By Miranda Reale
NEW PALTZ – SUNY New Paltz celebrated 2022 Commencement last weekend with a Graduate Ceremony on Friday, May 20, and Undergraduate Ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22. In the 194 years that New Paltz has been open and operating, all graduating classes could experience the joy of Commencement, that is until the Covid-19 pandemic delayed this ceremony for the last two years of undergraduate classes. The first in-person ceremony since 2020, 2021 and 2022 undergraduates shared the stage, acknowledging and closing the chapter to their undergraduate career. As President of the university, Donald P. Christian, described in his opening remarks, the centuries old tradition looked and felt a little different this year. “Commencement ceremonies at their core are about recognition. We recognize the achievement of students who have completed the hard academic work of earning a degree; this takes on a special meaning during these last two years that included remote learning, and a very different kind of college experience,” he said. Christian will be retiring as President this summer after 12 years at the university and 45 years working in public education.
Honorary degree recipient and Commencement speaker, Ed Carrroll ‘85, is among the most engaged alumni in the SUNY New Paltz community. Now working for more than 30 years with AMC Networks, he has come back to his alma mater frequently to lend his experience and talk with students. During this most recent visit and on a stage addressing the undergraduates of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Carroll spoke of his own career path, but perhaps most importantly, addressed the unusual environment graduates had to endure. “This graduating class has demonstrated incredible resilience to get to this day. Really and truly, you have had a college experience unlike any other class before you. And that has caused you to develop qualities you may not be aware of; flexibility, resourcefulness, empathy,” he said.
For some students, the graduation ceremony represented more than a degree. Mackenzy McMorris delivered the student address last Saturday and graduated with majors in both Black Studies and Finance. He is also the 2022 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and a first generation in his family to be born in America. Both of his parents were born and raised in Jamaica, McMorris recognized members in his family as his biggest inspirations. As he approached the microphone, his fellow undergraduates enthusiastically cheered him on, even interrupting his speech at times and forcing a smile on McMorris’s face as he continued to address the crowd. “At just 20 years old, I have completed a dual degree in just three years at SUNY New Paltz. With a Bachelor’s of Science and Business Finance, and Bachelor’s of Arts and Black Studies, magna cum laude,” McMorris said in his Student Address.