Geneseo faculty and staff making a difference — past and present
By Carol Marcy
“Most successful people remember the one teacher in their lives who turned on the light for them and made them believe they could be all they wanted to be,” says Jim Sheehan ’71, a law professor and author of best-selling legal thrillers.
For Sheehan, that one teacher was Randy Bailey, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History.
Sheehan says he was on his way to flunking out of Geneseo until he took one of Bailey’s classes.
“During that semester, Randy took a personal interest in me. I think it was based on a paper that I wrote,” remembers Sheehan. “From that point forward and throughout my college career, he helped me believe I had the intellect to succeed and he challenged me to do so. He was the first person to tell me I had talent as a writer. I will never forget those words. And almost 50 years later, I am trying to mentor my students the same way Randy mentored me.”
Throughout SUNY Geneseo’s history, professors and staff have taught, challenged, mentored and inspired students in and beyond academics.
On the college’s 150th anniversary, we share alumni reflections from all eras about the Geneseo faculty and staff members who made a difference. All alumni are invited to submit their thoughts, which will be highlighted online.
Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies Coordinator
(Faculty since 1998)
“I wish I had taken more classes taught by Professor Aagesen. He helped me realize that life isn’t a straight line, it meanders, and you should embrace that. I learned from him to cherish every day, celebrate the small moments in life, and always choose to embark on an adventure. Thank you, professor — you won’t remember me, but you changed my life for the better.”
— Amanda Thompson ’15
Paralegal, O’Shea, Marcincuk & Bruyn, LLP, Southampton, N.Y.
Professor of Biology
(Faculty since 1992)
“I took an aquatic community ecology course with him one summer that changed my life. I later took an invertebrate biology course with him that was fascinating — and I had never had any interest in invertebrates prior to that. He’s a great teacher and really enjoys being a biologist and professor. I ended up getting a master’s degree in biology and becoming a wildlife biologist studying sea turtles for years. I am now a biology professor at a community college.”
— Lauren Roberts ’04
Biology Instructor, Maricopa Community College, Phoenix, Ariz.
William “Bill” Cook
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of History
“Humanities was my first introduction to a world outside of Smalltown, USA. Reading the Bible as literature and learning about other religions, cultures and histories grounded me as a participant in our world and not merely an observer. It is why I became a teacher and a writer. Dr. Cook took an interest in my work my sophomore year, and I would not be who I am today without his earnest commitment to his work, which modeled for me the kind of thinker and, thus, the person I wanted to be. He is an amazing person, and I appreciate him so much.”
— Jonna Shutowick ’88
History teacher for the Florida Virtual School, Orlando, Fla., and member of the Geneseo Foundation Board of Directors
Director of Residence Life
(Staff since 2012)
“Sarah was a mentor to me and supportive of my goals, especially when she knew I was pursuing a career in student affairs. She pushed me to think about the purpose of the field, and I remember her excitement at my grad school acceptance to the University of Connecticut. I will always be thankful to Sarah for hiring me for my first job as a residence director at Geneseo after I graduated.”
— Nikko Garmendiz ’19
Assistant residence hall director and graduate student at the University of Connecticut, Mansfield.
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of English
“I am sure that I am not the only alum to share that Ron’s kindness, intellectual rigor and penchant for shoeless teaching made an impact on them. I was particularly touched when — after moving to San Francisco post-college and knowing nobody — Ron connected me with his two children who were living in the Bay Area. He remained a touchpoint for me in those few difficult years after Geneseo, offering encouragement and connection when I needed it. While his teaching has been given due credit over the years, it is Ron’s humanity that I wish to celebrate.”
— Jessica Blair ’00
Philanthropy officer for The Nature Conservancy, Minneapolis, Minn.
Kenneth F. Kinsey
Professor Emeritus of Physics
(Faculty 1966-1998; died 2013)
“Best physics/astronomy professor memory ever — Dr. Kinsey’s electricity and magnetism class back in the late ’70s with about eight students. One student (who shall remain nameless) skipped the test, which was very noticeable given the small class size. When he showed up at the next class, Dr. Kinsey greeted him with, ‘Mr. …, we missed you at the test.’ The student apologetically stated, ‘Sorry, I overslept because I was up all night thinking about Maxwell’s equations.’ Dr. Kinsey, without missing a beat, loudly responded in a way that only he could, ‘Think of how Maxwell felt.’ Priceless!”
— Jim Forger ’81
Director, product line management, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, N.Y.
Professor of Dance Studies and Artistic Director of the Geneseo Dance Ensemble
(Faculty since 1991)
“Jonette Lancos ran an intensive and tight-knit dance program while I was in school and has created multiple meaningful reunions for dance alums in the years since graduation. She has been the ever-present bedrock of the Geneseo dance studies program.”
— Anne Irwin Tillinghast ’96
Former assistant director for fitness, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
Professor of Psychology
(Faculty since 2000)
“Dr. Lynch’s courses utterly reshaped the way I think about human psychology. His erudition and respect for his field inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in neuroscience and investigate the development of mental illness. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
— Giancarlo Denaroso ’18
Master’s candidate in neuroscience, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.
Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Education
(Faculty 1969-1994; died 2019)
“Dr. Wayne Mahood inspired generations of Geneseo students with his kind, patient, genuinely caring persona. He was a role model, an inspiring professor in the classroom who always made himself accessible to students. He never seemed too busy to have conversations with me, his door was always open, and he never disappointed in providing warmth, understanding and wisdom. Wayne, as I eventually learned to call him over the years, was a good listener and a reliable friend. He kept in touch with so many former students, but he made each one of us feel special. When I think of Geneseo, I think of Wayne Mahood.”
— Rob Sheinkopf ’73
Retired college admissions director, University of Nevada
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita of Mathematics
“Being a woman who enjoyed math was not typical in the late ’80s/early ’90s while I was growing up. Attending a college with a female mathematics professor who excelled in the field was a new experience. Not only was Dr. Nicodemi a wonderful teacher, she made it a point to stress the various fields you could go into with a mathematics degree besides teaching, which was the default profession for female math majors. Although I ultimately chose teaching math as a profession, I strive to emulate her with my own students. I make sure I show them how math is enjoyable, accessible and useful in so many fields. Furthermore, Dr. Nicodemi, although she probably never realized it, was a role model for me in my personal life as well. Anytime there was drama in college, I could always look to her as a calming presence. Dr. Nicodemi simply exuded learning and wisdom. She helped shape who I am as a teacher today.”
— Jenine Feltman Harris ’95
Seventh-grade math teacher, Elwood Middle School, Greenlawn, N.Y.
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of Biology
“I met Dr. O’D when selecting courses prior to freshman year. Even though I came from a small school and a small town, he inspired confidence that I could be successful on the bigger stage and in life even though it required self-discipline, self-motivation and focus. Although he might not remember that interaction, I never forgot it. His inspiration and belief in me throughout my time at Geneseo as a bio major set me on the path for a successful future.”
— Andrew Sayer ’02
Toxicologist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.
Michael Woods ’69
Retired Head Cross-Country Track Coach
(Staff 1992-2015; died 2021)
“He took me under his wing as his student teacher. We went to ‘work’ every morning and then refocused for running in the afternoon for cross-country. I am humbled by his dedication to the success of the holistic student-athlete. I am inspired by his demonstrated enthusiasm for the success of all.”
— Lt. Col. Beth-Anne Canero ’96
U.S. Marine Corps