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Peter G. Gerney ’83: The Gift of Scholarship and Hoops | SUNY Plattsburgh

Knowing what’s important in life is half the battle. For Peter G. Gerney ’83 and his wife, Amy, family and education top the list.

The Gerneys have been longtime supporters of the college, and with the last of their six children just about to finish college, the Pennsylvania couple are now in the position to increase their support to SUNY Plattsburgh. So right before the holidays they decided to make two gifts—one to honor Peter’s parents and the other to recognize the men’s basketball team.

The decision to make these gifts was spurred back in November, when Peter, Amy, and their 21-year-old son, Greg, attended a Cardinals tip-off basketball tournament at Lycoming College near their home. Before the game, Peter, who played for the team after being recruited by Norm Law back in the late ’70s, and Amy hosted a team dinner at a local restaurant. Greg, who has Down syndrome, was invited by the ballplayers to eat with the team. It made his night.

“Our family is centered around Greg,” Peter said with a smile. “We were very impressed with Coach Curle and the team. They are a positive, great group of young men who embraced our son. They were kind and gracious and Greg still has the picture of himself with the team on his phone.”

Gift to Basketball

The Gerneys decided to make an unrestricted gift of $2,500 to the men’s basketball team to be used as needed.

“Peter has followed the team from a distance, but after seeing us play and meeting the young people we have in the program, he increased his role and his support,” said Head Basketball Coach Tom Curle. “We are grateful.”

Curle says the extra funds will allow the team to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily get to do—like taking a trip or buying Plattsburgh travel gear—the extras that make the players feel special. The funds go directly to players. “Maybe next year we can go to another tournament. When the team went to Florida last year, one player had never been south of Albany, never waded in the ocean. It’s people like the Gerneys who truly enhance the Plattsburgh experience for our students.”

“When we saw the team play and how they handled themselves—the Cardinals played good hard basketball that night—they had class, dignity. It made me proud that I graduated from Plattsburgh.”

“Now that I’m in a position to give something back, I think it’s only right. I received scholarship money when I attended Plattsburgh, as did my brother, Stephen, who is a 1984 alum. Our parents have six children, and five of us graduated from SUNY schools. They have always believed, and instilled in us, the power of a broad-based liberal arts education.” Gerney’s father, Albert, 89, still takes a class every semester at the local community college.

Honoring Parents

To recognize and honor his parents for instilling in him the value of lifelong learning, the Gerneys gave $25,000 to the Plattsburgh College Foundation as a Christmas present to his parents to establish the Albert J. and Margaret A. Gerney Scholarship Endowment for deserving students. They plan to add to the endowment in 2015 so that the first $2,500 scholarship can be awarded to a student in the fall.

“It is a meaningful way to honor our parents,” Gerney said. “A lot of people need financial help to attend school, so it’s only right to help the next generation get the same quality education we received. We are fortunate to be in the position to help.”

According to Gerney, his parents were surprised and appreciative of the gift in their names. The scholarship will be targeted for liberal arts students. “We are big believers that you need those general education requirements to be a well-rounded person. For example, it’s one thing to be an accountant, but to be a highly successful accountant it is certainly helpful to know something about the arts, history, science.

“When I look back on my education, I enjoyed the classes in my geography major, but I also really liked some of the classes I was ‘forced’ to take. My history courses with Dr. Skopp and the literature courses with Dr. Shout made an impact on me that I still feel.

“In business, you never know what topic may come up in a meeting or luncheon, so having a well-rounded education helps to prepare you for a wide array of possible subjects,” Gerney said. He remains grateful to Coach Law for recruiting and introducing him to Plattsburgh.

“Plattsburgh helped me get to where I am today – both in being able to support my family as well as in owning a business. It was an excellent education that has served me well in many ways. Through my parents as well as Plattsburgh, I have an appreciation for lifelong learning. If you stop learning, you’re done. Never stop learning.”

The Plattsburgh College Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that receives and distributes charitable gifts to support SUNY Plattsburgh students and programs.

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