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Cecelia Marie Gearon Roland was known to most as Rusty, but to her family she was known as nurturing, engaging, on-the-go, and always being there when you needed her the most. She graduated from Syracuse University, the first of her family to attend college and the only one to graduate. She met my dad at Syracuse.
While raising, feeding, and taxiing six children around town, she pursued a career in communications, consumer protection, and legislative advocacy until her retirement as Associate Director of Government Affairs for Cornell University. Being the Principal Lobbyist for the NY State Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Human Ecology, Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell Cooporative Extension, and the The Cornell New York Medical Hospital, Rusty thrived in the fast paced world of politics and legislation. My mom was one of the first women nationally registered to lobby for a major educational institution. She championed several landmark victories for Cornell while always knowing what mattered most—her family.
Growing up, it was an all too familiar experience to be stopped in the grocery store while shoppers asked a variety of questions on unit pricing, warrantees, and other such stuff! You see, for ten years, she was the face of Cornell Cooperative Extension in the Capitol District of New York, producing and hosting several weekly consumer education television programs on the CBC affiliate WRGB TV-6.
As her children grew up, she was drafted to the big leagues—serving as co-chair of the NYS Home Ecomonics Association where she created a national initiative: Home Economists Make Policy, Not Coffee. As a loaned executive from Cornell to the NYS Governor's Office, she served as deputy commissioner and acting commissioner for consumer protection and is credited for conceptualizing, programming, and advocating for the role of consumer protection in public policy formation.
Rusty never retired—she refocused. Between traveling around the country to visit her children and our families, she was appointed to the Dean's Advisory Council of the NYS College of Agriculture at Cornell and found time to volunteer at the local library and the Fennimore Cooper Museum in Cooperstown, always looking to make a difference, make things better, and ensure that her children were loved, healthy, and contributing members of our communities.
I am so pleased to share her story and honor my mom with a rose in the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame Rose Garden.