When Alex Ashley and Caroline Foisy walked across the stage during Upstate Medical University’s College of Health Professions Commencement last month, they continued a tradition that began almost 20 years ago.
This was the third time Alex and Caroline shared a stage in caps and gowns. They graduated together from kindergarten and sixth grade at St. Mary’s in Potsdam, N.Y., and have been close friends all along.
“We were in a class that never exceeded probably 12 students, so we were more than just classmates, we were practically siblings,” said Alex, who received his Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in Radiation Therapy.
“We spent every day together, we did fund-raisers, raised class pets, and attended a youth group together. Our team (instructed by Caroline’s father) even went to a state competition for Odyssey of the Mind,” Alex added. “Caroline is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend.”
Caroline, who earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree last month, has many fond memories of those years.
“Alex and I spent a lot of time together in elementary school in the typical North Country fashion,” Caroline said. “Go-carting around farms, jumping on hay bales, swimming/boating/tubing around the lake in Norwood & Alexandria Bay, singing our little hearts out at our youth club … the list could go on and on.”
Caroline and Alex weren’t troublemakers in school, “but somehow we both were sent to the time-out chair that first year of school,” Caroline said. “We were both innocent.”
The pair first met in pre-kindergarten, when they were 4 years old, and can’t remember a time when they weren’t friends.
Alex and Caroline went to different middle schools and high schools, but stayed close. When they came to Upstate and realized they would be receiving their degrees at the same time (Alex’s program is two years, Caroline’s three years), they began to look forward to yet another graduation photo together.
Each has pleasant memories of Upstate as well, including classmates, faculty and staff, and administrators.
“I was able to meet many students from other programs, and it was fun to see familiar faces during the day — especially on those days when it felt like the library had become my new home,” Caroline said. “It was especially refreshing to see Alex during the day because he has been such an awesome supporter of mine since … forever! He is the best when it comes to providing words of encouragement!”
Alex’s appreciation for Upstate goes back to his very first week on campus. “Being new to a school and meeting so many different people, I never felt overwhelmed,” he said. “In fact, I immediately felt embraced by each staff member’s kindness and compassion. I am not embellishing when I say it felt like a home away from home.”
Alex also recalls a night in April when he and six classmates in Radiation Therapy went out to dinner, and another patron paid their entire dinner bill – and left before the students had a chance to thank him.
“Whatever his reason, our hearts were touched,” Alex said. “We were inspired, more than ever, to go out and spread kindness. All night we spoke about how we could return the favor in the future.”
Alex is now working at Canton-Potsdam Hospital in Potsdam as a per diem radiation therapist and radiologic technologist; Caroline is applying for Physical Therapist positions in New York and studying for her boards in July.