Harpur Featured Stories
by Eric Coker
The world is in demand for people who will make something of themselves and the Class of 2013 has the talents and qualifications to succeed in the "Maker Movement," digital marketer David Berkowitz '00 told graduates at the Fall Commencement ceremony.
"It needs people who know what it's like to create something from nothing, to look at what there is and reinvent it, to imagine how the world should be and could be and will be, and to do something about it," said Berkowitz, chief marketing officer at digital marketing agency MRY. "There have been many good times over the past millennia for inventors. But there's never been such a propitious time for makers."
More than 700 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees were awarded in the ceremony, held in the Events Center on Dec. 15. Besides Berkowitz, who earned his degree in psychology from Harpur College, the ceremony featured comments from bachelor's candidate Sarah Kapitko, a history major in Harpur College.
The ceremony also marked the first Binghamton University commencement for new Harpur College Dean Anne McCall. She was part of the platform party and greeted Harpur graduates when they walked across the Events Center stage.
In his introductory remarks, President Harvey Stenger paid tribute to former University President Lois B. DeFleur, who returned to campus to see stepdaughter Molly Deak receive her doctorate in biological sciences.
Stenger praised DeFleur for helping to make Binghamton "a widely recognized research University" over her nearly 20-year tenure as president.
"She reached out across borders to make Binghamton a leader in international education and helped raise millions of dollars for student scholarships and other support," Stenger said. "She significantly expanded the physical size and shape of this campus, providing an aesthetic vision that proved that we are a campus that embraces the future. In sum, President DeFleur helped establish for our University a strong foundation for the years ahead."
DeFleur, who toured campus with Stenger on Dec. 13 and sat in the audience for the ceremony, stood up and waved to acknowledge the long applause.
Stenger called the graduates "a remarkable class" and capable of top research and scholarship.
"The Class of 2013 is finding creative solutions to the challenges we all face, from the health of families in our neighborhoods to the quality of the environment at the other side of the globe," he said. "You have set a high bar for the classes that follow."
Stenger also urged the graduates to recognize the support they have received from parents, friends and teachers during their time at Binghamton University.
"Seek them out and say 'thank you,'" he said. "Share with them your appreciation for what they have given you, and let them share in your joy."
Berkowitz, founder of the Hinman Alumni Network and the youngest director to be elected to the Binghamton University Alumni Association Board of Directors, saluted the University for preparing him for opportunities "to make something of myself." He recalled receiving advice from an alum during his senior year and starting an online publication for the University.
"I inadvertently gave myself job skills — something I tried as hard as possible not to do in my four years as an English and then a psychology major," he said to laughter. "I am someone who thought it was a good idea to take Yiddish, after all. Six courses of Yiddish, not one in economics!"
Berkowitz has gone on to a career in interactive media that has seen him author the Inside the Marketers Studio Blog and offer expertise in marketing and technology in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Binghamton University is a phenomenal school, Berkowitz emphasized, but "it's one where you have no choice but to make something of yourself."
"Binghamton is a school that, even at age 67, is still a work in progress," he said. "Its identity is still being shaped, especially as its brand spreads further nationally and internationally. That makes it a ripe institution for entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit. ... It is a 67-year-old startup. That's to its credit.
"If you have taken a proactive role here in shaping your identity at this University and shaping the University's identity in the process, you can consider yourself with having unparalleled preparation for what's ahead."
What is ahead, Berkowitz said, is the "Maker Movement" — a new phase of entrepreneurialism in which it will be possible for anyone to design, create, fund and market new products and services.
"As you graduate today, you have the talents and qualifications needed to be a maker, whatever it is you choose to make," he said. "And it's not all about goods and services. Making something of yourself means molding your character and living your life in a way that you feel does justice and even honor to your name. That's going to be the far bigger challenge, with the promise of a far bigger reward."
Berkowitz concluded by advising the graduates to get ready for each day by asking "What am I making of myself?"
"Listen to your answer," he said. "At first it may be a challenge. And then, as you make something of yourself more days, and it becomes part of your habit, you'll start to love it. You'll start to live for each moment that you ask yourself that question, because you'll take so much pride in how you respond."
Kapitko, a history major from Blairstown, N.J., who served as coordinator of the University's Tour Guide Program, told her classmates that the things they have learned at Binghamton University will make them "outstanding candidates for life after our undergraduate years."
"Whether it be research skills, speed-reading skills, interview skills, public-speaking skills, people skills or volunteer experience," she said, "all that Binghamton University teaches us automatically brings us closer to the top."
More importantly, Kapitko stressed that Binghamton is a place where "you can be exactly who you are and say exactly what you think or how you feel." She recounted a story about how her mother insisted that she did not have to be funny to have friends.
"You don't have to be anything but you to succeed," she advised her classmates. "Being ourselves is what got us to this day, and it is what will carry us through the years to come.
"Binghamton has taught us the lessons. Our friends and families have provided the support. Now it's up to us to head off to great places and add to the great experience that is life."
Last Updated: 6/3/15