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Former Gov. Paterson is Paul Smith's College graduation speaker

April 19, 2011
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

PAUL SMITHS - Former Gov. David Paterson will deliver the commencement address at Paul Smith's College at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 15.

Paterson is close with one of the college's alumni, which is how the contact was made, college spokesman Ken Aaron said.

"Gov. Paterson has been overcoming obstacles for his entire life - from his childhood all the way to his tenure as governor, when he was thrust into the highest office in one of the nation's largest states at the onset of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," college President John Mills said in a prepared statement. "I know our graduates will benefit from hearing somebody with such a rich life story."

Article Photos

Gov. David Paterson speaks in Lake Placid in July 2010.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)

"I am honored to address the graduates of Paul Smith's College this spring," Paterson said in a prepared statement. "The Adirondacks are a special place, and it is a pleasure to return."

Paterson is the best known commencement speaker the college has had since then-Sen. Hilary Clinton addressed graduates in 2005, but Aaron said college officials are happier about hearing what Paterson has to say to this year's senior class than who he is, "although we're very happy with who he is as well."

Paterson was New York's 55th governor, and its only one who was either African-American or blind. He became lieutenant governor in 2007 under Gov. Eliot Spitzer and inherited the state's top job in 2008 when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal. Paterson served until the end of 2010; he had planned an election campaign but then dropped it in February 2010.

As governor, Paterson was a forceful advocate to balance the state budget, and amid a legislative standoff last year he pioneered a new way of passing the budget piecemeal through extender bills that keep state government from shutting down. He also championed reforms of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which were passed during his term. He also was a strong backer of same-sex marriage and employment rights for domestic workers.

He visited the Adirondacks at least twice during his relatively brief term as governor. He went rafting on the Hudson River in August 2010, and he was in Lake Placid in July 2010 for a ceremony adding the Olympic bobsled track to the National Register of Historic Places and also to sign a law named for Lake Placid native and Olympic double gold medalist Jack Shea, closing a legal loophole for driving while intoxicated. (Shea was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who could not be convicted.)

Paterson was first elected to public office in 1985 at the age of 31, when he became a state senator representing Harlem. He was the youngest senator in Albany at the time and ultimately became Senate minority leader. Before that he had earned a bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University and a law degree from Hofstra Law School.

Paterson is deeply involved with issues affecting the visually and physically impaired. He is a member of the National Federation of the Blind and serves on the board of the Achilles Track Club, an organization that helps people with disabilities participate in mainstream athletics.

He has also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee and as a chairman of the Coalition of Northeast Governors.

Since he left the governor's office, Paterson has been guest lecturing at New York University as well as making guest appearances on sports and talk radio shows.

It is the 64th commencement at Paul Smith's; the college's first class graduated in 1948.


Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 25 or



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