Chancellor Johnson Honors SUNY Student Achievement in the Arts

May 3, 2019

Three Students from Alfred University and Purchase College Receive Thayer Fellowship in the Arts and Patricia Kerr Ross Award

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson today announced that Emma Hildebrandt of New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and Quaba Ernest and Andres Cordoba of Purchase College have been awarded the Thayer Fellowship in the Arts. In addition, Andres Cordoba has earned the Patricia Kerr Ross award. Both honors, totaling $8,000 in awards for students, recognize exemplary achievement in the arts.

Finalists include Kordell Pritchard from SUNY New Paltz in theatre, and Gabrielle Zonneveld from Purchase College in music.

"The arts spur innovative thinking and provide students with different media to share their stories and their interests with others," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. "Emma, Quaba, and Andres have dedicated time and hard work to their crafts, which is reflected in their receiving these esteemed awards. My congratulations to our students, as well as their campuses as they celebrate this achievement."

Each year, a $7,000 Thayer Fellowship is awarded to one student, or shared among several students, who demonstrate outstanding achievement and high professional potential in the arts. The fellowship was split into three categories this year: dance, received by Ernest; visual arts, received by Hildebrandt; and creative writing, received by Cordoba.

Additionally, Cordoba won a $1,000 Patricia Kerr Ross Award that recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence, originality, and promise in the arts.

The awards act as a bridge between SUNY’s art programs and entry into a career in the arts. This year’s winners will graduate as follows:

  • Hildebrant will graduate from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University with a bachelor’s in video and painting.
  • Ernest will graduate from Purchase College with a bachelor’s in dance.
  • Cordoba will graduate from Purchase College with a bachelor’s in creative writing and literature.

The students were judged by James McElwaine, professor of music, Queens College, CUNY, and professor emeritus of music, SUNY Purchase College; Susan Spencer Crowe, fine artist and professor of art, Queens College, CUNY; Rachel Reichman, producer/editor District Pictures, NY; Colleen Ryan, principal at CMR Communications; and Blake Zolfo actor/singer/dancer, NY; and observed by Jennifer Laursen, senior fellow for the Arts and Humanities Policy at Rockefeller Institute of Government.

About the Thayer Fellowship

The Thayer Fellowship was established in 1985-86 by the late Walter N. Thayer, Chairman of Whitney Communications, New York City, in honor of his wife, Jeanne C. Thayer, who was a SUNY trustee from 1974 to 1984 and an active supporter of the arts. The Thayers wanted to assist SUNY's most talented young artists at the most difficult period of time for a young professional, when the struggle to make a living can overwhelm even the most dedicated individual. The fellowship helps the artist take advantage of important opportunities.

About the Patricia Kerr Ross Award

Patricia Kerr Ross dedicated 30 years of service to SUNY, where she began in 1969 as Assistant to the University Dean in the University-wide Program in the Arts. Ross directed the University-wide Programs in the Arts from 1971-91, and over the years, was also a board and committee member, panelist, and speaker for a variety of arts-related organizations in New York State. She was a founding board member of the Gallery Association of New York State in 1973 and the Association of SUNY Arts Presenters in 1982. Following her death in 1999, Ross’ $30,000 bequest created the Patricia Kerr Ross Award to benefit graduates in the arts by enhancing the outreach of the Thayer Fellowship program.

Nearly 100 applications for the awards are received each year. The applications are evaluated by a jury panel of experts in the various arts disciplines. The finalists are then interviewed in person by the jury panel, and their work is reviewed during performances, readings, screenings, and exhibitions. At the end of this process, the jury panel determines the winners.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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