COOPERSTOWN — Robert Clarke Bassett believes in giving back.
The great-nephew of Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett, founder of Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, came to the hospital complex Thursday to recognize two Cooperstown Central High School seniors for their academic achievements and leadership potential.
Those going home with $500 scholarship checks from the Charles H. Bassett Youth Foundation were Caley Sky-Shrewsberry and Abigail L. Brown, both 17
Sky-Shrewsberry will be attending Boston University in the fall, where she said she plans to study mathematics and history, while Brown said she will pursue a degree in environmental engineering at Cornell University. Both young women have been involved in a wide range of extracurricular activities while enrolled at Cooperstown.
The Youth Foundation is named in honor of Robert Bassett’s father, the late Charles Bassett, a prominent attorney who was a native of Tioga County.
Robert Bassett, a native of the Syracuse area, moved to Anchorage, Alaska, 37 years ago to develop an outdoor adventure program aimed at diverting youth away from the criminal justice system.
A Dartmouth College graduate who holds a law degree from Syracuse University and a master of education degree from Boston University, Clark spoke to the youth and their families about the importance of learning from their ancestors. He also spoke of the importance of persistence, resilience — the ability to overcome setbacks — and the determination that it takes to achieve goals in life.
“For young people to be successful they need a source of pride and confidence,” he said, “and that can come by being recognized for their hard work in their accomplishments.”
He added: “They can also develop that through their own life, by looking within their family for what their ancestors and other folks have accomplished, and that should be a source of pride for them, as well as other people who inspire them.”
He noted Mary Imogene Bassett, a graduate of the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia, became a physician when she was 31 years old, at a time when it was very rare for women to obtain advanced professional degrees.
She got there, he pointed out, by hard work and determination, just as her grandparents — Elizabeth and Benjamin Bassett did — when they emigrated from England in the early 19th century and settled in the Otsego County community of Butternuts.
“It’s a two-way street,” said Bassett, 63. “Young people can empower others and influence others, and there is no better time to start than now.”
The new scholarships for local college-bound high school students are an extension of an existing scholarship program administered by the Charles H. Bassett Youth Foundation.
“These scholarships are forever, and they are now integrated through the Community Foundation of South Central New York,” Bassett said.
Then he talked about what he called life’s “hairpin turn,” noting the beginning of one’s life is marked by others being the providers for all needs, which is followed by a time when n individual can become not only self-sufficient but can share with others.
“When you get to the end of life, it’s what you’ve given to others that really matters,” Bassett said.