In-person Commencement at SUNY Fredonia honors over 700 graduates, remembers Buffalo’s loss
Commencement 2022 at the State University of New York at Fredonia was held Saturday in the Steele Hall arena with two ceremonies recognizing approximately 760 undergraduate and master’s degree and Advanced Certificate graduates.
Morning keynote speaker Fredonia alumna Trini Ross, ’88, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, urged the graduates to remember the “endless possibilities” in their future, adding, “Don’t be afraid to change course, switch paths, be flexible.” She told her personal story reflecting the changes in her career path, and also urged graduates to help better their communities. In opening, Ms. Ross asked for a moment of silence for the “senseless” tragedy in Buffalo a week ago.
It was the first in-person Commencement to be held in Steele Hall since 2019, with President Stephen H. Kolison Jr. at the helm. President Kolison became the 14th President of SUNY Fredonia in August 2020.
To begin each ceremony, President Kolison also asked for a moment of silence, “Before we begin our celebration honoring our wonderful graduates, I’d like to ask us please to pause a few moments in memory of those individuals lost to us last Saturday in Buffalo, and in support of their families and friends.” Students, faculty and staff wore a button on their Commencement robes reading, “SUNY Fredonia Stands With Buffalo” including images of a buffalo and heart, to show support of the city and its citizens.
College Council Chair Frank Pagano offered a warm welcome at both ceremonies, quoting Maya Angelou, and SUNY Fredonia Executive Vice President and Provost David Starrett, who joined the campus administration in 2021, led the participants through the ceremony and presented the degree candidates to President Kolison.
In his charge to the graduates, President Kolison asked the class to remember: “You know about E-Mail, E-Pass, E-File, etc. I am adding E-DIG to your lexicon today. E-DIG stands for empathy, dignity, integrity and grace. If you treat people with empathy, dignity, integrity and grace, you will become more successful in all your endeavors that require the cooperation of others.”
The keynote speaker for the afternoon ceremony was New York State Senator George M. Borrello, who put aside his prepared remarks, to the delight of the audience in the warm arena. He spoke briefly and enthusiastically, describing the area as a wonderful, unique and beautiful place. He reminded graduates they were not limited in where they could live and work, “No longer does your job decide where you have to live,” adding, “this is a great place to be.” He added that Fredonia, and the “big hearts in Western New York,” will welcome them back at any time. He also asked them to remember their family and friends, who have supported them in their journey.
Senior Class President Jenna Woods spoke at both ceremonies. In her address to classmates, she noted, “When reflecting back on our time together here at Fredonia, we think of an environment that fostered our love of this institution.” She presented President Kolison a check representing the senior class gift of a scholarship.
The Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation was awarded to Kayla R. Makosiej during the morning ceremony.
Music groups performing included the Commencement Concert Band and Commencement Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Paula Holcomb; and the Fredonia Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dr. Vernon Huff. Graduating seniors Avery Carlson performed the national anthem at the morning ceremony, and Shane Keyes of Amherst, N.Y., at the afternoon ceremony. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Stenger congratulated the graduates and welcomed them to the Fredonia Alumni Association.
Opening Reflections were read by undergraduates Brandon Texido and Yuwan Viros, and Closing Reflections by graduate students Rebecca Ferer and Stephanie Pierre-Jacques.
Posthumous bachelor’s degrees were also awarded to the families of the late Andrew Lucian Ernst, Joseph Anthony DelMonaco and Rebecca Frances Blood Barton.
The Mace Bearer in the morning was SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Robert Rogers of the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Professor Barry Kilpatrick of the School of Music during the afternoon. They represent the most senior faculty members in years of service.
Faculty Marshals included SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Michael Jabot and SUNY Distinguished Professor Junaid Zubairi in the morning, and Professor Mary Beth Sievens and SUNY Distinguished Professor James Davis at the afternoon ceremony. Student Marshals included Alex Bogosian, Madigan A. Howard, Emily J. Jones, Joycelyn McCurdy and Nyles M. Panus during the morning ceremony. In the afternoon, Student Marshals included Jackson DiCarlo, Erich E. Dickey, Elizabeth J. Horth, Ericka D. Johnson, Chrystiana D. Oakes, and SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient Jules K.A. Hoepting. Also recognized at Commencement was a second 2022 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient, Anders Lewis, and SUNY Dr. Norman McConney Jr. award recipient Aliah C. Richards.