Rewarding journey: 800 take part in commencement at SUNY Fredonia

Pictured is Class President EJ Jacobs addressing the graduates.

The Class of 2024 at the State University of New York at Fredonia was encouraged to “put in the work necessary” and “embrace the journey ahead” during the university’s 197th annual Commencement ceremony Saturday.

Graduates received congratulations from President Stephen H. Kolison Jr. as they were conferred with degrees at two nearly identical ceremonies, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. In all, more than 800 undergraduates, graduate students and advanced certificate recipients were eligible to participate.

Executive Vice President and Provost David Starrett presided over the ceremonies, joined by a Processional Party which included members of the University Cabinet, members of the College Council, Senior Class President EJ Jacobs, and other campus and community dignitaries.

Fredonia College Council Chair Frank Pagano offered greetings and congratulations at both ceremonies on behalf of the Fredonia College Council, and Dr. Greg Gibbs (’71), President of the Fredonia Alumni Association, welcomed the graduates to the alumni association.

In his charge to the Class of 2024, Kolison encouraged everyone to care for the welfare of others. “I subscribe to the idea that true success is about service to others. It is about using your talents, your know-how, your resources and whatever power you may have to help others to achieve their own dreams, and never allowing human differences such as race, religion, and/or place of origin to keep you from helping someone in need when you have the capacity of doing so.”

Pictured is the turning the tassels, making it official.

Jacobs, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English during the afternoon ceremony, reflected on the irony of the Commencement ceremonies being held in Steele Hall fieldhouse. “In the fall of 2020, we all used to stand in lines getting COVID tested in this room,” Jacobs said. “We would get tested every week. After that, this room became the place where most of us got vaccinated. This room brought us together, and here we are, coming together again. We have grown as individuals and into the amazing adults that you see before you today.”

The campus welcomed two alumni as Commencement speakers for the dual ceremonies. In the morning ceremony, Reginal Spiller (’74), President and CEO of Azimuth Energy, LLC, and CEO of its subsidiary Azimuth GIS-E, encouraged the graduates to take risks, course correct, and be kind and empathetic. “What you sow so will you reap,” Spiller said. “Being able to see, feel and understand the position of others is a key to being successful and happy with your life. It allows you to connect in a way that could save your life.”

In the afternoon ceremony, Tim Zulawski (’98), President of AMB Sports and Entertainment, reflected on his memories of Commencement and the keys to a successful career and life, including accountability. “You and only you are responsible for what happens next in your life,” Zulawski said. “You must be prepared to put in the work necessary to achieve it. Success rarely comes easy, and it often requires sacrifices, late nights, trade-offs in life as well as multiple setbacks along the way. Embrace the journey, and know that failure will occur and that’s OK.”

Other highlights included the awarding of the Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation. This year’s recipient, Patience Glatt, graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.

The National Anthem was performed in the morning ceremony by Alyssa Santiago, who is a candidate for a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Therapy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, Summa Cum Laude. In the afternoon it was performed by Elizabeth Davis, a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Therapy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music candidate, who will graduate Summa Cum Laude.

Student Athletes process into Steele Hall.

Faculty Marshals for the morning ceremony were Dr. Michael Dunham of the Department of Physics and Dr. Sue McNamara of the School of Business, and in the afternoon, Dr. Heather McEntarfer of the Department of English and Associate Professor Roslin Smith of the Department of Communication.

Student Marshals are selected for their academic performance and service to campus. Marshals during the morning ceremony were Zainab Ahmed, Emma Bensen, Jordan Budd, Samantha Glorioso, Amanda Keppel and Kasi Alana Williams. In the afternoon, marshalls included Hailey Cole, Caleb Duden, Joseph Fiumano, Caeley Harsch, Elizabeth Thida Htway and Abby Tartaro.

The Mace Bearer was SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Robert Rogers for the morning ceremony, and Assistant Director/Professor Barry Kilpatrick of the School of Music for the afternoon ceremony.


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