MIDDLETOWN – After opening her remarks by asking her fellow graduates "What CAN you do after graduation?", speaker Brittney Flaherty closed her SUNY Orange Commencement speech Saturday morning by challenging the members of the College’s Class of 2013 with the question "What WILL you do after graduation?"
Flaherty’s address capped the College’s 63rd annual Commencement, with more than 400 graduates accepting degrees or certificates during the 90-minute ceremony in the Physical Education Building. In all, more than 800 students completed their academic requirements during August, December and May.
The event also included remarks from Joan Wolfe, chair of the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees; business professor Stephen Winter and Rich Rowley, chair of the SUNY Orange Foundation’s Board of Directors. Winter is concluding his 50th year as a faculty member at the College.
A crowd of approximately 2,500 packed the Physical Education Building in support of the Class of 2013, while another 75 watched live video simulcasts at two auxiliary on-campus locations set up to handle any overflow from the gymnasium. Additionally, at least 100 computers or devices were logged onto the College’s live online video stream of the ceremony.
Flaherty, of Westtown, currently serves as the student trustee on the College’s Board of Trustees. She received her engineering science degree and plans to transfer to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to study civil engineering. This past school year she was also president of the Student Senate and a member of three student organizations: Engineering Club, Board of Activities and Gay-Straight Alliance.
"Going to college affords you the opportunity to find yourself, define yourself or rediscover who you are," Flaherty said. "The best thing about doing that here, is the people right alongside you doing the same. I have never felt alone, through any hardship, because I have met some of the most genuine and giving people you could hope to meet in a lifetime.
"I have made friends that I will be sure to hold onto, because they have enriched my life and experience here beyond measure. We have all come into our own since we first stepped foot on campus nearly two years ago, and now we are all graduates that SUNY Orange can be proud of," she added.
"This is a most special day for you and for me," Winter told the graduates. "This is my 50th Commencement. Fifty times I have been involved in our graduation exercises, and the Commencement proceedings have always been different, exciting and rewarding as much as for the graduates as it has been for the College community. We at the College eagerly look forward to this day to honor and celebrate with our students their great academic accomplishments."
As they move forward in life, Winter also urged the graduates to celebrate having achieved a really important goal, find an occupation about which they are passionate, embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and practice the gift of giving.
Winter has been giving to his students and the College since he joined the faculty in 1963. Nearly 30 years ago, he was the first SUNY Orange professor to offer an Honors Course.
Speaking on behalf of the College’s trustees, Wolfe told the graduates, "Over the past several years, we’ve watched you work toward this special day, and we feel privileged to be able to share in your joy. We rejoice in your accomplishments. We admire the hard work you’ve put forth. And we dream about your future."
Wolfe also read a brief letter to the graduates from Orange County Executive Edward Diana, a 1968 graduate of the College. Unable to attend due to health concerns, Diana wrote, "Life is a journey, filled with adventure, experiences, challenges, and opportunities. I consider myself fortunate to have had this great community and educational resource - SUNY Orange - available to me when I embarked on my journey from this same spot 45 years ago. Graduates, today is a great day for you and your families as you mark an important milestone in your journey. I know that your family, friends and community are proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished."
In addition to recognizing the graduates, professors John Wolbeck (engineering), and Joseph Zurovchak (biology) were celebrated for having recently received the prestigious SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. also, English professor Elaine Torda was touted for having earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Professional Excellence.
Additionally, the College issued a posthumous degree in honor of former student John Behler who passed away this past February. He was in his final semester as a student in the College’s cyber security program. Behler’s father, John, accepted the degree on behalf of his family and received a standing ovation from the crowd and graduates.
For a dozen other graduates, their day was made even more memorable because they were presented their degree by a relative who is employed at the College. Generally, the degrees are presented by members of the Board of Trustees, but College employees who have a relative in the graduating class are given the option to deliver the degree if they wish.