NEWBURGH – Mount Saint Mary College recognized more than 600 graduates, three honorary degree recipients, and outgoing president Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM at its 51st annual commencement ceremony Saturday, May 17.
A baccalaureate mass began the day, celebrated in the Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary by Fr. Mackin and Fr. Francis Amodio, O. Carm., chaplain and director of campus ministry. Graduating seniors and students of various class years assisted as altar servers, lectors, and Eucharistic ministers.
Outdoors, a bagpipe skirl filled the air. James Finn Cotter, longtime Mount English professor, once again bore the ceremonial mace, and led a long procession into a tent filed with families and friends of the graduates.
Fr. Mackin, marking his sixth commencement at the college, continued his welcoming tradition of inviting the graduating class to "give yourself a hug" for a job well done.
He encouraged them to continue using their skills of mind and habits of heart.
"You will not always know the outcome of your good outreach to your fellow human beings," he said. "So be mindful of life, of your gifts, of opportunities every moment to make a difference for the better in the lives of our fellow human beings."
Fr. Mackin added that he felt blessed to have welcomed thousands of students, and to have given a commencement greeting and handshake to thousands.
"And now we prepare to depart," he said. "You don’t need me to tell you that you are going forth into changing and challenging times. But each of us is on a pilgrimage: always in the presence of an awesome God who wants us to grow in faith."
The graduating students then heard from honorary degrees recipients Rosanna Scotto, FOX 5 News anchor and anchor of "Good Day New York"; Robert R. Dyson, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation; and William J. Larkin Jr., New York State senator.
Rosanna Scotto began by surveying the graduates, smiling, and exclaiming, "Good day Hudson Valley!"
Scotto, a member of WNYW-FOX 5 News for nearly three decades, engages in a wealth of research, writing and reporting. Scotto won a string of coveted assignments. She also led FOX 5 news to the forefront in getting Marty Tankleff a new trial, and was granted an exclusive interview with him in jail. After 17 years of wrongful imprisonment, Tankleff’s conviction was overturned. Scotto has won three Emmys for anchoring "FOX 5 News at 10" and "Good Day New York," and is the winner of three Associated Press Awards.
She encouraged the students to take what they have learned at Mount Saint Mary College and use it make the world a better place.
"Your stories start right now," Scotto said. "Time is precious and not to be wasted. There is an urgency to ending poverty, creating new jobs…and providing education for all. We can all do great things together."
Robert Dyson thanked Fr. Mackin and the college for honoring him. "I’m deeply appreciative of receiving this degree," Dyson said.
He then congratulated Fr. Mackin for his "exceptional leadership. His many successes on this campus are life-changing for this institution…He is not only a beloved and respected member of the college community, but of the greater mid-Hudson community."
Dyson told the students to seize opportunities as they come, including doing civil service, volunteering, and taking on professional challenges.
"Remember, the world is made up and run by those who show up," he said. He also urged graduates to be thankful to their families for supporting them through the years.
The Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation was founded by Dyson’s father, Charles H. Dyson in New York City. Robert Dyson owns and manages private investments such as Dyson Racing in Poughkeepsie. The businessman, who lives in Millbrook, N.Y., personally garnered two wins in the Daytona 24 Hour competition. He is also chair of Health Quest Systems.
In partnership with the New York State Government and other funders, the Dyson Foundation spearheaded and spent close to $17 million on the Walkway Over the Hudson, which has attracted 1.8 million visitors.
At Mount Saint Mary College, Dyson provides the Dyson Leadership Scholarship.
William Larkinis in his 35th year in the New York State Legislature, having served in the Assembly from 1979-1990 and State Senate since 1990, and is Republican Conference Whip. Larkin resides in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. and his district includes parts of Orange, Rockland and Ulster Counties.
"I stand here before you humbled and thankful for this honor," Larkin said. "To each of you who has stood by me on this long trail, I say, thank you from the bottom of my heart."
He added, "To those of you graduating today, congratulations and best wishes!"
Larkin told students that when asked where they went to college, "stand up tall and say, ‘I graduated from Mount Saint Mary College, the best there is.’"
The United States Army veteran with 23 years of active service asked students to remember those who have fought for American freedoms.
"Before you go to bed tonight, take a minute to think about the men and women in the armed forces who serve in harm’s way," said Larkin. "They’re there you can enjoy the day and graduate."
The senator established the Purple Heart Hall of Honor in the Hudson Valley, and spearheaded a nation-wide effort for the Postal Service to issue the permanent Purple Heart "Forever" stamp.
Also this year, a Faculty Award was presented to Louis P. Fortunato, professor of accounting, who has served on the faculty since 1987 and is faculty senate chair. He is a certified public accountant and chartered global management accountant, with a practice in Newburgh, N.Y.
With a handshake and a beaming smile from Fr. Mackin, the candidates excitedly strode across the stage and transitioned from students to alumni.