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By Gerianne Wright
Nearly 1,000 students crossed the dais and joined the ranks of newly minted alumni during spring commencement exercises at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House Saturday morning and afternoon.
During the morning commencement program, held to honor those students receiving degrees from the Division of Education, Health and Human Services and the School of Business and Economics, Kym Taylor, of Chazy, N.Y., spoke. The summa cum laude English literature major quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who had said that “whatever happens (in our lives) is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one another that creates something.”
Taylor, bouncing off that theme, told her fellow graduates, “today, we will carry with us a few more threads in our individual tapestries that will eternally bind us to one another.
“Every person in this room plays a vital role in the SUNY Plattsburgh community,” she said. “… Everything we do has impact. Use that power to connect with others. … When you leave SUNY Plattsburgh today, … celebrate what you have to offer your community — your tapestry. No matter how ordinary your threads may appear, they aren’t like anyone else’s. Share them generously so that together, we can weave something spectacular.”
The afternoon exercises, honoring students graduating from the Division of Arts and Science, featured Red Hook, N.Y., native Matthew McDonald, a summa cum laude English writing arts major, as student speaker. He relayed an “aha” moment he had freshman year when a friend told McDonald, “Not asking questions is letting someone else think for you.
“Curiosity breeds questions, and, when I came to Plattsburgh, I was as curious as freshmen come. I asked a lot of questions,” he said. “Curiosity is central to the work we’ve done and especially the work we will do, from conducting research to crafting marketing plans … By asking questions, we connect to our peers and our world.
“With our knowledge and our sharpened minds, we can push the limits,” McDonald told his peers. “We can ask the right questions. With our experiences and our know-how, we can do a lot of things. So when someone tells you something can’t happen, when they tell you that you can’t do something, I hope you keep asking questions. I hope you ask, ‘Why?’”
Graduates at both morning and afternoon programs witnessed Steven Hunt of the SUNY Board of Trustees present the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree to Dr. Noriko Hasegawa. The award-winning watercolorist and SUNY Plattsburgh benefactor has contributed more than 20 works of art to the college’s permanent collection and has established the Hasegawa Art Collections Endowment, which helps the college maintain its collection.
Following Hasegawa’s award, Acting Chair of the College Council Salvatore Graven, an alumnus from the Class of 2002, presented SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emerita Patricia Higgins with the college’s Distinguished Service Award. Through it, the council honors individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the college, community, state, nation and/or to the international community.
After the student speakers’ presentations, Dr. James Liszka, provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the candidates for their degrees. Dr. John Ettling, SUNY Plattsburgh president, conferred degrees while Priscilla Burke, president of the SUNY Plattsburgh Student Association, directed the new graduates to move their tassels.
Joseph DeSalvo, a member of the Class of 1989 and treasurer of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, formally welcomed the newest members of the association, reminding graduates that they are the future of the association and that as alumni, it is their responsibility to help up-and-coming students.
Graduates, platform guests and audience members were entertained by musical selections, including the national anthem and SUNY Plattsburgh alma mater by the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, and the “Green Hills,” “Balmoral,” “Scotland the Brave” and “The Rowan Tree” by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bagpipe Band.
For more information about Commencement, please contact:
Office of the President
Office: 159 Hawkins Hall
Address: 101 Broad Street, Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Phone: (518) 564-2010
Fax: (518) 564-3932