NEWBURGH – Overcast skies and a rainy forecast didn’t disrupt the bright, cheerful atmosphere at Mount Saint Mary College’s 60th annual Commencement Ceremony, which recognized nearly 500 graduates on Saturday, May 20.
Thankfully for the thousands of attendees – including the friends, families, and professors of the graduates – the weather held out until the last student had walked the commencement stage, holding her degree up for all to see.
The Mount awarded more than 120 master’s degrees and more than 360 bachelor’s degrees on Saturday. The graduating students hailed from eight states: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Psychology Professor Paul Schwartz led the procession to the ceremony on the Dominican Center Field, becoming only the third person in Mount history to bear the college’s ceremonial mace at Commencement. Himself one of the college’s longest serving professors at nearly five decades, Schwartz follows in the footsteps of seminal Mount professors James Finn Cotter and James McEnery.
George Abaunza, Vice President for Academic Affairs, served as Master of Ceremonies. The event was presided over by Michael Horodyski, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the college. The invocation was given by Nicholas Shannon ’03, president of the Mount Saint Mary College Alumni Association.
Master Sgt. MaryKay Messenger, a 1988 alumna, kicked off the ceremony by singing “God Bless America.” Messenger is a native of Newburgh and a well-known soloist throughout the region.
Dr. Jason N. Adsit, president of the Mount, reminded the graduates that there’s a growing emphasis on artificial intelligence in the modern world. However, this does not negate the need for compassionate and hardworking visionaries.
“Never forget that emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, and spiritual intelligence will always prevail over artificial intelligence,” Dr. Adsit explained. “Carry that with you out there.”
The graduating students then heard from honorary degree recipient and Commencement speaker Tyler Tumminia ’00 MBA ’09, a sports executive and former Commissioner of the Premier Hockey Federation.
After her time at the Mount, Tumminia completed MLB Scout School in Arizona in 2011. She is currently a minority owner of the Pittsfield Suns of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
Tumminia praised the graduates for their ability to overcome unforeseen obstacles while remaining upbeat and focused on their studies.
“You’ve accomplished so much over the past four years and you’re all winners in life,” she said. “Despite facing a pandemic and navigating a polarizing political climate, you’ve demonstrated resilience and determination. You’ve proven that you can overcome difficult challenges. You all have overcome the unthinkable.”
Having been in the Mount graduates’ shoes before, Tumminia discussed the lessons she wished she had known when she graduated from the college.
“Hold on to the passion you’ve discovered here at the Mount and let your ambition guide you in the years to come,” Tumminia said. “Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams with relentless determination and focus. Keep that spark of inspiration alive and let it be the driving force that propels you to new heights. Remember that success is not always easy. Mistakes and mishaps are inevitable and we may have to compromise along the way. As long as we stay true to our values, but with grit and persistence, anything is possible.”
She added, “When we tell ourselves, even subconsciously, that we can’t do something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news: the same is true when we tell ourselves we can do something, that we are capable, that we are powerful agents of change. Right here, right now.”
Finally, she encouraged the students to take what they have learned at Mount Saint Mary College and use it to make the world a better place.
“Be the spark,” she said. “Keep knocking on every door until it opens…be true to yourself, strive to improve each day, embrace challenges and learn from mistakes, trust your intuition, and make the most of every moment. Remember that you are leaders today, not just tomorrow. Lean on one another, learn and grow together, celebrate each other’s successes, and be the best version of yourself. You have the power to make a positive impact on the world.”
Priya Patel of Ozone Park, N.Y., Senior Class President, congratulated the Class of 2023 for not only enduring the hardships of COVID-19, but for also thriving throughout the pandemic.
“COVID took a lot from us, but I’m proud of us for making it here through everything and the growth we’ve made as individuals throughout our years here,” she said. “We are resilient. We can face the hard stuff and still turn it into something beautiful. Our college years are proof of that…Today we say goodbye to what we have called home for the last four years. But no matter where we may end up, the Mount will always be home.”
In her speech to her fellow graduates, Victoria Veloz-Vicioso of Englewood, N.J., Class of 2023 and former president of the Mount’s Latino Student Union, urged the newly-minted Mount alumni to remember the people who helped to mold them into the successful people they are today.
“Written in invisible ink underneath your name on your diploma are the names of the people who helped you get here today,” she said. “As we celebrate this momentous occasion, let us take a moment to express our deepest gratitude to those who have been instrumental in our journey through college.”