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Remembering Dr. Stephen "Doc" Mackenzie

Dr. Mackenzie

Dr. Stephen “Doc” Mackenzie, 1948-2021
Remembering our beloved Distinguished Service Professor

 

 

The SUNY Cobleskill community mourns the loss of Dr. Stephen “Doc” Mackenzie, Distinguished Service Professor and a member of the College’s Animal Science program for nearly 40 years. Doc was a much-beloved member of the Cobleskill campus, and a familiar face to generations of students. He was an inspiration to so many of his friends, colleagues, and students, and his legacy will be felt long into the future.

Doc was a renowned scholar, author, and educator, who shared his knowledge and expertise in the areas of canine behavior and training with students at SUNY Cobleskill and across the nation. He was referred to by his peers as a “giant in the field,” his influence extending beyond the classroom; notably, local and state law enforcement teams, as well as national canine organizations, benefitted from his guidance and instruction.

Last year, the College celebrated Doc’s career as he was awarded SUNY’s Distinguished Service Professorship Award. The award recognized his immeasurable contributions to the school, including his lead role in establishing the Canine Training and Management bachelor-degree program, the first and only one of its kind in the nation. The program meets the needs of the growing canine care and use industry, and also the rapidly changing national security needs post 9-11. 

Arguably, one of Doc’s most significant contributions to the field of canine training was his emphasis on the use of non-compulsive methods for aggression-control training, providing what may be perceived as a more humane training alternative – positively rewarding desired behavior – to some traditional approaches. In 2017, he was recognized by the North American Police Work Dog Association as Master Trainer of the Year, for his commitment to the pursuit of excellence in canine training.

Exemplifying his progressive vision of canine education, Doc recently developed an agreement to train dogs housed at a local animal shelter, at once providing applied learning opportunities for SUNY Cobleskill students and increasing the chances of adoption for dogs in the program. At the time of his death, Doc was working with campus residential life staff and external partners to develop a puppy-raising program on campus. The partnership represents a significant commitment in support of the work of an organization training canine companions for the nation’s military veterans.

In addition to his many roles as educator and trainer, Doc served as a Deputy Sheriff for the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years and as their K-9 handler and trainer for seven of those years.

Gifts in Doc’s memory may be made to the Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Endowed Scholarship in Canine Training & Management or the Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Canine Equipment Endowment. Gifts can be mailed with the endowment name specified payable to SUNY Cobleskill Foundation, 106 Suffolk Circle, 228 Knapp Hall, Cobleskill NY 12043. Online giving is also available at www.cobleskill.edu/about/offices-services/advancement/doc-mackenzie.aspx.

SUNY Cobleskill thanks you, Doc.

 



 

Student Recollections of Doc

Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Canine

 


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Bonnie Martin

Doc Mackenzie was an amazing colleague and educator. His humble nature belied his deep passion, expertise, and reputation in his field. His legacy lives in the students he taught, the faculty he mentored, and the unique and remarkable program he created.

I am happy to share some pictures of Doc during a trip to the MTA Canine Training Center in Stormville and some shots I took at a party to celebrate the launch of the bachelor’s degree in Canine Training and Management.

Isabelle Fein

Doc's class taught me so much. They were discussion-based and hands-on. He is still my favorite professor of all time and always will be.

Millie Lazo

To my beloved professor, thank you for being the wise and amazing man you were. I couldn't have been more honored to have met you, learned from you, and be inspired by you. Your legacy will forever live on. May you rest in peace, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the best professor and friend a student could have asked for. My thoughts and prayers go out to family, friends, and students whose lives you have touched and changed forever. ♡

Chloe Hopkins

One of my favorite things about Doc was how approachable he was and how he commanded respect from so many, both human and animal. Such a pure soul. Something he said that I have taken with me to future endeavors, "If you're not having fun while working with dogs, you're doing it wrong." Doc, 2020

Laura Johnson

Although I only knew Doc for a short time, I will forever cherish having the opportunity to have him as my professor and to learn from the best.

Maya Nasta

Doctor McKenzie, or just Doc, was one of those professors who only come about once in a lifetime. He truly cared for each of his students who walked through his doors, either with nicknames, jokes, or a chat in his office. He would often say he could hear the gears turning when I had a question but was too nervous to ask the question in front of the class. He would make his students less nervous about tests with his Grim Reaper hood, and joking about how Kemo would alert on you if you smelled a certain way, to telling the ladies to use classical conditioning and distance increasing and decreasing body language to train their boyfriends.

He put his heart and soul into building the Cobleskill Canine program, and it grew so much in the four years I was there. Adding more and more classes and top-of-the-line professors each semester, I’m honored to have had Doc as a professor, advisor, and mentor, and he will never be forgotten.

Raquel Stone

In memory of the one-of-a-kind man who sparked my passion for canine behavior. Thank you for your knowledge, your compassion, and your amazing ability to see into the hearts and minds of dogs and the students who yearn to learn. Most of all, thank you for believing in me when I was going through a tough time, unsure of my abilities and what to do with my life. Because of Doc, I have made the right connections, gained confidence in my ability, and have come as far as owning a successful dog training company, helping many shelter dogs become sound of mind. I could never repay this wonderful man. May his legacy live on through those who knew him. Rest in Peace, Doc.

Wen Jin Zhang

Doc,

I'm glad I got to meet you in my time here at Cobleskill. I love listening to your stories and asking you a million and one questions in class. I was looking forward to another year with you before I graduated, but the farewell came as such a shock and so suddenly. I didn't even get to say goodbye to you. I guess I can only say it here. The Canine Program you created is wonderful, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Kevin told us that your ideal in making this program was to heal the hearts of anyone who comes. Kevin said that was the most amazing reason for academia he has heard, and I agree with him. Everyone carries with them scars of some sort, but at this time and age, people are constantly working hard to move forward for success and survival, with never really any time to rest and heal those scars they had accumulated in their life. Your ideal to create an academic program that is both educational and therapeutical (without any of the negative connotations attached) through interacting with dogs is incredible. The professors and students here at Cobleskill will all work hard to make sure your efforts do not go to waste and that the program will prosper for many years into the future. I hope you will continue to watch over us, and guide us and any future generations to come from wherever you may now be. Thank you for your guidance. It was a fun and wonderful experience while it lasted. I wish I can talk to you about many, many more things, just like whenever I'm in your class – too many for them all to be said or written – but our conversation will have to end at some point. I learned a lot from you, and I will make sure to apply what I have learned from you to life, whether it is related to canines or not, starting with these last words I heard from you. I would like to end with a line you love to say to us, your students, at the end of the class, and say it in your stead for you and everyone else and hope that we can all make it happen: "Everyone smile, better days are coming" – by Doc Mackenzie.

Carly Rogers

As a freshman, I never got to meet Doc in person, but he taught my first canine management class online. He was always so kind and understanding and always had a smile on his face. At the end of every class, he would announce to the class, "We are in tough times right now, but remember ... there are brighter days ahead." I'll never forget his encouraging words, and I thank him greatly for his work in the canine program.

C Ferretti

These pictures were taken on 2/24/16, the day Doc brought TJ back from NYC to be my first K9 (See submitted photos). Lesson 1 - how to properly hand a dog off. I didn’t care, though, because I was too excited.

Doc took a lot of time out of his own busy schedule to teach TJ and me as a team. He suffered many bruises and even a chewed-off fingertip training TJ, but he was fearless even when he wasn’t in the best health.

I remember a day of teaching TJ to "out" when he latched on to my utility belt, where I holstered his toy and refused to let go. I was so frustrated, but you thought it was the funniest thing. When I asked you what to do next, you said, "well, he won, give it to him," and laughed while I took it off and let him have it. Thank you for bringing me my best friend and making me a better handler. You will be missed.

Abigail Sweeney

My first semester, Doc came into my Care and Training of the Working Dog Lab, and it was his first time seeing me handle a dog. After class, he came up to me and said the one thing every student and trainer wants to hear from a Master Trainer. He said, "I was watching you work with multiple dogs, and the way you connect with them is something special. Not every person in this industry has the grace, coordination, and ability to work with a dog the way I just saw you do." He continued on to say, "Whatever you choose to do in this field, stick with it. You have something special. You got 'it.' You are going to do great things to change the world for the better." These words replay in my head every time I work with a dog now. I hope to make you proud, Doc!

Victoria Buck

 

Doc was the best professor, mentor, and guidance counselor ever. I learned so much from him. I will also never forget his words of wisdom and comfort that helped me get through finals right after the passing of my younger brother. He had a special way about him that drew all two and four legs to him.

 

You will be greatly missed, Doc. :(

Alexia Hinsey

Ever since I started my first year at SUNY Cobleskill, I always respected and appreciated everything that Doc Mackenzie had done for me in my canine classes and enjoyed his sense of humor and the way he teaches his students. I remembered having to make a Get Well Soon card for him and let everyone that shared the same class with me sign it for him while he was at the hospital. Having to lose one of your favorite professors is very heartbreaking, but I am thankful to have him as one of my professors and how he had guided me to get this far in school.

Doc Mackenzie may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

Melissa Bush

 

I remember taking Doc's tackless training class as one of my first classes my freshman year. I learned a lot from that class, and it helped teach me that horses aren't very scary. I remember taking one canine class to see how it went and see if I wanted to continue taking them and get my degree in canine. I also remember taking all of his canine classes after that one class. They only offered a few classes while I was there. I remember him teaching me in the training class that I didn't find the right treat that the dog I was training loved and would do anything for. I remember him coming in for tests with a cape and handing our tests out with the hood up. I remember just wanting to absorb all I could about training dogs and everything about his classes. He was my favorite professor and one of the many reasons I went into his canine classes and degree.

Hailey Terk

 

I had Doc for my internship orientation class and I will always remember his saying after every class: "Keep your chin up because better days are coming!!"

Amanda Kranz

 

Doc was my greatest teacher and mentor. Among the many things he taught me, my favorite is this: "First try patience, then try a new technique."

Kaitlin Kormusis

 

“Every day is a test, not to discover your weaknesses, but to discover our strengths.”

Amber Chiu (Mortensen)

Truly an amazing man, Doc was my mentor and taught me so much. I will forever be grateful. 💗 Golden🐾

Adam Brodie

 

Doc Mackenzie was simply a joy to be around. Whenever our paths crossed, it was easy to tell that he had an uncommon kindness about him—a genuine individual with a lightheartedness that would always leave me smiling.

Sarah Alaimo

 

Doc was so warm when I met him. He was so kind and talked to me as if he knew me for years. My dog has never been trained by him directly, but everyone who has trained him has worked under Doc, and it shows. He will be so dearly missed.

Jamie Cooley

 

I, unfortunately, do not have any photos of Doc, but I took trackless training with him and remember the times we would have in-depth conversations about life and why this and why that. Doc impacted my way of thinking when it came to life and my horses. An absolutely amazing man and professor that will truly be missed by many.

Anne Kenkel

 

Doc: Thanks for believing in me when I didn't believe in me. Your words still pop up in the back of my mind when I have a situation I need to think through and that shapes the outcome every time. Till we meet again!

Erica Vieira

 

My heart is broken. The world just lost one of the kindest and smartest Animal Behaviorists it's ever known. I was fortunate to spend three years mentoring with Doc MacKenzie at SUNY Cobleskill. You could just stand next to him and by listening to him talk, take away so much. We spent many weekends driving up to train with Doc; his knowledge was so vast. He was so willing to teach you the best way to be successful in whatever you wanted to learn. I am such a better Handler and person because of Doc. Rest in Peace, Doc. We will miss you so very, very much. 💔💔💔💙💙💙

Crystal Thomas

 

When I was his work-study student, I mostly worked with a dog named Snickers, hiding hotdogs in a field. But I have years of good horse memories. I remember coming off of a summer that I worked in the barn. When classes started, we were doing temperament testing with several different horses in the barn. He volunteered me to lead them all because "At least you will have some idea of what is about to happen to you ." So glad I got to know the whole family. Love you, Dawn.

Morgan McCall

 

Doc, you will forever be honored and remembered for all of your hard work and dedication to the SUNY Cobleskill canine program. I am forever grateful to have been mentored by you. I will always hear your voice in my head telling me to think before I step and to double-check if what I am doing is right or not. Roofus and I will miss you dearly. RIP Doc.

Laura Moore

 

I never forgot which foot to start a heel from a sit when Doc would tweak your ear! I will always remember that!

Bob Eden

 

Doc, you were a close friend and mentor to me for almost 40 years. Your jovial ways, mixed with wisdom in the K9 world, made the world of policing a better place and the world, in general, a better place.  You were and are a man ahead of your time. Your exit from this life has been a tough one to digest, and it hit hard.  You had so much more to do, so much more to offer.  Thank you for being such a loyal friend and tenacious mentor. Till we meet again on the other side ...

Dr. Salvador Rivera, Ph.D

 

Doc Mackenzie always had a warm smile with kind words. It was a pleasure to speak to him.  The campus has lost a great teacher.  He will be missed by all who knew him.

Wendy Gilman

 

Doc was so happy at the small gathering held on 3/13/2019 to celebrate the approval of the BT in Canine management! (See submitted photos)

Shelby Fichter

 

I had Dr. Mackenzie for my principles of genetics class. Initially, I was doing well, however as the math portion became more and more prevalent, I realized I needed help. So I decided to go to his office and ask for some help. He was more than overjoyed to explain the math and concepts to me, and when I said I was bad at math, he went out of his way to find a way to explain how to solve the problems to me that made sense. Almost every week throughout the semester, I met with him and learned far more than I ever expected to learn. His problem-solving and genuine determination to help me understand the topic still stands out in my mind, and he did a better job teaching me math than almost every other teacher I had ever had. Every question I had was answered with the utmost patience and understanding. His anecdotes about dogs, horses, and students were a delight to listen to, and his words of wisdom are still kept in my mind. He was a once-in-a-lifetime professor, and I am grateful to have been able to absorb his knowledge and experience his wonderful personality.

Shelby Fichter

 

I had Dr. Mackenzie for my principles of genetics class. Initially, I was doing well, however as the math portion became more and more prevalent, I realized I needed help. So I decided to go to his office and ask for some help. He was more than overjoyed to explain the math and concepts to me, and when I said I was bad at math, he went out of his way to find a way to explain how to solve the problems to me that made sense. Almost every week throughout the semester, I met with him and learned far more than I ever expected to learn. His problem-solving and genuine determination to help me understand the topic still stands out in my mind, and he did a better job teaching me math than almost every other teacher I had ever had. Every question I had was answered with the utmost patience and understanding. His anecdotes about dogs, horses, and students were a delight to listen to, and his words of wisdom are still kept in my mind. He was a once-in-a-lifetime professor, and I am grateful to have been able to absorb his knowledge and experience his wonderful personality.

Susan Zimmermann

 

Good memories of "road trips" and reconnecting with old friends. (See submitted photos)

Anne Donnelly

 

Steve was an amazing man and educator! He is known now for his work with the Canine Program, but he was a renowned expert in equine behavior before that. To watch him work with horses in the tackless training circle pen was AMAZING! He controlled them with their own language of subtle movements and postures. Without words or controls of any kind, he would ask them to approach, retreat, move, turn left or right. Our own horse whisperer! He also worked with the Troy Police Dept. - training them to select and train the horses they used for crowd control and neighborhood patrol. I so admired him and wish our paths had crossed more often.

Katrina Greenwood

 

Doc was a professor who genuinely cared about his students and was passionate about what he taught. He made the subject fun. As a person, Doc was very kind, always available, and funny. He will be missed and remembered fondly by everyone he taught at SUNY Cobleskill.

Sarah Osofsky

 

Dr. Mackenzie was one of a kind. He was a professor that cared about us students and our education. He did not just throw lecture material at us, he taught with devotion and made sure we learned something. There was always a positive energy when he was around. Dr.Mackenzie introduced me to the Canine Training and Management program, my passion, and my future career. He changed so much, not only for me but also for all of us, and I hope to carry on his legacy well. One of my favorite memories of him was when we had an exam. He would put on this hooded mask for good luck, and he would always say, “I can’t see out of this, so if I fall, do not tell my wife.”

Kyla Lomer

 

Doc was such a wise, caring, and conscientious man. I remember one of my first classes with him he gave me such a wake-up call when he announced he “never heard of any of us,” probably in response to us boasting about our amazing horsemanship skills as college freshmen! He had a way of being so succinct and so on-point with his words that they were always exactly what we needed to hear and clear enough to get through our thick skulls. He had a way with headstrong ponies, puppies, and people. His legacy will live on in every moment of connection that passes between humans and animals. Thank you, Doc.

Brooke Marciniak

I'm going to miss sharing snacks with you, your scary mask on test days, the clicker game, hearing all of your stories, and constantly learning from you. You will forever be a major mentor in my life, and I hope I make you proud.

Emma Russell

Doc has taught me so much since I was a freshman in college! He was the first person to teach me how to ride a horse and to understand how to look and understand the behaviors of horses. Lily project was my favorite part of every day. Doc introduced me to Lily, and I am forever grateful for that! Lily and I created a bond that will never be broken, and that is all thanks to Doc! He was an amazing teacher, and I considered him to be a very close friend! Any time I was down, I knew I could go to him! Being one of his TA's for his tackless classes and Lily project was an absolute honor! It made me the person I am today, and I am forever grateful for having him in my life! I wish I could have seen him, and I wish he could have met my amazing daughter. But the things he has taught me I will teach to my daughter! My daughter will know how amazing this man was and how he influenced my life! I will miss him a lot, and he will always be in my heart! My prayers are with his family! 

Samantha Jackson

I was in my last semester for my Associate's degree in Animal Industry when I met Doc. Had I known such an amazing professor existed before, then I would have gone to him sooner. He gave me a chance to get where I needed by becoming my advisor that semester and getting me started on my animal science degree with a focus in canines. He had many students he cherished, but he always made me feel like I was the most important when I walked into his office or had to talk to him. He always made time for students and treated us all this way. Because of this, I was able to graduate with a degree focusing on my favorite type of animal, the canines. Doc knew how to treat people, and he treated canines even better than people. He was an amazing professor and mentor to not only me but everyone who had the chance to work with him. He will be so sorely missed by so many people but cherished for his time in this world.

Andrea VanSteenkiste

"Of all the things you learn in college, learning to fail is one of the most important. It’s far more valuable than experiencing success". – Doc, circa 2005

Rebecca Cooper

Doc was easily one of the best professors I ever had, but he was more than this. He was a mentor. He saw potential in me and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I now train service dogs for veterans and first responders. Without Doc, I honestly don't know if I would be where I am today. I am forever grateful to have had him in my life.

Cydney Cross

Doc will be so deeply missed! His legacy will live on through his sense of humor, his wisdom, his vision for the canine program, and his genuine care for his students. The canine industry will benefit from his positive training. Those of us who have had the honor to work with him will treasure the memories. We will continue to share the stories and knowledge Doc has taught with selfless humility. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Doc.

Jason Goldberg

Jason Goldberg

Where do I start? I took every class that Doc taught between 1993 and 1998. I did multiple special projects with him, student-taught classes with/for him, we even talked about doing a book together. In the last 20 years, everyone I have known to go through the AG program, I have told them to take whatever they could with him. I'd go see him after I graduated whenever I was able to catch up. Everything I have done, animal-wise, in my career since Cobleskill has been based on things I learned from Doc. Beyond that, I have so many personal memories; eating lunch with him outside his office, sitting in his office just chatting about life, cleaning his office for him lol, leaving jokes on his office door, having round pen class in the old outdoor roundpen, thinking that Doc was having me try something new, then realizing he was messing with me when I hear from the platform, "Look at little bunny Jason!" in that amused 'I got you' voice he would have at times. His stories, oh man, his stories. Doc Mackenzie meant the world to me. I loved that man. I wouldn't be the person I am, or where I am, in my life if he hadn't been a part of it. I wouldn't continually be looking to further my education even more if it wasn't for his influence. Thank you, Doc, for everything. You will be missed, greatly, but never ever forgotten.

 

Kyle McCraith

Where do I start? I took every class that Doc taught between 1993 and 1998. I did multiple special projects with him, student-taught classes with/for him, we even talked about doing a book together. In the last 20 years, everyone I have known to go through the AG program, I have told them to take whatever they could with him. I'd go see him after I graduated whenever I was able to catch up. Everything I have done, animal-wise, in my career since Cobleskill has been based on things I learned from Doc. Beyond that, I have so many personal memories; eating lunch with him outside his office, sitting in his office just chatting about life, cleaning his office for him lol, leaving jokes on his office door, having round pen class in the old outdoor roundpen, thinking that Doc was having me try something new, then realizing he was messing with me when I hear from the platform, "Look at little bunny Jason!" in that amused 'I got you' voice he would have at times. His stories, oh man, his stories. Doc Mackenzie meant the world to me. I loved that man. I wouldn't be the person I am, or where I am, in my life if he hadn't been a part of it. I wouldn't continually be looking to further my education even more if it wasn't for his influence. Thank you, Doc, for everything. You will be missed, greatly, but never ever forgotten.