MIDDLETOWN – Speakers at SUNY Orange’s 68th Commencement ceremony on Thursday evening (May 17) emboldened the more than 500 attending graduates to “build” a brighter future for themselves and their community, “step” briskly into that new future, and positively “influence” those with whom they come in contact.
Dental Hygiene professor Dr. Frederick Melone and graduate Rachael Richards were the featured speakers as SUNY Orange feted an estimated 527 graduates, the most ever to attend Commencement. A partly sunny sky blanketed the crowd of 4,000 on an Alumni Green turned soggy by rains earlier in the week. In all, a record total of 901 students are expected to have completed their degree requirements within the past academic year (pending certification of all May graduates’ transcripts)
Richards, a graduate of Warwick Valley High School, earned her liberal arts degree with honors (magna cum laude) in December and spent this spring semester as a chemistry major at SUNY Binghamton. She is presently conducting research, under the direction of a Binghamton professor, aimed at discovering organic, solvent-free methods of removing lead from drinking water.
“Some of us may aspire to shape behavior until it changes minds; craft science until it changes lives,” Richards said. “Some may want to build movements, speak up and out, join walk-outs and sit-ins; write books or create music that people look to when they’re lost; provide every human with a meal and clean drinking water; build buildings for people to stay in and trusses for others to cross; find cures for diseases and solutions for problems; spread love and literally never ever stop.
“And trust me, I know that when you want to build (something) that big you often find yourself looking down at your hands thinking: ‘I can’t do this, my hands are too small,’ but I assure you they are not. Just start laying bricks. Because with this education we’ve earned, with this knowledge we’ve acquired, with this drive for whatever it is we do, we would be shocked at just how many beautiful things our hands can create,” Richards added. “There is time for all of these things, and although the work is never easy and the journey is seldom pretty, it’s the only way things get built. We all learned that, right here at this college.”
Melone, a recipient of the 2018 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, was selected to serve as the faculty speaker. He has been a member of the College’s faculty since 2000 and was among three faculty members and one staff member to be recognized during the ceremony for having accepted a Chancellor’s Award.
“Now, you stand at the summit of your success. Now you stand ready to take a step once again – a step to be inspired not by your footprints from your past, but to be inspired by your blueprints for your future: a step to explore new directions – a step to engage new diversions – and a step to enjoy new destinations,” Melone said. “And so, may each of you walk on your upward path with never a misstep. May each of you walk with your family and friends forever beside your footsteps. And may every one of you see your Commencement to be not solely your stepping stone, but to be your platform: your platform to step onto – your platform to speak from – and your platform to step closer to your dreams.”
Additional remarks were delivered by Helen Ullrich, chair of the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees; Orange County Director of Operations Harry Porr; and Derrik Wynkoop, chair of the SUNY Orange Foundation Board of Directors. SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young hosted the event, and during her remarks related the influence that her professor and undergraduate faculty advisor, Dr. Donald Shive, had upon her to the relationship between SUNY Orange students and faculty.
“In my three years as president, I have spoken with countless SUNY Orange alumni who quite vividly recall one faculty or staff member who was their personal ‘influencer’ here. That person who motivated, nurtured, cajoled, pushed … and most importantly … encouraged them,” Young explained. “I’m confident that each of you today has a Dr. Shive. Each of you most likely can point to the left or the right of this very stage, and identify among our faculty and staff, that one person.
“That’s why I love community colleges. That’s why I love SUNY Orange. This thing we call higher education is a people business, a relationship business,” she added. “The great power of education is that it can change people’s lives. You, too, can be influencers. Many of you already are.”
Each year, SUNY Orange awards diplomas to students who earn Associate in Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science degrees, while presenting graduation certificates to those who complete the College’s various certificate programs.
One student graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point average (Daniel P. Kall) … five graduates had their degrees presented to them by a parent or relative who works at the College: Emma Paradies (mother Dr. Michele Paradies, professor of biology), Brianna Worden (father William, adjunct professor of criminal justice), Andres Salgado (uncle Fred Watson, SUNY Orange Trustee), Rommel Sankhi (father Sonny, security guard), and Peter Jahn (father Walter, professor of biology) … 19 students graduated from the College’s Honors Program … three students earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (Reuben Buck, Renita Johnson, Emma Paradies) … the breakdown of 901 graduates is August 2017 (146), December 2017 (227) and May 2018 (528) … 110 graduates completed their degree programs entirely at the Newburgh campus … 17 students comprised the first graduates from the Excelsior Academy (the collaborative P-TECH program at Newburgh North High School in partnership by SUNY Orange and IBM).