Paterson to speak at Paul Smith's College commencement

A controversial figure in New York state politics will deliver this year's commencement address at Paul Smith's College.

College officials announced Tuesday afternoon that former Governor David Paterson will speak to the 2011 graduating class next month.

Paterson became New York's 55th governor after another controversial figure, Eliot Spitzer, was forced to resign amid a prostitution scandal. He served just two years in the Executive Mansion, taking office in 2008 and finishing in 2010.

But in just two years, Paterson made a name for himself, delivering scathing remarks about the state Legislature while fending off allegations that he attempted to cover up an assault case involving one of his top aides.

Paterson rose to public office in 1985 as a 31-year-old state senator serving a district in Harlem. At the time, he was the youngest senator in Albany and later became the leader of the Senate's Democratic minority. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2007 and became the state's first black governor after the Spitzer resignation.

Dr. John W. Mills is president of Paul Smith's College. He notes that Paterson - who is blind - has overcome a variety of obstacles throughout his life.

Mills says Paterson was thrust into a high-profile political role at the beginning of the nation's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

"I know our graduates will benefit from hearing somebody with such a rich life story," Mills said in a prepared statement

College spokesman Ken Aaron told WNBZ that a graduate with a personal connection to Paterson helped organize the commencement appearance.

"We're really excited that the governor is going to be coming here," he said. "He's got a fascinating life story, be it his tenure as governor to his position in the state Senate. He's overcome a lot of obstacles in his life and we think he'll have a terrific message to share with our graduates this May."

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