Commencement speaker passes simple yet compelling advice from his mother to the Class of 2018

Wednesday May 23, 2018Lisa Eikenburg
Dr. Michael Marletta, 2018 Commencement keynote speaker.
Dr. Michael Marletta, 2018 Commencement keynote speaker.

The message from this year’s keynote speaker to the Class of 2018 on May 19 was straightforward but powerful; “Do something good for people and make the world a better place.”

Graduates at Fredonia’s 191st annual Commencement received congratulations from President Virginia S. Horvath as they were conferred with degrees at two nearly identical ceremonies, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. In all, more than 1,300 undergraduates, graduate students and advanced certificate recipients were eligible to participate.

Dr. Horvath presided over the ceremonies, joined by a processional party which included her fellow members of the College Council, University Cabinet, Senior Class President Veronica Arce, and other campus and community dignitaries. Dr. Horvath congratulated all of the graduates and their families on their achievements, and thanked faculty and staff who helped them reach this momentous occasion.

“In your studies and your friendships, your explorations and your successes, you have been challenged and learned about yourself, your field of study, and the world,” President Horvath told the Class of 2018. “We’re counting on you to use all you have learned, to continue to learn as new questions, challenges, and technologies arise, and to represent your alma mater proudly in all you do.”

Dr. Horvath also encouraged graduates to stay connected to Fredonia after their time on campus is over. “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 this university, “ Dr. Horvath said. ”We’re counting on you to make a difference, and we’ll be applauding you not just today but through your life.”

The campus welcomed home alumnus Dr. Michael Marletta as the keynote speaker. Dr. Marletta, who received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the State University of New York during the afternoon ceremony, is CH and Annie L. Chair in the Molecular Biology of Diseases, and Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley.

Dr. Marletta explained how his advice to make the world a better place was passed to him by his mother. “One of the last things she told me before she died at the young age of 50 was ‘Do something good for people and make the world a better place,’” Dr. Marletta said. “Those simple words have stayed with me since that day. I hear them in my head all the time. I have tried to live those words and I ask you to do the same.”

Dr. Marletta also told the audience despite the turbulence being felt in the country, he is hopeful because of graduates like the Class of 2018. “I am hopeful …. because of education and the liberating and enabling force it represents,” Dr. Marletta said. “So stretch our imaginations and our senses to help us more fully understand the human condition. Your creativity will transform and unite us.”

Ms. Arce, a Niagara Falls, N.Y., native, graduated Summa Cum Laude as she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. When she addressed the attendees, Ms. Arce reflected on the times she and her classmates spent on campus. “No matter the year you entered Fredonia, we know our experiences on campus are unique to our small community,” Ms. Arce said. “As we move on to our next chapter in life, (those experiences) will be absolutely missed..”

Arce also represented the graduating class as they left a legacy in the form of a scholarship endowment fund to provide an incoming student the opportunity to fulfill their goals of a college education. The gift was symbolized in a bonsai tree Ms. Arce presented to Dr. Horvath during the ceremony. Members of the senior class donated $20.18 apiece towards the cost of the project.

The Honorable Frank Pagano, speaking as Chair of the Fredonia College Council, added his well wishes. “You are a brilliant, able and ambitious class,” Mr. Pagano said. “The world will judge you, not by the number of times you fall, but by the number of times you get up and walk again. Never ever give up.”

Other highlights included the awarding of the Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation.This year’s recipient, Nicholas W. Hlifka of Ripley, N.Y., graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.

The National Anthem was performed at the morning ceremony by Carolyn A. Mistretta, who received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education. In the afternoon, the anthem was sung by Margaret Lannon Austin, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, Summa Cum Laude.

Faculty/Staff Marshals for the morning ceremony were Dr. Susan Royal of the School of Music and Mr. Raymond J. Rushboldt from the Department of Politics and International Affairs. Marshals for the afternoon ceremony were Dr. Gordon C. Baird of the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Nancy Boynton of the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

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 Jared Curren, Fred DiLorenzo, Amanda Fox-Schurkus, Molly Mellot, Taylor Staight and Sara D. Wright. The afternoon marshals were Abigail Iyobosa Agbi, Valerie Andryshak, Alexis Victoria Bidwell, Kathleen Lucille Hayes, Emma Schaible and Lillian Suzanne Wallace.

The Mace Bearers were Dr. Alan G. LaFlamme of the Department of Sociocultural and Justice Sciences in the morning, and SUNY Distinguished Service Professor H. Joseph Straight of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the afternoon. They represent the most senior faculty members in terms of service.


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