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Make the Most of Every Opportunity

Two First-Generation Alums Share Wisdom Spanning 35 Years.

by Genny Alexander

Over the years, Keene State has grown and changed. From Keene Normal School to Keene Teachers College to Keene State College, the institution has educated thousands of students from across New Hampshire, New England, the United States, and the world. The campus has expanded from the original building surrounding the quad to today's sprawling campus.

One thing that has stayed the same, however, is the institution's commitment to educating first-generation students. Patrick F. McDermott '76 and Jade C. Halsey '11 are both Keene State alumni who were first-generation students during their respective times at KSC.

Patrick F. McDermott '76

From an early age, the necessity of receiving a college education was instilled in Pat McDermott. Pat grew up in Peterborough and spent a lot of time in Keene during his youth. Both his parents were insistent that he attend college because they wanted their son (an only child) to have a better life than they had. Pat came to Keene State because of its excellent mathematics department and because he felt comfortable on the KSC campus.

Similarly, Jade Halsey came to Keene State College so she, too, could continue her education and get a good job. Jade spent the summer before her senior year in high school at the Upward Bound program at UNH–Durham, and the program changed her life. Before attending, she wasn't sure if she wanted to go to a New Hampshire college, but after the summer program and some encouragement from her high school trigonometry teacher, she visited Keene State and loved it.

Jade Halsey

Jade's college "a-ha!" moment came one day during her high school job at McDonald's. She realized that if she didn't go to college she might be working there for the rest of her life. So, in order to do what she wanted to do, a college degree was a must.

For Jade and Pat, coming to Keene State made them leave their comfort zones, but they both loved the college once they arrived. For Pat, that was orientation the summer before he started at KSC. He had felt very comfortable in high school but was apprehensive about going to college. However, during his two-days/one-night orientation program, he totally changed his mind. Pat still remembers all the wonderful people he met during those first days on campus.

When Jade came to Keene State, she had very few expectations. She did, however, love that the campus was so small and that she was able to quickly meet new people and become involved in areas that interested her.

Both are quick to say that college is what you make of it. Take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you and don't just sit in your room waiting for someone else to make things happen. Both agree that college is the best four years of your life and that it will go by very quickly.

Pat got the most out of his college experience by taking a wide range of classes. Although a mathematics major, he took an introduction to music course and had the opportunity to visit the Boston Symphony; and an introduction to art class took him to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He encourages students to travel abroad as well. Jade strongly urges students to become something bigger than themselves. For her, that meant becoming part of an undergraduate research team that had a huge impact on her life.

Since graduation, both have followed successful career paths. Pat McDermott graduated from Keene State in May 1976 and went to work for Public Service of New Hampshire in July of the same year. This past summer, he celebrated his 35th anniversary with the company and currently serves as manager of Economic and Community Development.

Jade Halsey graduated last May. Her mentor at KSC, Dr. Susan Whittemore, connected Jade to a woman who worked at New England Peptide. Jade now works there as an analysis technician. Jade strongly believes that networking is the most important thing when conducting a job search.

Jade and Pat made the most of their college experiences and made their families proud by being the first ones to graduate with a college degree. And while they have both moved on to successful careers, Keene State College still holds a special place in their past.

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