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By Gerianne Wright
The SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Association welcomed nearly 325 new members into its ranks during the college’s winter commencement exercises Saturday at the Plattsburgh State Field House.
Of the newly minted alumni eligible to cross the dais, nearly 40 received their hoods as master’s candidates. President John Ettling presided over the annual ceremony with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs James Liszka, who presented the candidates for degrees. Thomas Corigliano, associate dean, SUNY Plattsburgh Branch Campus at Queensbury, served as faculty marshal.
Psychology and gender and women’s studies dual major Kiley Zachs of Brooklyn gave the student commencement address, talking about her passion and dedication to serving at-risk LGBTQ youth and her commitment to social justice.
Through her experience in the gender and women’s studies department, she “was able to bring these developing passions into activist work outside the Plattsburgh community.” A certified rape-crisis counselor with Northern Adirondack Planned Parenthood, Zachs began teaching trauma-oriented yoga to those affected by sexual violence among other activities. She spent the fall 2015 semester in New York City as an intern with The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention to the LGBTQ youth population, transforming the way social media is used to make a safer community for that population.
“The most beautiful and poignant experience that I will remember … is watching the transformation that my peers and I have gone through. For me, it was getting more hands on in social action and creating an inclusive and supportive community. Many of you have had similar experiences, and like myself, I hope that you will bring these beautiful changes to the world.”
Daniel Burke, a member of the Class of 1974, was honored with the college’s 2015 Distinguished Service Award, given to recognize his role in advancing the college, contributing to the community and demonstrating leadership in service to others.
Burke, who is president of NBT Bank, North Country region, has been a member of the Plattsburgh College Foundation Board of Directors for 12 years, six as its president, and is currently completing his second six-year term. As one of the most long-standing, loyal and helpful volunteers, Burke was instrumental in the completion and success of the college’s first-ever capital campaign and has helped make it possible to launch a second seven-year campaign, which is now in its third year.
“Being the father of three college graduates — two from Plattsburgh and one from Albany (I blame his mother for that) — I understand you did not get here today without some help,” Burke said to the graduates as he accepted his award. He then asked graduates to stand and applaud those “who have been with you on this journey — your parents, grandparents, relatives, friends (and) loved ones.”
Burke, a staunch supporter of education as the pathway to opportunity who has worked to secure the charitable gifts that provide the scholarships for many students, told those gathered that they are “the next group of educators, business leaders, programmers, nurses and — heaven help you — bankers. Each one of you has worked through good and bad times to get where you are today. That will never change. … As you go from here and become professionals, never let change manage you. Those who are successful manage change.”
Congratulating his fellow alumni, he left them with four pieces of advice: “Expect change, manage your expectations, take advantage of every opportunity and, above all, enjoy the trip.”.
The ceremony included performances by the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir of “The Star Spangled Banner” and the college’s alma mater. Graduates, faculty and staff were escorted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bagpipe Band.
After Kevin Clayton, president of the Student Association, directed graduates to move their tassels “from the right side to the left, over your heart,” Dr. Ashley Gambino, a member of the Class of 2004 and first vice president of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, welcomed them as members of the association, which is now 64,000-strong. As she congratulated them, encouraged them to serve as role models for current students and to stay in touch, she invited them to “come back for your first Homecoming Weekend in October 2016.”
Additional photos are available in our Winter Commencement 2015 Facebook Gallery.
For more information about Commencement, please contact:
Office of the President
Office: 159 Hawkins Hall
Address: 101 Broad Street, Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Phone: (518) 564-2010
Fax: (518) 564-3932