ITHACA, N.Y. – Returning to finish a degree is difficult at any age, but perhaps especially when one is 83 years old. Herb Doig ’56, MPS ’18, started his master’s in natural resources back in the 1950s but left with two credits remaining when his first daughter was born.
Now, 57 years later, Doig has finished that degree. His inspiration for coming back? Being able to graduate last week with his granddaughter, Kiley McPeek ’18, who earned her degree in applied economics and management in the Dyson School.
“It was unfinished business that I didn’t like hanging out there,” Doig said. “And with my granddaughter graduating from Cornell, it seemed like a great opportunity to finally finish what I started.”
“I’m super proud of my grandpa for doing this,” said McPeek. “That he had the courage to come back and finish, I think that’s really, really special.”
During Doig’s long career at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), he worked on restoring wetlands, collaborating with environmental and sportsmen’s groups, and protecting habitat for fish and wildlife. His final position was deputy commissioner for natural resources; among many achievements, he helped establish the “Return a Gift to Wildlife” program: Starting in 1982, a line was added to state income tax forms, where New Yorkers can choose to donate directly to DEC’s fish and wildlife program. The program has helped fund more than 250 projects across the state.
For her part, McPeek excelled academically and athletically at Cornell. A volleyball player, McPeek was named first-team All-Ivy this year after playing one of the best defensive games in program history. She ranked first in the Ivy League, and 32nd in the nation in digs per set (5.08). Between academic years, McPeek interned at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange and completed an internship through the CALS Global Fellows Program in Turkey – she was in the country during the unsuccessful coup d’état in 2016.
The Master of Professional Studies in the field of natural resources is a one-year program that requires coursework and a professional paper. Doig finished his classes in the 1950s, so to complete the degree, he worked with professor and department chair Patrick Sullivan and wrote a retrospective of his career at the DEC.
“When I found out that Herb wanted to complete the program that he had begun in this department over 50 years ago, I thought this would be a great opportunity,” Sullivan said. “The faculty in Natural Resources and I were well aware of Herb’s contribution to environmental conservation and natural resource management. Herb was responsible for many innovative and successful resource management approaches while he was with DEC, policies that were later adopted more broadly and beyond New York state.”
Doig also served on advisory councils for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
After graduation, McPeek plans to move to New York City for a job with Citibank. Doig’s post-graduation plans include visiting her there.
The Doig family’s Cornell connections stretch back almost 100 years: The family’s first Big Red alum was Russell Irving Doig ’23, Herb’s father. With McPeek’s graduation this weekend, the family now boasts 11 Cornellians.
Krisy Gashler is a freelance writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.