A record 1,217 undergraduate students walked across the stage in tassel, cap, cords and gown for the State University of New York at New Paltz’s 183rd commencement on Sunday, May 23. Despite the inclement weather and crisp chill in the air, the commencement drew more than 10,000 guests. The graduate ceremony included 300 graduate students with 1,200 family and friends. More than 200 staff volunteers participated in both ceremonies.
Noah P. Dorsky, chair of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, the philanthropic arm of SUNY New Paltz, and son of Samuel Dorsky, the namesake of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, delivered the commencement speech. Dorsky exhorted students to embrace perceived set-backs or mis-steps and to learn from them. He encouraged students to cultivate education, art and optimism throughout their lives.
“Stay curious and never stop learning. Embrace the mystical power of art. Be optimistic—believing is seeing, not the other way around…exposure to art is so essential…The world needs creative ideas and creative solutions to complex and serious problems,” Dorsky said.
Then-Interim President Donald Christian awarded the President’s Medal to retired Dean of Education Robert Michael. This medal is a special honor that recognizes the 37 years of commitment, vision, professionalism and kindness that retired Michael brought to the School of Education, its students and his colleagues.
New Paltz recognized its co-valedictorians Sallie McPherson ’11 (Biology) of Rifton and Ghady Al Rahhal ’11 (Biology) of New Paltz. Both students gave erudite speeches that addressed the importance of scholarship and service, and they expressed gratitude for their faculty/staff mentors and to the New Paltz community.
Five Chancellor’s Award for Excellence were also bestowed (see separate story in this issue).
For the first time, the Commencement audience heard the “Alma Mater” in both the traditional and non-traditional manner, with Melissa Pelino ’11 (Music) singing the traditional version and Absolut A-Capella (Many student members of this group were graduating.) delivering the non-traditional. Genevieve Marino ’11 (Music) sang the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Then-Interim President Christian presided over the ceremonies. The degrees were presented by Interim Provost/Vice President Laurel M. Garrick Duhaney (Academic Affairs); Dean James Schiffer (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); Interim Dean Karen Bell ‘91g (School of Education); Dean Hadi Salavitabar (School of Business); Dean Mary Hafeli (School of Fine & Performing Arts); and Dean Daniel Jelski (School of Science and Engineering).