NEW PALTZ – SUNY New Paltz conferred more than 2,500 undergraduate and graduate degrees over the course of a joyous three-day Commencement weekend on May 18, 19 and 20.
The newest class of New Paltz alumni received degrees and certificates from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Schools of Business, Education, Fine & Performing Arts and Science & Engineering, over the course of two undergraduate ceremonies and one graduate ceremony.
“Commencement is a centuries-old tradition to formally and joyfully acknowledge the close of one chapter in our graduates’ lives and the beginning of the next,” said President Donald P. Christian. “Equipped with the intellectual tools, habits of mind and inquisitive spirit they’ve developed at New Paltz, today’s graduates are embarking on the next stage of their life’s voyage. Wherever you go and whatever you do from this time forward, you will always be part of New Paltz, and New Paltz will always be part of you.”
The festivities began on Friday, May 18, with the Graduate Commencement Ceremony at the Athletic & Wellness Center. The evening ceremony recognizes students who completed degree programs in one of the more than 50 disciplines available for advanced study at New Paltz.
The first of two undergraduate celebrations took place on Saturday, May 19, at the Old Main Quadrangle. Roughly 750 participants and thousands more friends and loved ones endured the rain at the Saturday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, honoring graduates of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the largest of New Paltz’s five academic schools.
The celebration concluded on Sunday, May 20, as the College awarded degrees to approximately 725 of the newest alumni of the Schools of Business, Education, Fine & Performing Arts and Science & Engineering, at the Sunday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.
In addition to the nearly 2,000 undergraduate and nearly 600 graduate degrees conferred across the three ceremonies, the College also conferred two honorary doctorate of humane letters degrees, to Janus Adams ’67 (Theatre Arts), a New Paltz alumna, Emmy Award-winning journalist, producer, historian, speaker, musician and bestselling author, and to James H. Ottaway Jr., a retired newspaper executive, philanthropist and longtime friend of the College.
Adams and Ottaway gave the Commencement Addressess at the Saturday and Sunday Undergraduate Ceremonies, respectively.
At the Saturday Ceremony, Janus Adams wove a narrative exploring the renewing energy of spring, the blooming backdrop against which students across the nation graduate into their next stages of life.
“There’s a reason commencements are in May, the season of new beginnings,” Adams said.
“You can feel it in the air, everywhere: May, when Earth’s northern half springs to life, fat with green, the color of new life. Class of 2018, in the wondrous fulfillment of your being green is the potential and the power to be all you are, at one with the universe. Go now, be green, and be great!”
In giving the Sunday Ceremony address, James H. Ottaway Jr. called the graduating class to reinforce and live by the bedrock principles of the journalism industry to which he has devoted much of his own thought and work.
“You have the special privilege of graduating from this distinguished university, and that gives you a special civic responsibility,” Ottaway said. “As educated citizens of our free society, we all have the responsibility and the skills to seek the truth and research the facts on public issues in debate…Be activists for the truth, for provable facts…and contribute to policy debates by speaking out in public, speaking truth to power…I celebrate you today for your hard-earned degrees and wish you success in your life’s work, starting tomorrow.”
Class of 2018 Valedictorian Reem Ahmed ’18 (Accounting) of Queens, N.Y., gave her Valedictory at the Sunday Ceremony. She focused her remarks on lessons she learned beyond the classroom.
“Once I opened my mind to the amazing opportunities available at New Paltz, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with this school and its community,” Ahmed said. “It is here that I connected with people who are passionate about leaving their mark on the world; it is here that I realized my true potential, and witnessed others do the same; here, I learned that the moments that really matter are when life tells you no, and you still choose to persevere.
“Most of all, if there is one thing that SUNY New Paltz has taught me, it is to never let anyone tell you that you can’t. Class of 2018, I know that we can, and we will, change the world one day.”
Class of 2018 Salutatorian Julia Friedman ’18 (Communication Disorders) of Centerport, N.Y., spoke to fellow Liberal Arts & Sciences graduates at the Saturday Ceremony.
“The last four years were filled with change: for our campus, for the world, for us,” Friedman said. “As our campus changed, so did the world; and in trying times, people are looking to our generation as a force for great change. I share this podium with all of you, because our success depends on community, and community depends on our success – one is nothing without the other.”
In the moments before they walked across the stage, some new graduates took a moment to reflect on their experiences at New Paltz, and what comes next.
“I’ll remember the close-knit community of the graduate program. The classes are all really small, all seminar style. The professors are incredible; but I felt like I was learning a lot more from the other people in class, too, just through the conversations we were having. We all became really good friends that way.” – Tara Secilmis ’17, ’18g (English) of Floral Park, N.Y.
“I was a transfer student into this program. It was really difficult, but also worth it. My senior project was a lot of work, but I learned a lot of real-world stuff, very relevant to the state of the world. I just got a job offer at a media company, and I’m ready to start building up my experience.” – Colin Schroeder ’18 (International Relations) of New Windsor, N.Y.
“As teachers, the biggest thing is that we’re always learning. I’m starting the master’s program on Wednesday, and I have an assignment due Friday, so I don’t even feel like I’m graduating; I’m not sure it will hit me until they say my name and I walk across the stage. But it was a rigorous program, and I’m proud to be moving to the next step.” – DeSean Morrow ’18 (Literacy Education: B – 6) of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
“New Paltz was a great experience. I would recommend it to anybody, because it’s for everybody. I’m excited and ready to jump into the real world.” – Greg Miller ’18 (Finance) of Poughquag, N.Y.
The College presented two posthumous degrees to the families of SUNY New Paltz students who passed away during the 2017-18 academic year.
Christopher Page of Wallkill, N.Y., a beloved English teacher at James O’Neill High School in Highland Falls, N.Y., was enrolled in graduate study in English at New Paltz, at the time of his passing in January 2018. The faculty recommended Page for an honorary Master of Arts degree, which was presented to his family at the Graduate Ceremony.
Nicholas Moscatiello of Port Jervis, N.Y., was an undergraduate student majoring in psychology at the time of his passing in April 2018. His family accepted an honorary baccalaureate degree on his behalf at the Saturday Ceremony.