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Class of 2014 celebrates its success, potential
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Class of 2014 celebrates its success, potential

President Horvath presents senior Carl Lam, of Hamburg, N.Y., with the campus’ distinguished Lanford Presidential Prize.  Mr. Lam graduated summa cum laude and was awarded Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees, having completed an impressive triple major in Communication-Journalism, Communication-Audio/Radio Production, and Applied Music.

More than 1,400 students crossed the Steele Hall Arena stage today, receiving congratulations from President Virginia S. Horvath as they were conferred with degrees during the 187th 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, more than 1,200 undergraduates and nearly 200 graduate students and advanced certificate recipients were eligible to participate.

Dr. Horvath presided over the ceremonies, joined by a platform party which included her fellow members of the University Cabinet, members of the College Council, Senior Class President Patrick Kennedy, and other campus and community dignitaries. She congratulated all of the graduates and families on their various achievements, and thanked the faculty and staff who worked so hard to help them reach this momentous occasion.

“From this point, it’s up to you to show what Fredonians can do,” President Horvath told the Class of 2014. “We’re counting on you to use what you have learned, to continue to learn as new questions and technologies arise, and to represent your alma mater in all you do.”

Dr. Horvath also implored them to continue to advocate for higher education throughout their lives, and to assist future generations of Fredonians.

“With continued hard work, you will be successful in your professions and in your lives. As you advance in your careers, please help us recruit the best students, build the network of successful alumni who can connect with students and programs, share your story with those who are skeptical about the value of higher education, and offer financial support for future students and the university,” she added. “I will miss you…but I look forward to seeing what impressive accomplishments you will have in the years ahead and hope you’ll carry the spirit of Fredonia with you.”

In addition, the campus welcomed California community health educator and researcher Sarah Ramirez as its keynote speaker. Dr. Ramirez is the co-Founder of BeHealthy Tulare, a family-friendly bilingual not-for-profit organization which educates her community on health, nutrition, economic choices and the prevention of diet-related diseases such as diabetes. Dr. Ramirez, who holds a Ph.D. from Stanford, was recently named a “CNN Hero” in April, for her decision to pass up far more lucrative opportunities and return to her home of Pixley, Calif., in Tulare County, a rural area in between Los Angeles and Fresno, to use her education to benefit the members of her community. Her story has been shared across other national media outlets such as National Public Radio.

Dr. Sarah Ramirez, a community health educator and researcher from Tulare County, Calif., implored the Class of 2014, “Do those things that propel you toward big questions — even if there is no simple answer.”

Through the various educational lessons Ramirez gained, she learned that one of the greatest injustices was that all the evidence-based tools, resources, and skills that promote health and longevity were not equally available to all. They were definitely not available to low-income, rural or non-English speaking populations who face chronic structural inequities such as poverty, underemployment and stress that increase the risk for illness.

“I realized that, no matter how small, rural, poor or insignificant my community was, it mattered,” Ramirez explained. “This was my home. It shaped so much of who I was and motivated what I studied. I wanted to apply my education in my community and remind us all that we were worthy of love, belonging and good health.

“Do those things that propel you toward big questions — even if there is no simple answer,” she advised. “The reality is that sometimes we won’t know exactly where we’re going and how we’re going to get there, but there is an important education in the process if we’re willing to pursue it.”

Mr. Kennedy, a Tonawanda, N.Y., native who received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, also addressed the attendees. Mr. Kennedy shared a very personal story about the critical role Fredonia played in his life after the sudden passing of his father last August.

“I remember being asked if I was considering taking a semester off. Sure, I considered it, given the proximity of the start of classes. But I go to Fredonia,” he explained. “If it was any other school, I might’ve taken some time off; but Fredonia made it possible to move forward. The people — both the students and faculty — helped me pick myself up and keep pushing, which I know is what Dad would’ve wanted. I know every one of us can think of a time in the past four years when life wasn’t fair or wasn’t easy, and we needed our fellow Fredonians. And they were there.”

Senior Class President Patrick Kennedy, a Tonawanda, N.Y., native who received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, gives a rousing speech to his fellow 2014 classmates.

Kennedy also presented President Horvath with a class gift for the university: a photo of a dinosaur display that will be installed in the atrium of the new Science Center when it opens later this summer. The display was made possible due to the more than $10,000 which the Class of 2014 raised.  Some of the money has also been donated to the Thomas Dean Memorial Scholarship, established by the family of Mr. Dean, a member of the Class of 2014, who passed away unexpectedly last fall due to a rare condition called Lymphocytic Myocarditis, a virus that in most cases causes heart failure.

The Honorable Frank Pagano, speaking as Chair on behalf of the College Council, added his well wishes.

“The Class of 2014 will always hold a special place in my heart because I was appointed Chairman the same year you entered Fredonia as freshmen,” he said. “During the past four years, I have met and developed relationships with many of you, and I have found myself in awe of your creativity and vibrancy. As you continue to learn and change, reflect on the times here when you stumbled, and even failed. Recall how your caring mentors pushed you in the right direction. Go out, work hard and change the world for the better.”

President Horvath addresses nearly 700 graduates and their family and friends in a packed Steele Hall Fieldhouse during the morning ceremony. Over 700 more graduates took part in the afternoon ceremony as well.

Among the other highlights was Carl. H. Lam of Hamburg, N.Y., who received the Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation during the morning ceremony. Mr. Lam graduated summa cum laude and was awarded Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees, having completed an impressive triple major in Communication-Journalism, Communication-Audio/Radio Production, and Applied Music.

The National Anthem was performed at both ceremonies by Gabrielle A. Mason, of Scotia, N.Y., who received a Bachelor of Music degree in Musical Education, summa cum laude. Student performance groups included the Fredonia Wind Ensemble (a.m.) and Fredonia Wind Symphony (p.m.), under the direction of Dr. Paula Holcomb. In addition, the Fredonia Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dr. Gerald Gray, performed, “Share the Stars (Ignorant Before the Heavens of My Life),” a work composed by School of Music Director Karl Boelter.

Faculty/Staff Marshals for the morning ceremony were Ms. Elizabeth Lee of the Department of Visual Arts and News Media, recipient of the campus’ inaugural Marion Fellowship; and Dr. Harry Jacobson of the School of Music, who will be retiring this year. Director Emeritus of Sponsored Programs and Research Maggie Bryan-Peterson and Dr. Michael P. Wilson of the Department of Geosciences, who recently retired from full-time teaching, served as afternoon Faculty/Staff Marshals.

Student Marshals are selected for their academic performance and service to campus and were recognized by President Horvath during the ceremonies. Morning ceremony marshals were Ha Na Choi of Gongfu-Si, Korea; Sylvana Dussan of Oneonta, Alyssa A. Menard of Rouses Point, Kirsten Vine of Corning, Robert Webster of Akron, N.Y., and Holly Wojtowicz of Kill Buck. Also recognized during the morning were this year’s recipients of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, including Mr. Lam, Laura Hirst of Watertown and Samantha Jemiolo of Orchard Park. The afternoon marshals were Jeremy Eddy of Ashville, Megan Favale of New Hyde Park, Annie Holcomb of Canandaigua, Ryan McConnell of Rochester, N.Y.; Jennifer M. Smith of Pen Argyl, Pa., and SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient Cory Jackson of Schenectady.

The Mace Bearer for both ceremonies was Dr. Marwan Elnasser of the Department of Economics in the School of Business, representing the campus’ most senior faculty member in terms of years of service.

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State University of New York at Fredonia