Senior Meagan Allers (right) and President Virginia Horvath hold a photo of the new gazebo on campus, a gift from the Class of 2013.
Roughly 1,500 students, including the largest senior class in Fredonia’s history, crossed the Steele Hall stage this past May, receiving congratulations from President Virginia S. Horvath as they were conferred with degrees during the 186th annual Commencement ceremony. In all, 1,355 undergraduates and 167 graduate students and advanced certificate recipients were honored.
Dr. Horvath presided over her first Commencement in her new role, joined by a platform party which included her fellow members of the University Cabinet, members of the College Council, Senior Class President Meagan Allers and other dignitaries. She congratulated all of the graduates and families on their achievements. “Whether you came here from around New York or around the world, Fredonia has been, I hope, a place of welcome and challenge,” Dr. Horvath said. “In your studies and your friendships, your explorations and your successes, you have pushed yourself and learned. “I share a sense of pride with these students’ accomplishments, as this Commencement marks the end of my first academic year as SUNY Fredonia’s President,” she would later add. “I’m honored to celebrate with you and to confer these degrees and advanced certificates.”
The campus also welcomed U.S. Representative Brian Higgins as its keynote speaker. He is a fifth-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving citizens of New York’s 26th Congressional District, including portions of Erie and Niagara counties. Until recently, his district also encompassed Chautauqua County. The congressman’s son, John, was among the morning graduates, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Music Industry.
“When I was first elected to Congress in 2005 and I first walked through the doors of this campus, I felt very much at home here, just as I do today,” Congressman Higgins said. He began by joking with the audience that he was thrilled when he was asked to speak, not only due to the honor it represented, but also because it ensured that his son would have to graduate on time. He quickly switched tones to one of seriousness, imploring the graduates to never lose sight of three traits: love, hope and faith. Love, he said, was obvious, as it was clearly present in the room.
Hope, he said, was represented in the graduates. “In you, the Class of 2013, we have hope,” he explained. “You see, God created the world, but he didn’t finish it. That’s up to you.”
For faith, he shared the stories of three people: New York City Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, the first certified fatality in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; John Granville, a South Buffalo-born U.S. diplomat who was assassinated by terrorists in 2008 while helping the people of South Sudan prepare for the country’s first elections en route to its 2011 independence; and Bernadette Nolan, whose tireless communication efforts with her quadriplegic son, combined with cutting-edge medical advancements, gave the world Christopher Nolan, the famous Irish poet and author. “These stories teach us that we all need each other,” he concluded. “Before we can have faith in the future, we need to have faith in one another.”
Ms. Allers, a Williamsville, N.Y., native who received a Bachelor of Science in Childhood Education – Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude, also addressed the attendees. “I know while I was writing my entrance essay, I hoped I would have a great college experience, but the past years have exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I really believe that, while we have learned a lot in the classroom, we have learned just as much from our experiences outside of it. After all – that’s why we chose Fredonia, because that’s what separates it from so many other schools.”
Among the other highlights, Lauren E. Smith of Hamburg, N.Y., received the Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation. She was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders and Sciences, summa cum laude. The National Anthem was performed at both ceremonies by senior Deanna Jelardi, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, summa cum laude. Student performance groups included the Fredonia Wind Ensemble, the Fredonia Concert Band and the Fredonia Women’s Choir.