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Special send off:SUNY Fredonia celebrates 195th commencement

“Shiloh” Sendy Rivera Martinez, with a message board in honor of her late grandparents goes down the ramp after receiving her diploma. She is a first generation college graduate.

State University of New York at Fredonia graduates were encouraged to embrace the “endless possibilities” that await their next stages of their lives during the 195th Commencement ceremonies held Saturday morning.

That message came from the Hon. Trini Ross, a 1988 graduate of the university and current U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. Ross opened her remarks asking for a moment of silence for the “senseless” racially motivated hate crime that led to 10 deaths that occurred one week ago at a Tops Market in the city of Buffalo during a mass shooting by an 18-year-old.

After noting one of the region’s darkest days, Ross urged graduates to look for opportunities that help better the communities they will live in while making a difference in the lives of those who closely surround them.

Ross’ journey to Western New York’s top federal law enforcement official began as an engineer at SUNY Fredonia. After taking a sociology course, a different path for her life began to emerge that led to studies in criminology and the legal system.

“Don’t be afraid to change course, switch paths, be flexible,” Ross told graduates. “Your definition of success will change as you change. It isn’t always about having more, sometimes it’s about having less and doing more.”

Photos courtesy of SUNY Fredonia B.F.A. Dance major Olivia Soto (center), who graduated summa cum laude, celebrates during the processional.

During the two ceremonies on Saturday, university officials said 841 students would be graduating as members of the Class of 2022. While Ross spoke in the morning session, state Sen. George Borrello was to speak during the afternoon ceremonies.

He spoke briefly and enthusiastically, describing the area as a wonderful, unique and beautiful place. He reminded graduates they were not limited in where they could live and work, “No longer does your job decide where you have to live,” adding, “this is a great place to be.” He added that Fredonia, and the “big hearts in Western New York,” will welcome them back at any time. He also asked them to remember their family and friends, who have supported them in their journey.

At the morning event, participants sweltered in the Steele Hall auditorium as temperatures had already reached 83 degrees at 10 a.m. Graduates, parents, family members and attendees could be seen fanning themselves throughout the event as President Stephen Kolison Jr. oversaw his first in-person commencement, which he noted was a “special” occasion.

To begin each ceremony, Kolison also asked for a moment of silence. Students, faculty and staff wore a button on their Commencement robes reading, “SUNY Fredonia Stands With Buffalo” including images of a buffalo and heart, to show support of the city and its citizens.

Senior Class President Jenna Woods spoke at both ceremonies. In her address to classmates, she noted, “When reflecting back on our time together here at Fredonia, we think of an environment that fostered our love of this institution.” She presented Kolison a check representing the senior class gift of a scholarship.

The Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation was awarded to Kayla R. Makosiej during the morning ceremony.

Music groups performing included the Commencement Concert Band and Commencement Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Paula Holcomb; and the Fredonia Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dr. Vernon Huff. Graduating seniors Avery Carlson performed the national anthem at the morning ceremony, and Shane Keyes of Amherst, at the afternoon ceremony. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Stenger congratulated the graduates and welcomed them to the Fredonia Alumni Association.

Opening Reflections were read by undergraduates Brandon Texido and Yuwan Viros, and Closing Reflections by graduate students Rebecca Ferer and Stephanie Pierre-Jacques.

Posthumous bachelor’s degrees were also awarded to the families of the late Andrew Lucian Ernst, Joseph Anthony DelMonaco and Rebecca Frances Blood Barton.

The Mace Bearer in the morning was SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Robert Rogers of the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Professor Barry Kilpatrick of the School of Music during the afternoon. They represent the most senior faculty members in years of service.

Faculty Marshals included SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Michael Jabot and SUNY Distinguished Professor Junaid Zubairi in the morning, and Professor Mary Beth Sievens and SUNY Distinguished Professor James Davis at the afternoon ceremony. Student Marshals included Alex Bogosian, Madigan A. Howard, Emily J. Jones, Joycelyn McCurdy and Nyles M. Panus during the morning ceremony. In the afternoon, Student Marshals included Jackson DiCarlo, Erich E. Dickey, Elizabeth J. Horth, Ericka D. Johnson, Chrystiana D. Oakes, and SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient Jules K.A. Hoepting. Also recognized at Commencement was a second 2022 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient, Anders Lewis, and SUNY Dr. Norman McConney Jr. award recipient Aliah C. Richards.

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