Shari’s leadership. Each spring, she organizes the premier professional development conference for agriculture teachers in the Northeast, for which she often hires a SUNY Cobleskill student as an intern.

Shari oversees the Living To Serve grant for New York, providing students the opportunity to begin or expand a supervised work experience. She also serves on a national committee to recruit and prepare more agriculture teachers to address the critical deficit in the state and across the country.

The Outstanding Alumni award recognizes remarkable professional achievement, community involvement, and service to SUNY Cobleskill.

Distinguished Alumni: Matthew Fagnani ’76 and Kyle Tuttle ‘84

Matthew earned an AAS in Agricultural Engineering, Power & Machinery from SUNY Cobleskill. After graduating, he rose quickly in the ranks at Sperry New Holland before moving back to Schoharie County and taking a position as Territory Service Manager for Kubota Tractor Corporation.

As a field test analyst at Sperry New Holland, Matthew applied the skills and knowledge learned at SUNY Cobleskill to evaluate prototype farm implements throughout the United States and Europe. He was promoted to Senior Test Analyst in the Construction Division, where he managed New Holland’s back-hoe testing program in the U.S. Throughout his career at New Holland, he gave back to SUNY Cobleskill by donating construction equipment to the School of Agriculture.

He moved back to Schoharie County in 2001 and began his career with Kubota Tractor Corporation, where he provides technical support to 64 dealers across Eastern New York and New Jersey as Territory Service Manager. He also teaches at the company’s Technical Service School and serves as company liaison to SUNY Cobleskill. In the community, he donates his time to 4-H, Appalachian Service Project, and the Schoharie Reformed Church, among other causes and organizations.

Kyle Tuttle holds an AAS in Business Administration from SUNY Cobleskill. Today he is a Senior Vice President for LP Ciminelli, the construction firm that built the College’s new Alumni Commons residential complex.

Kyle fondly recalls his time on the golf team as well as the close friends and challenging and supportive professors he met at SUNY Cobleskill. After graduating, he earned dual degrees in Business Management and Marketing at Appalachian State University.

Thirty years later, Kyle is giving back to SUNY Cobleskill with a planned gift to set up a scholarship for business students. “It’s the time to really think about and look back upon the things that you are passionate about, that helped make you successful,” he said. “SUNY Cobleskill is one of those things.”

Kyle is active in a variety of community organizations, including the Schuyler Hospital Board of Trustees, the Cayuga Health System Board of Trustees, the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, and the Schuyler County United Way Campaign.

The Distinguished Alumni award recognizes outstanding professional achievement, expertise in a field of study, community involvement and engagement with SUNY Cobleskill. The awardee must have graduated at least 10 years ago.

Young Alumni Achievement Award: Earl Morrison ’05 and Carolyn Barkley Morrison ‘05

Earl and Carolyn both hold degrees in Agricultural Business and Agricultural Business Management from SUNY Cobleskill. Carolyn now manages Morrison’s Feed Bag, a family-owned and operated pet, farm and garden supply center, and Earl serves as vice-president of Morrison’s Custom Feeds in Vermont.

Earl grew up in the family business, Morrison’s Custom Feeds, with a particular interest in machinery and feed manufacturing. He joined the company full-time in 2005 after graduating from SUNY Cobleskill and now manages the feed mill, working closely with farmers across Vermont.

Carolyn moved to Vermont after graduation to start a career in dairy nutrition and grow a herd of meat goats. She joined Morrison’s Feed Bag as business manager when it opened in 2007, and married Earl a year later. The couple continues to give back to SUNY Cobleskill through annual donations to the College Foundation.

The Young Alumni Achievement award recognizes outstanding professional achievement, leadership, community involvement and engagement with SUNY Cobleskill. The awardee must have graduated within the past 10 years.

Outstanding Student Award: Easton Murray ‘17

Easton Murray is pursuing her bachelor degree in Agricultural Equipment Technology at SUNY Cobleskill. She is active in the Collegiate Farm Bureau and Agricultural Engineering Club, among other things, as well as playing softball and serving as student ambassador.

Easton has received numerous accolades in her time at SUNY Cobleskill, including the Paul H. Scholten Memorial Scholarship, Future Farmers of America Empire Degree, and District Star Award. She has served as President of the Future Farmers of America chapter, SUNY Cobleskill Student Ambassador, teacher’s assistant and member of several College clubs. She also plays on the SUNY Cobleskill Fighting Tiger’s Softball team and is a tutor for the Agricultural Engineering Department.

The Outstanding Student Award goes to a student who shows initiative in academic and campus achievements, has had a positive effect on the College, and has a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Honorary Alumnus: Richard Ball, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets

This year’s Honorary Alumnus, named by the Alumni Awards Committee, is New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball. For the past 20 years, Ball has owned and operated Schoharie Valley Farms and the Carrot Barn while serving on a number of agricultural and community boards and organizations both locally and at the state level.

Ball, a New York native, began his career in agriculture at a vegetable farm in Rhode Island at age 18. Twenty years later, he moved back to New York to own and operate Schoharie Valley Farms, which includes 200 acres and produces a wide variety of vegetables, small fruit, and greenhouse crops.

He was appointed Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2014.