FREDONIA, N.Y. (WKBW Release) - Roughly 1,500 students, including the largest senior class in SUNY Fredonia’s history, crossed the Steele Hall Arena stage today, receiving congratulations from President Virginia S. Horvath as they were conferred with degrees during the 186th annual Commencement ceremony.
Bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients, as well as those earning advanced certificates, were honored at two nearly identical ceremonies, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. In all, 1,355 undergraduates and 167 graduate students and advanced certificate recipients were eligible to participate.
Dr. Horvath presided over her first Commencement ceremony in her new role, joined by a platform party which included her fellow members of the University Cabinet, members of the College Council, Senior Class President Meagan Allers, and other campus and community dignitaries. She congratulated all of the graduates and families on their various achievements.
“Whether you came here from around New York or around the world, Fredonia has been, I hope, a place of welcome and challenge,” Dr. Horvath said. “In your studies and your friendships, your explorations and your successes, you have pushed yourself and learned.
“I share a sense of pride with these students’ accomplishments, as this Commencement marks the end of my first academic year as SUNY Fredonia’s President,” she would later add. “I’m honored to celebrate with you and to confer these degrees and advanced certificates.”
In addition, the campus welcomed U.S. Representative Brian Higgins as its keynote speaker at both ceremonies. Congressman Higgins is a fifth-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving citizens of New York’s 26th Congressional District, including portions of Erie and Niagara counties. Until recently, Congressman Higgins’ district also encompassed Chautauqua County. The Congressman’s son, John, was among the morning graduates, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Music Industry.
“When I was first elected to Congress in 2005 and I first walked through the doors of this campus, I felt very much at home here, just as I do today,” Congressman Higgins said.
He began by joking with the audience that he was thrilled when he was asked to speak, not only due to the honor it represented, but also because it ensured that his son would have to graduate on time.
He quickly switched tones to one of seriousness, imploring the graduates to never lose sight of three traits: love, hope and faith. Love, he said, was somewhat obvious, as it was clearly present in the room. Hope, he said, was represented in the graduates.
“In you, the Class of 2013, we have hope,” he explained. “You see, God created the world, but he didn’t finish it. That’s up to you.”
For faith, he shared the stories of three people: New York City Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, the first certified fatality in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; John Granville, a South Buffalo-born U.S. diplomat who was assassinated by terrorists in 2008 while helping the people of South Sudan prepare for the country’s first elections en route to its 2011 independence; and Bernadette Nolan, the mother of a quadriplegic son, whose tireless communication efforts, combined with cutting-edge medical advancements, gave the world Christopher Nolan, the famous Irish poet and author.
“These stories teach us that we all need each other,” he concluded. “Before we can have faith in the future, we need to have faith in one another.”
Ms. Allers, a Williamsville, N.Y., native who received a Bachelor of Science in Education degree with a major in Childhood Education – Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude, also addressed the attendees. She began by asking her classmates to think back to when they were applying to colleges.
“I know while I was writing my entrance essay, I hoped I would have a great college experience, but the past years have exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I really believe that, while we have learned a lot in the classroom, we have learned just as much from our experiences outside of it. After all – that’s why we chose Fredonia, because that’s what separates it from so many other schools.”
She went on to thank the faculty, staff and administrators for getting to know her and her fellow students, for going above their job requirements to attend their events, advise their groups and answer their late-night emails.
“Thank you for making Fredonia our home away from home,” she added.
The Honorable Frank Pagano, speaking as Chair on behalf of the College Council, added his well wishes.
“To the Class of 2013, I extend our congratulations to you, your families, and your instructors,” he said. “Today is dedicated to you. This college has helped you develop the tools to guide you through a successful life. In doing so, we call on you to build a better society for us all.”
Among the other highlights, Lauren E. Smith of Hamburg, N.Y., received the Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation during the morning ceremony. Ms. Smith was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Communication Disorders and Sciences, Summa Cum Laude.
The National Anthem was performed at both ceremonies by senior Deanna Jelardi, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre, Summa Cum Laude. Student musical performance groups included the Fredonia Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Paula Holcomb; the Fredonia Concert Band, under the direction of Carl Mazzio; and the Fredonia Women’s Choir, under the direction of Dr. Barbara Brinson.
Faculty Marshals for the morning Commencement ceremony were: Dr. Clara Beier, who will be retiring this year from the Department of Language, Leadership and Learning in the College of Education, and Lecturer Emeritus Jean Harper of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Professor Emeritus Terry Mosher of the Department of English and Associate Professor Jane Jackson of the Department of Communication were the afternoon Marshals.
In addition, Student Marshals were selected for their academic performance and service to campus and were recognized by President Horvath during the ceremonies. Marshals during the morning ceremony were Mark Friesen, Maria Hens, Jessica Maiorana and Anna Riley, and SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipients Hannah Delansky and Maxwell DeNies. Also recognized in the morning was additional Chancellor’s Award recipient Sarah Ficarro. The afternoon marshals were Anna Alvarado, Lisa Carlson, Derek Chazen, Alexander Ives, Deanna Jelardi and SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient Rachael Coccia.
The ceremonial Mace Bearer was Dr. Alan G. LaFlamme of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice, who remains the campus’ most senior faculty member, in terms of years of service.