"How far will you go?" the Rev. Dr. Floyd R. Blair SNR'97 asked the School of New Resources students gathered for their inaugural Honors Convocation at the Wellness Center.
"What are you willing to do to make sure that someday you're the person speaking up here, to another group of people, to inspire them to be better than they are today?" said Blair, who has come a long way from a childhood in foster care, in poverty, growing up in the projects and on the streets of Brooklyn.
He is now president and CEO of Lutheran Services of Georgia, a nonprofit that runs more than 20 programs to help people in need. Before that, the attorney and ordained minister served as a congressional aide, a senior advisor to President George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives, and in the administrations of the governors of Maryland and Connecticut.
It's a journey that began at The College of New Rochelle, which honored 380 SNR students for their academic achievements.
President Judith Huntington spoke of her pride in the day's honorees. "I am so impressed with your strong academic quality, commitment to education, and all that you are putting forth to earn your degree," she said. "Many of you are first in your families to go to college and are working and raising children, and yet you persevere because you recognize that education will transform your lives and that of your family."
The Honors Convocation was the first in the history of the School of New Resources -- "an occasion that is long overdue," Huntington said. "Let me be the first to congratulate you as honor students at The College of New Rochelle - School of New Resources!"
Huntington said she looks forward to reading of their achievements, and perhaps welcoming them back to share their story, like Blair.
"It started right here," said Blair, who first came to the Brooklyn campus on the recommendation of his sister-in-law. "I didn't know at the time that my life was so drastically changed by the impact of that conversation with Elza Dinwiddie-Boyd," who signed him up for classes.
Blair said he's met many people from Harvard, Columbia, and the like who think he attended an Ivy League school as well. "I'd think, yeah, I did -- I went to the prestigious College of New Rochelle!"
"The academic preparation that I received at The College of New Rochelle afforded me the opportunity to go a lot of places," Blair said. "to hold my own with some of the smartest, some of the brightest people in the country, period."
"I'm not going to say my journey has been easy," Blair said, recalling when he would bring his children to law school because he and his wife couldn't afford day care. But he has shown that it can be done, and he urged his audience to always push themselves beyond their perceived limits.
"When I first came to this school, their mission was to help me achieve my dreams," Blair said. "I didn't even know what my dream was -- I didn't know anything about making a social impact." But his success at the School of New Resources inspired him to see what more he could do.
"I am CNR," Blair said in closing. "And when you leave this institution, what I want you to take with you is the fact that you can impact your life, you can impact others, and you can truly leave this institution and change the world."