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Paul Smith’s caps school year with grad today

Paul Smith’s College 2019 graduates process out of the tent where their commencement ceremony was held in May 2019. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Paul Smith’s College will celebrate the graduation of its senior class today.

The outdoor graduation ceremony, which is closed to the public, marks the end of a school year defined in many ways by the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Unlike many other colleges around the state, Paul Smith’s operated in-person with more than 800 people on its campus, including students, faculty and staff. But despite operating in person, the school — which is located in a wooded area, about 10 miles from the closest population center — never reported having a major outbreak of COVID-19. It ended its fall semester with zero students or staff receiving positive COVID-19 test results. The college has had one positive case of COVID-19 during this academic year, according to college Marketing and Communications Director Sarah Wheeler.

Altogether, 148 students are graduating today, according to Wheeler. That includes eight students from the college’s new master’s degree program, 125 bachelor’s degree students — including 14 students who didn’t get the chance to formally graduate last year — and 15 associate’s degree students, including one student who also didn’t have the opportunity to formally graduate last year because of the pandemic.

Craig. E. Weatherup, retired founding chairman and CEO of the Pepsi Bottling Group, will be the keynote speaker during the graduation ceremony today. Weatherup has served on the board of the Adirondack Foundation and has recently spent time assisting with developing a new strategy outlined by the Northern Forest Center that focuses on attracting and retaining young residents in this region, according to a news release from the college.

Weatherup was also the school’s commencement speaker in 1994.

Paul Smith’s College has undergone various changes since the coronavirus pandemic reached New York state. The college said goodbye to its president last fall, Cathy Dove, and welcomed interim president Jon Strauss. A new president is expected to be hired soon.

The college has celebrated some victories. It was named the Eastern Education and Training Center for US Biathlon and christened its new biathlon course and shooting range last year. The college also hired a longtime state forest ranger, Scott van Laer, to lead its Visitor Interpretive Center. One of Paul Smith’s professors, Joseph Henderson, secured a Spencer Foundation grant and alongside North Carolina State University professor K.C. Busch, hosted the first-ever national conference on climate change education this year, the Climate Change Collective.

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