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Commencement Speaker

Samuel Rowser
Executive Director of On Point for College

Samuel Rowser

Samuel Rowser, a lifelong resident of Syracuse, NY, has spent nearly 30 years being a trusted mentor to first-generation college students, helping them to start college, earn degrees and gain employment; supporting them every step of the journey.

On Point for College, a non-profit program that has helped over 7,600 inner-city youth from Syracuse, Utica, and NYC to enroll in and succeed in college.  The students are usually the first person in their family to go to college.  These young adults have had the desire to go to college, but felt that the opportunity was out of their reach for financial reasons. Sam became Executive Director of On Point in September 2016.

He began this journey at On Point for College as Program Associate – the first employee Founder Ginny Donohue was able to hire.  He embodies the mission of On Point for College: We develop the programs and cultivate the relationships to change the lives of traditional and non-traditional, 17-29 year old students by breaking down barriers through access to training, college and career for success in life.  We work with students from application to graduation and beyond.  “We don't go into our work saying these are the things we can't do for our students, this is where the line stops. We look at it as, how do we say yes to a student?"

Helping underserved youth earn college degrees has become Sam’s life’s work. From 3 a.m. trips to New York City to transport students to and from college, to advocacy on behalf of students, to a phone that is answered 19 hours per day, seven days a week, Sam’s tireless work has changed the lives of thousands of students who never thought college was a possibility.

"You have to educate yourself," he said. "That's what I loved most about college."  Sam has an A.S. in Business Administration from Onondaga Community College, B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Minor in Psychology, and a Master in Business Administration from Columbia College. 

He was formerly an Admissions Counselor with Onondaga Community College for twelve years and a Career Development Specialist at Southwest Community Center before joining the On Point for College staff. His experience at OCC was a perfect fit for On Point.

Sam provides public presentations to inform audiences (parents, urban youth and policy makers) about college enrollment and retention.  Sam was instrumental in the training of our New York City partners and the replication of On Point for College in the city of Utica.

Sam Rowser was one of the few invited to shake President Barack Obama's hand at his 2013 talk about college affordability at Syracuse's Henninger High School.  To Sam, the handshake was the ultimate recognition for the work he has done to get thousands into college.

Sam is a veteran, who has served with the Marine Corp, and a remarkable husband and amazing father of seven.

Other honors include:

  • Mohawk Valley Frontiers – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Outstanding Community Service (2017)
  • Cuse Connection Outstanding Community Service Award (2016)
  • NAACP Community Service Award (2014)
  • Alliance Network Outstanding Commitment to Education (2013)
  • National College Access Network (NCAN) – The Dr. David B. Swedlow Memorial College Access Staff Member Award of Excellence (2011)
  • Southside Christmas Tree Lighting Community Service Award (2011)
  • Rotary Club – Ken Bodley Exemplary Services in the Syracuse Community Award (2009-2010)
  • Greater Syracuse Youth Alliance Youth Engagement Award (2010)
  • Interfaith Works Coalition – “Racial Justice Award” (2008)
  • Onondaga County Department of Aging and Youth – “Professional Youth Worker of the Year” (2007)