Commencement ushers 3,400+ into our global alumni network
By John Brhel
The University conferred more than 3,400 degrees for bachelor's, master's and doctoral candidates at eight Commencement ceremonies, held May 15-17.
President Harvey Stenger presided over each ceremony and shook the hand of every graduate who walked across the stage.
"This is the culmination of a long and challenging journey – a journey filled with the excitement of exploration and discovery, the guidance of faculty mentors and the friendship of colleagues and peers," he said. "So I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our graduates into the next stage of their careers. I look forward to learning of their many successes and hope that they will remain steadfast members of the Binghamton University community."
Heidi B. Goldstein '81, who became president of the Alumni Association on May 1, spoke to graduates at all eight ceremonies during the weekend, welcoming them into the association and encouraging them to stay connected to the University regardless of where life takes them and how far away from Binghamton that may be.
"Just because you're graduating doesn't mean Binghamton is done with you and we certainly hope you're not done with us," Goldstein said. "Please stay connected not only for what we can do for you, but also so that you can be available to help the next generation of students. You can pay it forward in so many different ways; choose the ones you enjoy the most."
Graduate ceremony (master's and doctoral)
For the first time, master's candidates were recognized at the graduate ceremony, where doctoral candidates were also hooded.
A Harpur to MBA fast-track student, Jacob Dorfman delivered what he deemed "the last lecture" to graduates. During his speech, he encouraged everyone to pull out their smartphones and share their favorite #BingMoment on social media. Some of Dorfman's moments included starting the Parliamentary Debate team, going to class in zero-degree weather − and bragging about Binghamton's "undefeated" football team.
"Thank you Binghamton for all of my BingMoments, especially this one," Dorfman said. "I am humbled to have been given this opportunity because I know that while my accomplishments are impressive, there isn't a student in this room who doesn't have a similar story."
Three honorary doctorates were awarded: to educator Horace Wood Gibson, Jr.; philosopher Jason Randolph Stanley; and Tien Wu, a leading global thinker in the semiconductor arena.
Saying that "the world needs more good schools," Gibson gave a lesson in how to start one, discussing the complex (and often comical) series of events that led him to co-found The American School in Rome, Italy, one of the oldest international schools in Europe.
"The school now has 500 students, 35 nationalities and two campuses, and I'm a little bit proud of that," said Gibson, who was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters.
Stanley, who also was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters, thanked graduates in advance for their future accomplishments. A professor of philosophy at Yale, he noted the various crises the world now faces, and praised the value of a liberal arts education in helping to confront these issues.
"Society from now on looks to you for answers. I am thanking you because there really is no other option but that you give better answers than the ones that have been given in the past," Stanley said.
Tien Wu discussed the difficulties of moving to the United States in 1982, his struggle with language and connecting with people. All he had back then was "his dream and his time," and 33 years later, he said that these are still the best things he has. He encouraged students to use their time wisely.
"One minute of your time today here is identical to one minute when you are 90 years old. Please keep your dream, spend your time well," Wu said. "The world is a much bigger place than you can ever imagine."
Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science
A one-of-a-kind speech was delivered by Donald Greenberg, who graduated with a triple major in computer science, math and management. Due to strict Shabbat rules, Greenberg pre-recorded his speech a few days prior to Commencement, and stood at the podium while it played on the big screen to the audience. He challenged graduates to pursue greatness as opposed to a pre-determined path.
"I'm not telling you to latch onto a crazy dream and pursue it. I'm telling you to latch onto nothing," Greenberg said. "Loosen up. Let your instincts guide you. Deep inside, you know what you need to do next to achieve your greatness. Listen to that voice. It might be buried deep, but I know it's in there, because that voice is just you, minus the rankings and insecurities and assumed likelihoods. That voice is 20-plus years of experience, and it knows you better than you know you. And it will never tell you to cruise."
Adam Lemma, a mechanical engineering major and aspiring standup comedian, echoed the sentiments of many of his classmates − that there's a lot of mixed feelings about graduating. But he did his best to reassure them, noting that Binghamton provided them the tools and skills for success.
"Today, we leave our undergraduate life behind with many different experiences and many things in common: a diploma, friends and family surrounding us and a bad hair day," Lemma said. "Most importantly, we have the skills we need to survive, thrive and make a name for ourselves."
The University Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the University, was awarded to Cheolkyo Kim, president and CEO of Samsung Techwin Co., Ltd. Kim has visited the campus multiple times and has provided ample support to the University over the years. He had one message for the crowd: Change. Through change, he said, Samsung Techwin became a leading global company.
"Please change yourselves every day, every hour and every second, and then your dreams will come true," Kim said.
College of Community and Public Affairs
Speaking with fellow human development majors over the years, Jeffrey Adams was humbled at the lofty goals they set out to achieve. He praised his classmates for pursuing their passions not for financial gain or to boost their egos, but to change the world.
"When I think of my heroes, when I think of those I admire most, I see activists, questioners, critiquers, helpers," Adams said. "Individuals who truly valued helping and changing others' lives. And individuals who hassled others to see the truth or to do what is right, who called things as they were. I believe that we embody these traits. I believe that we should be each other's heroes."
Decker School of Nursing
Thomas Martin Clark, a Baccalaureate Accelerated Track (BAT) student, knew what he wanted to do in life the first time he used a pharmacy blood-pressure machine. He wanted to provide people with comfort and a clean bill of health, and his education at the Decker School of Nursing helped him achieve his childhood dream of becoming a "robot."
"Nothing can ever replace the caring touch or reassuring smiles I've seen my peers give to their patients. That's what I had been searching to become my whole life, and that's what I'll gladly be for the rest of my life," Clark said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to have shared a transformative experience with all of you. We all transformed from nervous, intimidated students into the confident, calming forces that we call nurses. I know that no matter where we all go in the next steps of our lives, we will go there with the reassuring presence of grocery store automated blood pressure robots."
Nursing graduate Katherine (Kat) Kaplan didn't just give a speech − she gave her fellow graduates a diagnosis.
"As we arrive at our post-graduation life, let's have the best nursing diagnosis we could hope for," Kaplan said. "With our skills from the Decker School of Nursing to back us up, and a community to use them in, the nursing diagnosis for the care plan of the class of 2015 will be: Readiness for enhanced knowledge and community coping as evidenced by especially committed and emotionally invested nurses, secondary to newly achieved licensure."
School of Management
Alumni award recipient Howard Unger '82, founding partner of Saw Mill Capital LLC, a private equity firm that acquires manufacturing and service companies, discussed the role that "hutzpah" (audacity/determination) has played in his life and career, and reminded students that they, too, have hutzpah.
"What you've learned here is how to dare," Unger said. "For some of you, it was daring to come here at all, to be the first in your families to attend college. For others, it was daring to overcome all of the barriers that stood in your way. For all of you, it was having the hutzpah to make the most of every opportunity this University gave you."
But hutzpah doesn't mean losing heart. Accounting major Henry Aery's speech commended the School of Management's ability to be competitive without being cutthroat. Citing a favorite Booker T. Washington quote, "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else," he praised students for their care for one another.
"The Class of 2015 values success, but we value each other even more," Aery said.
#BingMoment wasn't the only new hashtag created for Commencement 2015. Shavonna Hinton, a management major with concentrations in marketing and management information systems, came up with the hashtag #PassionPursuer and encouraged students to remain passionate after college.
"Class of 2015, we've done some amazing things in our time here at Binghamton," Hinton said. "Our résumés blow past the one-page requirements so heavily enforced by the career development center. We've impressed recruiters and each other, pursuing our passions along the way. Don't let life's new challenges be an excuse to quit being amazing. I know I'm ready to crush this real world thing, I hope you all are, too. "
For the second year in a row, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer made a surprise appearance, reminding SOM students that they are already a step ahead of the game.
"You're graduating with a leg up on many of your peers," Schumer said.
Harpur College of Arts and Sciences
The Harpur College of Arts and Sciences held three separate ceremonies for its three divisions: social sciences; fine arts and humanities; and science and math.
Stephon Braithwaite-Martin, a double major in political science and history, felt like a superhero before coming to college, but he found "a University full of superheroes" at Binghamton. He noted that being a superhero is not an individual's game, and that each student owed his or her success to others.
"We live in a world full of superheroes, all individual achievers in their own right. Yet, alone, we can only do so much," Braithwaite-Martin said. "Everything that has gotten us to where we are today – in front of thousands of family members while we wear hilarious robes and square hats – is thanks to another person."
Alumni award recipient Salvatore Caruana '73, founder and CEO of Foster Capital Corporation, encouraged the thousands in the crowd to be themselves.
"Always live who you are because there is no greater gift you can give to yourself," Caruana said.
Transformation was the theme for Christopher Zamlout's speech for the Fine Arts and Humanities Ceremony. A philosophy, politics and law major, with a minor in Arabic, he reflected on the transformation he undertook during his time at Binghamton.
"Whether you moved up into leadership in your organization, were promoted in the rankings of your sport, excelled in your academics, or won awards and accolades, you took your piece of Binghamton and you ran with it," Zamlout said. "Each and every one of us has our own unique and individual piece that we have built up and can call our own."
Aspiring actor and psychology major Jared Gordon served as speaker for the Science and Math division. He expressed his uncertainty for the future, but helped assuage fears.
"We now have the tools to build a life better than we even know," Gordon said.
"Be bold" was the message put forth by Yasmin Hurd '82, professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, and pharmacology and systems therapeutics as well as the Ward-Coleman Chair in Translational Neuroscience and director of the Center for Addictive Disorders at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, received the Alumni Award. Hurd was recently featured in the Time magazine cover story "The Great Pot Experiment."
"It's up to you to get out of your comfort zone. You will never figure out who you are, what role you're meant to play on this planet or what really makes you happy if you never venture outside that comfort zone and find your own path," Hurd said.
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The Alumni Association and Uncommon Goods (David Bolotsky '85, founder) offer the opportunity to purchase banks made from mailboxes salvaged from Newing Dining Hall. This can be a great gift or keepsake of your time as a student.
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