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SUNY Plattsburgh Honors Two with Distinguished Service Awards

SUNY Plattsburgh will honor Dr. Richard Semmler, a noted philanthropist and a 1968 graduate of the college, as well as Dr. David Mowry, the long-time director of the college’s honors program, during its commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. May 21 at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House.

The two men will receive one of the college’s highest tributes: the Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented by the College Council to honor individuals who have made lasting contributions to the university and the local, state, national and/or international community.

Dr. Richard Semmler

Semmler’s philanthropy efforts have landed him on the pages of the Washington Post, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, U.S.A. Today and other publications. This is, in large part, because the associate professor of math at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., has a track record of donating more than half his annual salary to the causes in which he believes. So far, over the course of his lifetime, he’s given more than $1.2 million to charity.

To make such donations possible, he has forgone luxuries like seeing a movie or going on vacation. He lives without a home phone and buys used cars, furniture and clothing.

In fact, he works extra jobs so that he can raise more money for charities, and then he serves on their boards and volunteers out in the field. For 12 years, he’s been making meals for the homeless at a local shelter, and he has helped build 70 Habitat for Humanity homes for 70 families over the last 15 years.

When it comes to SUNY Plattsburgh, he has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of athletics, the Cardinal Sports Hall of Fame and the Plattsburgh Fund. He has created two endowments and even helped to create a culture of giving through a Community Service Scholarship that provides money for students who are volunteering in the community.

During the 1989 SUNY Plattsburgh centennial celebration, Semmler was awarded the college’s Once-in-a-Century Award. In 1996, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award and was given a spot on the State University of New York’s Alumni Honor Roll.

He started to make a name for himself even before he graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh, however. In 1968, he became the first Plattsburgh student to win a Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete Award. An active member of both the college’s track and field and cross country teams, he was also its first athlete to win Most Valuable Player awards for two sports in one year and was inducted into the Cardinal Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.

Dr. David Mowry

Mowry, who helped spearhead the creation of the college’s honors program, has been at its helm ever since the program began offering seminars in the fall of 1984.

Now, 27 years later, the 69-year-old SUNY distinguished teaching professor of philosophy and honors program director still looks at his job as the best on campus.

“For me, it has, without question, turned out to be a profound career, far beyond any expectations I had,” Mowry said as the program reached its silver anniversary. “I get to work with the best faculty and our best students in a setting that’s challenging and creative. It’s what the honors program was created for and turned out to be.”

Mowry is a product of a SUNY education, having earned his bachelor’s in philosophy from SUNY Oswego in 1966. His master’s, in 1969, and doctorate, in 1974, both come from Boston University. He joined the philosophy faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh as an instructor in 1971. In 1974, he was promoted to assistant professor and, in 1980, was named associate professor. Ten years later, he received the rank of full professor.

In addition to holding the position of director of the honors program and chair of the Honors Council, Mowry has held the positions of chair of the philosophy department; acting assistant vice president for academic affairs; coordinator of the presidential scholarship program and chair of its selection committee; and adviser to Phi Eta Sigma, the national freshman honor society.

Mowry received the SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Association Impact Award and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. In May 2001, he was named a SUNY distinguished teaching professor of philosophy.

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