NEWBURGH – Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh recognized 600 graduates at its 56th annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 18.
Of the 600 graduates, the college awarded 120 master’s degrees and 480 bachelor’s degrees. Nearly 200 students earned degrees in Nursing and related fields, and another 138 earned degrees in Business.
As a bagpipe skirl filled the air, the long procession of graduates headed from Aquinas Hall to the ceremony on the Dominican Center Field, which was packed with their families and friends.
James Finn Cotter, the college’s longest serving professor, was once again Master of Ceremonies. Saturday marked Cotter’s 40th time at the helm.
The graduating students hailed from 11 states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. One graduate, Debbie Francisco, is from Trujillo Alto in Puerto Rico.
The ceremony was presided over by Charles Frank, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Mount Saint Mary College. The invocation was given by Fr. Gregoire Fluet, college chaplain and director of Campus Ministry.
Dr. Jason N. Adsit, president of the college, congratulated the faculty, the parents, and the seniors on a job well done.
“For unbelievable students like you, the world awaits,” said Dr. Adsit. “I am so proud of you. I am so happy for you. And you’re going to do great things. Congratulations, Class of 2019.”
The Class of 2019 was the first to graduate under Dr. Adsit, who began his tenure at the college in June 2018. It was also the first class to rally together under Dr. Adsit’s vision of the college’s future: a comprehensive, institution-wide commitment to service-learning and community engagement.
The graduating students then heard from honorary degree recipient and Commencement speaker Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, Superintendent of The United States Military Academy at West Point. Lt. Gen. Williams was selected for this role by consensus of the Mount’s graduating seniors for his service to his country and his hard-working attitude.
Lt. Gen. Williams assumed duties as the 60th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy in July 2018, and is responsible for educating, training, and inspiring leaders of character who are prepared for service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.
A native of Alexandra, Va., he graduated from West Point in 1983. Lt. Gen. Williams has commanded at all levels in a variety of Army, joint, and multinational assignments, including the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, U.S. Army Africa, and most recently, NATO Allied Land Command in Turkey.
In addition to these assignments, Lt. Gen. Williams was also deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While commanding USARAF in 2014, he was involved with Operation United Assistance, fighting against the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
His military education includes the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies, and the United States Naval War College. He holds master’s degrees in Leadership Development, Military Art and Science, and National Security and Strategic Studies.
Lt. Gen. Williams told the graduates that even though they have learned much over their time as college students, education is a lifelong pursuit.
“You are graduating into a very complex, challenging, and dynamic world, and your education here has equipped you with the creative and critical thinking skills to help you navigate, lead, and succeed,” he said. “But the learning process never stops, and you’ll discover that best learning experiences come simply from being around other people, and from your own experiences as you navigate – and sometimes stumble around – through this thing called life.”
Many of the graduates have jobs lined up, many are searching for employment in their fields, and some might not know what comes next. Lt. Gen. Williams reminded the Class of 2019 that all of them have great worth and potential.
“From the poet Walt Whitman, I learned that everyone has something to contribute,” he explained. “In this play called life, everyone has a part.”
Finally, he encouraged the students to take what they have learned at Mount Saint Mary College and use it make the world a better place, and then congratulated them on their achievements.
“I wish you good fortune and success in all your future endeavors,” he said.
Mikalya Zaccaria of Point Lookout, N.Y., senior class president, challenged her fellow graduates to continuously strive to improve themselves.
“Wherever life takes us, let’s hope that our paths are destined to cross again,” she said. “To my classmates who have supported me since day one, it is my pleasure to have been your president for the last three years. As one chapter of life closes, another one is just beginning.”
Zaccaria added that the same tenacity that got the graduates through college will serve them well as they move on to the next chapters of their lives.
“The Class of 2019 is destined for great things,” she said. “Use that drive and passion that you have used over the last few years to help you with your future endeavors.”
Zaccaria is a History major and an Education student on the Childhood track. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts.
Sr. Maureen Sullivan, OP, a member of the Mount Saint Mary College Board of Trustees, gave the benediction.
“Today, dear graduates…any and all who have had the privilege of touching your lives in some way send you forward from this place praying that you will always seek to be a source of hope for those you meet; that St. Dominic’s zeal for truth will be a guiding principle in your lives; [and] that you will go forth today with a profound desire to heal and unify our world that is so deeply in need,” she said.
At the ceremony, the Student Government Association (SGA) Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Vicki Caruana, associate professor of Education. This award recognizes a full time professor that the students believe goes above and beyond in their role as a professor and in their commitment to student success.
In addition, the Mount Saint Mary College Faculty Award was presented to Barbara Whitney Petruzzelli, director of the Kaplan Family Library and Learning Center, in honor of her dedication, integrity, and service to the college.
The ceremony ended with a sung benediction by Sr. Peggy Murphy, OP, professor of Religious Studies at the Mount. Sr. Murphy, who will retire this year, has been serving the Mount community since 1999.