Alfred University News

Alumna, Trustee Cheryl Blanchard ’86 welcomes students at Alfred University Opening Convocation

Dr. Cheryl Blanchard '86, a member of the Alfred University Board of Trustees and a leader in the field of biotechnology, delivered the keynote address at Alfred University's Opening Convocation Friday morning.

ALFRED, NY – As a student at Alfred University, Cheryl Blanchard took advantage of all the opportunities Alfred had to offer. A ceramic engineering major, she immersed herself in her studies, but also found time to take dance classes. She stepped out of her comfort zone and took an electrical engineering class taught by the late Milton “Doc” Tuttle—which she later described as her most difficult class at Alfred—and was then hired by Tuttle to work in his lab. And she benefitted from the University’s culture of diversity and inclusion, growing as a person by engaging people with backgrounds different from her own.

Blanchard, who earned a bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering (minor in mathematics) in 1986, has enjoyed a successful career as a scientist and business executive in the field of biotechnology, and attributes much of her success to her time at Alfred University, where she has served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2014. In delivering the keynote address to first-year and transfer students at Friday’s Opening Convocation, she reflected back on her undergraduate years, and advised students to make the most of their time at what she calls “one of my favorite places on earth.”

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Blanchard holds master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science and engineering from the University of Texas. She is currently president and CEO of Anika Therapeutics, Inc., a publicly-traded, global, integrated orthopedic and regenerative medicines company based in Bedford, MA, and also serves as a board member of Ceramtec, Dare Bioscience, and Vigil Neuroscience.

Said Blanchard of her time at Alfred: “Even though I only spent four years of my life here, they were magical: full of hard work, some failure and some success, a lot of learning with academics—but more learning about myself, trying new things on for size, making lifelong friends with fellow students and professors, studying abroad, and becoming a person with the basic skills to tackle the world with the great preparation I received right here.”

Blanchard advised students to take full advantage the opportunities Alfred University will afford them.

“This experience will be all about what you make it. You aren’t here to please your parents or to please a teacher, you’re here to develop your whole self, to explore, learn, try new things, so you can leave here with skills to pursue an interesting life,” she said. “With that in mind, I strongly encourage you to be engaged in every way that you can. Obviously be engaged in class and work hard with your studies as a baseline, but be an active participant. Join some clubs, get a job, volunteer, give back, sign up for stuff, be a leader, build deep relationships with students and professors. You’ll learn from them as people and enrich your experience here.”

Alfred University is unique for its diversity, both in terms of its student body, but also in its broad and varied academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular offerings. Blanchard urged students to embrace that diversity and engage with people of different backgrounds.

“There are people here who are hands on makers, people who are mathletes and athletes, philosophers, future business leaders, people who learn and communicate differently from you, and people with different aspirations, backgrounds, and outlooks from yours,” she said. “Through them, you’ll be enriched.”

She encouraged students to take classes outside their field of study, opportunities of which abound at Alfred. “One giant benefit of being at a school like Alfred University is the broad programs that are offered will allow you to explore.”

Blanchard spoke to students of the importance of networking and developing relationships at Alfred that will stay with them throughout their lives.

“If I think of the things that have brought me success, aside from learning, working hard…it’s from being curious and experiencing new things, building deep relationships and networking,” she said. “Those deep relationships will always be there so when you reach out in the future, they will help connect you.”

Blanchard told students to “dive in” to Alfred University. “Be curious in all your engagements, ask questions, render an opinion, be heard, contribute, have ideas, and take action to see them implemented. Work hard, harder than you knew you could. You’ll hit some bumps, and that’s OK— it’s what you do when you hit those bumps that will define you.”

Senior Carson Grover, president of the Student Senate, also offered words of advice, encouraging students to take advantage of the resources the University provides to help them succeed. “You don’t have to be the best student in your class; you just have to be your best self in that class,” Grover said.

He urged students to strive to develop relationships with professors, and to participate in activities outside of academics. “Make connections (with professors). They offer so much more than just a class. They’re great mentors and givers of help,” Grover said. “Join clubs, go to seminars and talks—the connections I’ve made there have lasted. Strive to make yourself known. Alfred University is a welcoming place. So, welcome to Alfred.”

Mark Zupan, University president asked students to remember three words that begin with the letter “h” during their time at Alfred: hello, help, and home.

“Make it a point to say hello to other students and members of the community; get to know them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help when you run into difficulties. This place will be home; it will be a place you will treasure,” Zupan commented. “We are thrilled you’re with us. Be the light you bring to this University.”

Youtube video, Convocation