New Paltz will recognize two valedictorians this year. Sallie McPherson, (Rifton, N.Y.) who is a cellular/molecular biology major with minors in Black studies and chemistry, and Ghady Al Rahhal, (New Paltz) who is a molecular biology major with minors in philosophy and chemistry.
Both biology majors and chemistry minors, McPherson and Rahhal are good friends and share the same birthday, April 19, which is also the same day they learned they were co-valedictorians.
Sallie McPherson was born in Kingston and spent most of her childhood in New York and Pennsylvania. After high school, she travelled to Australia for a year.
She attended State University of New York at Ulster for one year before transferring to New Paltz in fall 2009. McPherson plans to attend SUNY College of Optometry in the fall, pursuing her doctorate of optometry. She is a member of the Woodcrest Community.
“I have enjoyed these two years at SUNY New Paltz and have made many friends among the students and faculty,” McPherson said.
Ghady Al Rahhal, who was born and raised in New Paltz, moved to Lebanon with his family in 2005. There he graduated as valedictorian of his high-school class. After moving back to the U.S. because of political instability, Rahhal enrolled in New Paltz. Ultimately, Rahhal wants to pursue a career in medicine and plans to enter medical school in the near future.
“A very influential mentor for me here was Associate Professor Bruce Milem, chair, in the Department of Philosophy. He has cultivated my mind and has allowed me to think in ways that I had never even imagined. I am truly indebted to him,” Rahhal said.
Rahhal had always wanted to be a doctor, but he became undecided about the profession while in high school. When he returned from Lebanon, he became motivated to pursue medicine again after witnessing the extreme violence and suffering in Lebanon.
“My experience at New Paltz has been great. The fact that this area has been my childhood home actually made things more comforting,” Rahhal said.
Both valedictorians will give speeches at Commencement on Sunday, May 22.