April 24, 2010
College graduates fuel Rochester's fame
By JIM MEMMOTT
Inspired by the theme of Living Here, the Democrat and Chronicle's just-published annual guide, I wrote last week of Rochester as a kind of incubator of greatness.
Grow up here and you might find yourself acting with School of the Arts graduate Taye Diggs, starring on Saturday Night Live with Brighton High graduate Kristen Wiig or running 965 marathons like East High graduate Norm Frank.
I wasn't suggesting that Rochester is unique; I hear that some New York City residents have done good things, as well. But Rochester and Rochesterians do seem productive.
Perhaps it's character-building cold weather. Perhaps it's the excessive consumption of garbage plates. Perhaps, too, it's the college connection.
For decades, Rochester defined itself as a manufacturing town, and it still is, though on a smaller scale. But, for sure, it's a higher education center, one that produces thousands of graduates a year.
People learn all sorts of things here and go out into the world and make news.
Robert Khuzami, a 1979 University of Rochester graduate who grew up in Henrietta, was all over the media last week.
As the head of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, he led the team that filed charges against Goldman Sachs Group, accusing the investment bank of fraud.
Luke Adams, a 2008 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf, appeared on “The Amazing Race” last year, teaming up with his mother.
According to an RIT press release, Adams looked at several colleges before deciding to come here. "I wanted to go to a mainstreamed school, get a good education, and I wanted to be exposed to both deaf and hearing people," he said. "RIT was perfect."
The list of prominent area college graduates would be even longer if Rochester hadn't lost at least one entire college.
What is now Staten Island's Wagner College was founded in Rochester in 1883 as the Lutheran Proseminary.
It operated out of two homes in its first three years until Rochester builder John George Wagner donated the money that the college used to start its own campus on Oregon Street near downtown. In 1886, the school was renamed in honor of Wagner, and in 1918 it moved to Staten Island, where it now has more than 2,000 students.
Wagner's notable alumni include Andrew Bailey of the Oakland Athletics, the 2009 American League rookie of the year. Given his college's connection to Rochester, a case could be made that Bailey is a Rochesterian once removed, though he may not be aware that he is.
Whatever, we've already got a wealth of graduates with more about to be produced. After all, we're a college town.
Rochester newspaper columnist recalls Wagner’s founding thereMay 6, 2010