Approximately 1,300 students crossed the stage in Steele Hall on the SUNY Fredonia University Campus Saturday, as President Dennis L. Hefner conferred Fredonia's 2009 undergraduate and graduate degree candidates amid cheers of celebration and accomplishment.
Upon the stage sat the platform party, professors, members of the college council, the deans of each academic department, Fredonia Mayor Michael Sullivan and many more.
Because of the size of the graduating classes at SUNY Fredonia they conducted two nearly identical commencement ceremonies. A select group composed of Fredonia's wind ensemble and symphony played the graduates into the hall and once everyone was situated, thousands of people went silent for the Star Spangled Banner sung by Vince Oddo who later received his degree in Musical Theatre.
The Class of 2009 went out in style, as nearly 1,300 SUNY Fredonia students received degrees.
Brief words of introduction were given by Nathan Kropp of the Newman Center and President Hefner. JoAnn Niebel spoke on behalf of the College Council. In her speech she recited the line from the theme song to the show Cheers; "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got." She extended an invitation to all graduates to stay and explore Chautauqua County, "which extends far beyond Main Street."
Student President Patrick Horn touched the crowd with a moving speech. "I'll miss walking past Mason Hall in the spring when the windows are open and getting a free concert," he said. Horn spoke about the work his classmates and he did through the 130 student run groups and organizations right before presenting Hefner with a plaque and announcing the class gift. Thanks to the class of 2009 there will be a Japanese garden in the patio next to Reed Library.
The keynote speaker was state Sen. Cathy Young. Hefner announced her political accolades and her service to Fredonia. In her speech she told of her humble beginnings on a farm and her freshman year at SUNY Fredonia.
26 Photos of the processional and 8 photos of SUNY Fredoina Commencement ceremony '09
"We are proud to call Senator Young one of our own. She has stood by this campus in good times and hard, supporting the university in its efforts to enhance campus infrastructure - the most recent being our new Campus and Community Children's Center, which we broke ground for last week. She has also garnered support for our Business Technology Incubator, set to open this fall, as well as our upcoming $40 million dollar addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center and our highly anticipated, $60 million Science and Technology Center. .... Sen. Young was elected to the state Senate and immediately took a leadership post as Secretary of Agriculture," said Hefner.
"Thank you President Hefner for your introduction and most of all, thank you for your leadership and your friendship," Young responded.
Young spoke of responsibility saying, "In any moment of decision, the best thing to do is the right thing; the second best thing to do is the wrong thing; but the worst thing to do, is to do nothing." She quoted a wide variety of influential speakers and leaders from Martin Luther King Jr. to Will Rogers.
She even borrowed from humorist Dave Barry when she said, "This is your big day, the day when you jam four years of unlaundered underwear in a hefty bag and go home."
Young also spoke about her time at SUNY Fredonia as a student. "I lived in Nixon Hall, fondly known as Nixon Nunnery because it was an all girl dorm. ... I met my husband here and forged lasting friendships. SUNY Fredonia is near and dear to me," she said.
This year was exceptional for Fredonia students in both academics and athletics. There were two national NCAA champions; Julia Hopsons in shot put throwing and diver Kelly Sponholz from the three-meter board.
About an uncertain job market President Hefner said, "We do a survey every October of the graduates who walked across the stage in May and this past year; 90 percent of students had a job in their field, or were at a graduate school. This is a tougher market so I don't think the percentage will be as high but I think that these Fredonia graduates will do well."
The vested platform party and staff of distinction confirmed their approval of the graduates with an enthusiastic "Aye" after Young's speech. A small group of Masters Degree graduates were announced first and before the Bachelor's Degrees were awarded, the crowd was surprised by an unannounced speech by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.
"I would like to announce my class gift. It's hard to pay for college. It you're poor the federal government will help you out but what about the middle-class?" asked Schumer. Now, thanks to Sen. Schumer, tax credit for families who make less that $200,000 a year will be raised from a $1,000 tax deduction to a $2,500 yearly deduction.
Schumer spoke about how times have changed. "In 1988 the word 'Internet' was used for the very first time... In 1993 there were 12 Web sites on the world wide web, that's it. Now there are 13 billion." he said. "That's in your blood, you guys grew up with it. The only advice I have for you today is to try to find a job, a profession that you really enjoy doing," he said before talking about his first job running a mimeograph machine when he was 14 years old. He talked about how he would crank that smelly clunky machine, idly watching the minutes tick by. "I promised myself that I'd try to find a job where I wasn't bored."
"There's two tests to whether you have a good job - the Monday morning test and the Friday evening test. Do you feel that when you wake up on Monday morning that you truly want to go to work? And when you go home to your family on Friday evening, you can't wait to go home. I hope you'll pass those tests with flying colors," said Schumer.
The graduates marched toward the stage one-by-one to receive their diploma and shake Hefner's hand, and all the while the energy in the room was rising as students prepared to take their first steps out as collage graduates. The Benediction was read by the Kropp, who earlier gave the invocation. "Go forth to live simply so that others may simply live," he said.