SUNY Honors Student Achievement in the Arts

September 7, 2012

Empire State College, Stony Brook University Students Receive Awards

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today announced that Empire State College Student James Suits has been awarded the 2012 Thayer Fellowship and Stony Brook University Student Mario Gotoh has earned the Patricia Kerr Ross Award. Both awards recognize exemplary student achievement in the arts.

“The Thayer Fellowship and Patricia K. Ross Award allow SUNY to honor some of our most creative arts students and provide them with financial assistance to support their ongoing work,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “Congratulations to both of these talented SUNY students for winning such prestigious and competitive awards.”

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. Additionally, a $1,000 Patricia Kerr Ross Award recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence, originality, and promise in the arts. Both awards are intended as a bridge between SUNY study in the arts and entry into a professional career in the arts.

Suits, a student of fine arts at ESC and a Syracuse, NY, native, was nominated by his primary advisor Alan Stankiewicz, and supporting material was submitted by Yvonne Murphy associate professor of arts at the college. 

“As his mentor for the past two years I have worked closely with James, both in constructing his degree plan and in working with him on several studies in the arts and photography,” said Suits’ ESC advisor, Alan Stankiewicz. “James Suits photography is an extension of his every day. Receiving the Thayer Fellowship will allow him to move substantially forward with several of his current projects. The work he has done through SUNY Empire State College, Central New York Center informs his images, and we as a Center celebrate his work.”

Gotoh received a dual degree in Doctor of Musical Arts and Violin and Viola Performance from Stony Brook University in May of 2012. She was nominated for the award by Nicholas Cords, viola artist-in-residence at SBU; and Philip Setzer, professor of violin and chamber music at the university and a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet.

“It is very unusual to work with a student who does many different things in music and does all of them equally and very well,” said Setzer. “Mario Gotoh is just such a musician. She is an excellent violinist and violist, strong and exciting soloist, intelligent and sensitive chamber musician and an excellent teacher and citizen of the university. She is most deserving of this prestigious award.”

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, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2017, more than 430,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served nearly 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2016-17 academic year. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in $1 billion of externally sponsored activity each year. There are 3 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 opportunity, visit

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