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Syracuse legend, local manufacturing officials speak to students about career opportunities during Herkimer BOCES event

Dec. 19, 2019



Syracuse legend and former NBA player John Wallace speaks to students at Herkimer BOCES event


Former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace gives the keynote speech to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.





HERKIMER – Former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace recently spoke to students at a Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers event and recalled the determination and diligence he applied to each step of his career.

“You’ve just got to bring your hardhat and your lunch pail,” Wallace said. “That’s the upstate New York mentality anyway.”

Wallace was the keynote speaker at the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers program’s Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. He spoke about his life path, the changes and challenges, his will to succeed and the opportunities at Gehring-Tricot Corp., a company in Dolgeville that has sponsored a free youth basketball clinic in Dolgeville for the past four summers that Wallace oversees.

Wallace offered words of advice about creating positive interactions with everyone he meets – from the New York Knicks to people he encounters throughout an ordinary day.

“I treated people the way I wanted to be treated,” he said. “I treated people with dignity and respect at all times.”

Each year, Herkimer BOCES School to Careers focuses on specific career clusters for the Spring and Fall Career Inspirational Experiences, and this fall, it focused on manufacturing careers. Groups of students from Owen D. Young and the Herkimer BOCES Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School attended the forum.

In addition to Wallace’s keynote speech, there were breakout and closing discussions with other guest speakers:

  • Gary Farquhar Jr., vice president of manufacturing at Gehring-Tricot Corp., who was joined by Wallace and Kayla Morrill, human resources manager at Gehring-Tricot Corp.

  • Mark Cushman, vice president of engineering at Fiber Instrument Sales, an affiliate of Giotto Enterprises in Oriskany.

  • Cory Albrecht, director of Mohawk Valley Community College’s Advanced Institute for Manufacturing, who was joined by James Willey, MVCC coordinator of workforce development – SUNY Apprenticeship Program.

MaryBeth Napolitano, School to Careers liaison and work-based learning coordinator, spoke to students to open the event.

“Career days are meant to be inspirational, but they’re also meant for awareness,” she said.

Rebecca Roberts, School to Careers school counselor, encouraged students to listen closely to the guest speakers.

“We hope you really take the time to think about these career fields,” she said, before introducing Wallace. “The wonderful thing about John is that he is committed to our community and to you, as students.”

Keynote speech

Wallace told students about a pivotal moment in his life, when he was a youth who was involved with stealing cars.

“When you don’t have money in your pocket, it creates a level of stress that makes you go out of character,” he said.

In one instance, he decided to get out of a stolen car he and his friends were in, and a short time later, his friends were arrested. If not for that decision, his whole life would have been different, he said.

Wallace, who had previously been primarily a fan of football and boxing, got involved with basketball at age 13 and was hooked. He began playing up to 10 hours of basketball a day and eventually became one of the best players in the country by the time he graduated from high school. He was the New York state high school player of the year his senior year at Greece-Athena High School and led his team to an unbeaten record and the state championship.

He attended Syracuse University, leading them to the 1996 Final Four and national championship game. That same year, he was selected as the 18th pick in the NBA draft by the New York Knicks. He played seven years in the NBA, including two stints with the Knicks and time with the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat. He also played professionally for two years overseas.

Wallace said his level of focus on basketball and academics increased each year, particularly after his son was born during his freshman year at college.

“You go to college to get a job,” he said, adding that it can be the best four years of your life and that those students who want to go to college, should do so. “If that’s what you really want to do, I encourage you.”

Wallace recommended that if college is on the horizon, then a summer job is the means to help with that goal. He utilized the savings from his summer jobs to buy a car. One summer job option, he suggested, is at Gehring-Tricot Corp.

Wallace also noted that college isn’t for everyone and that great companies like Gehring-Tricot Corporation offer many job opportunities for people that want to work. He met the Gehring-Tricot officials about ten years ago and began to work with them a few years ago.

“We have an opportunity for anybody in the room,” he said, of Gehring Tricot. “We’re just trying to get people who want to work for a great company.”

Breakout sessions

Wallace joined Farquhar and Morrill for the Gehring-Tricot Corp. breakout session. Farquhar explained how the company designs and manufacturers knit and woven fabrics for a wide variety of industries. He provided examples of making all of Nike’s college and NFL jerseys and designing special gloves and tents for the military.

“There are many different ways to manufacture fabric,” Farquhar said.

There are a variety of career opportunities at Gehring-Tricot Corp. such as engineering, color dying, accounting, sales and customer service, Farquhar said.

In Cushman’s breakout session, he offered students a variety of advice – including an early emphasis on the importance of focusing on academics related to growing career fields.

“Study your math, study your science, study your technology,” he said.

Cushman spoke to students about how fiber optics uses glass as thin as one-ninth the diameter of a piece of human hair and light being sent through the glass to transmit information. The small piece of glass serves as an analogy for any students doubting themselves, he said.

“You may think you are insignificant. You may see yourself as that piece of hair, that piece of glass,” he said. “Guess what? You are very, very important.”

Albrecht and Willey highlighted during their breakout session some of the many examples of interesting products made in Herkimer County that are used all over the country, the world and in outer space.

Albrecht told students about the vast number of manufacturing companies and jobs in New York state and how the salaries are very competitive.

“The landscape of Herkimer County and New York state manufacturing is not the same as when I was your age,” he said. “These manufacturers are willing to pay a premium for you to come and work for them.”

Following the event, Napolitano and Roberts of the School to Careers division at Herkimer BOCES said they believe that Wallace and the other guest speakers provided the inspiration and information that all students need in order to make their best decisions and choices in regard to their careers and life path. They said the guest speakers conveyed messages that showed they agreed on several pivotal points – that it takes positive energy, a good attitude, willingness to work, a desire to follow your passion, consistency and determination to create the life and job experience that you want.



Students looking on as John Wallace speaks in front of the room


Former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace gives the keynote speech to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




A closeup of John Wallace as he speaks to students


Former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace gives the keynote speech to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Another closeup on John Wallace talking at a Herkimer BOCES event


Former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace gives the keynote speech to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Six guest speakers pose for a photo together at Herkimer BOCES


Guest speakers at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience pose for a picture on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. From left: Mark Cushman, vice president of engineering at Fiber Instrument Sales; Cory Albrecht, director of Mohawk Valley Community College’s Advanced Institute for Manufacturing; James Willey, MVCC coordinator of workforce development – SUNY Apprenticeship Program; Gary Farquhar Jr., vice president of manufacturing at Gehring-Tricot Corp.; John Wallace, former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star, and Kayla Morrill, human resources manager at Gehring-Tricot Corp.




John Wallace, Gary Farquar and Kayla Morrill speak to students


Gary Farquhar Jr., vice president of manufacturing at Gehring-Tricot Corp., speaks to students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. Standing, from left: former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace, Farquhar and Gehring-Tricot Corp. human resources manager Kayla Morrill.




Students look on to presentation by John Wallace, Gary Farquar and Kayla Morrill


Gary Farquhar Jr., vice president of manufacturing at Gehring-Tricot Corp., speaks to students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. Standing, from left: former NBA and Syracuse Orange basketball star John Wallace, Farquhar and Gehring-Tricot Corp. human resources manager Kayla Morrill.




A closeup of Mark Cushman speaking to students


Mark Cushman, vice president of engineering at Fiber Instrument Sales, speaks to local students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Students look on to presentation by Mark Cushman


Mark Cushman, vice president of engineering at Fiber Instrument Sales, speaks to local students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




A closeup of Cory Albrecht speaking to students


Cory Albrecht, director of Mohawk Valley Community College’s Advanced Institute for Manufacturing, speaks to local students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Students look on to presentation by Cory Albrecht


Cory Albrecht, director of Mohawk Valley Community College’s Advanced Institute for Manufacturing, speaks to local students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




James Willey speaking to students


James Willey, Mohawk Valley Community College coordinator of workforce development – SUNY Apprenticeship Program, speaks to local students during a breakout session at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Students look on as Mary Beth Napolitano speaks at School to Careers event


Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers liaison and work-based learning coordinator MaryBeth Napolitano speaks to local students during the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.