Members of the Class of 2009 celebrate
Katie Hite is honored with Lanford Presidential Prize
Summer, 2009--Approximately 1,300 students crossed the stage in Steele Hall on May 16 as President Dennis L. Hefner conferred Fredonia’s 2009 undergraduate and graduate degrees amid cheers of celebration and accomplishment.
Commencement consisted of two nearly identical events at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to accommodate the large number of students as well as their family and friends, many of whom traveled great distances to join them for this memorable occasion.
Both ceremonies featured speeches from President Hefner, Fredonia College Council Chair JoAnn Niebel, keynote speaker and New York State Senator Catharine M. Young (57th District), and Senior Class President Patrick Horn, a native of Henrietta, N.Y., who graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing.
President Hefner welcomed all those in attendance by stating, “Today is indeed a special day. For most graduates and their families, today’s Commencement represents the culmination of many years of diligence and effort. It is truly a once-in-a lifetime event, long to be remembered.
“As Fredonia alums, you will have opportunities to advocate for public higher education, and for the education provided by SUNY campuses to the citizens of this state,” Dr. Hefner continued. “Your advocacy and collective support must be clear and constant. In that way, your Fredonia degree will remain impressive to future generations of students who will follow in your footsteps. Together, we can ensure that the State of New York remains unwavering in its commitment to a world-class higher education system that is accessible to all its citizens.”
The keynote address was given by Senator Young, who met her husband, Richard, while attending SUNY Fredonia, before completing her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University. She has been a long-time supporter of higher education and of SUNY Fredonia in particular. She joined the campus as recently as February to participate in a student-led rally protesting the state’s unprecedented and highly controversial decision to tax SUNY students by redirecting a much-needed tuition increase designed to recover a portion of the substantial state budget cuts SUNY campuses had already incurred.
President Hefner introduced her by saying, “We are proud to call Senator Young one of our own. She has stood by this campus in good times and hard, supporting the university in its efforts to enhance campus infrastructure — the most recent being our new Campus and Community Children’s Center. She has also garnered support for our Business Technology Incubator, set to open this fall, as well as our upcoming $40 million addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center and our highly anticipated, $60 million Science and Technology Center.”
Senator Young congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to ensure that they include some form of public service in their lives, regardless of the careers they choose.
“Serving others means rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in your community,” advised Senator Young, who has built a 14-year career in public service. “It means getting off the sidelines and being a doer, and not a critic. It means contributing to a cause larger than yourself. I do not know what your destinies hold for you, but I do know that those among you who will be truly happy will be those who have sought and found how to serve. To me, service is our greatest duty and our greatest reward.”
Class President Horn addressed the many family, faculty and friends of the Class of 2009 in the audience, stating, “Although today is a celebration of our achievements, it is also a celebration for the countless individuals who have actively participated in our lives and helped shape us into the people we are today. They have always believed in us, and today we celebrate our achievements together.”
During Mr. Horn’s comments, he presented President Hefner with a plaque that will be displayed within the new Japanese garden located in the back of Reed Library and funded in part by the Class of 2009’s Senior Challenge Gift. It includes an inscription from the philosopher and philanthropist Waite Phillips that reads, “Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete.”
At the morning ceremony, President Hefner presented the Lanford Presidential Prize, established through the Fredonia College Foundation by Dr. and Mrs. Oscar Lanford. The late Dr. Lanford served as Fredonia’s ninth president from 1961 to 1971 and was essentially the builder, both physically and intellectually, of the modern Fredonia campus. This annual prize is presented to a graduating senior who shows balanced achievement both on and off campus, and who exemplifies Fredonia’s ideals, while maintaining a strong grade point average. This year’s recipient was Lakewood, N.Y., native Kathleen M. Hite, the fifth of five siblings to earn a SUNY Fredonia degree. Ms. Hite received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, Summa Cum Laude.
At the afternoon ceremony, attendees were honored by an appearance from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who shared with the graduates his passion for his own work, and underscored how critical that is to being truly happy in life.
“I always tell people they need to take the ‘Monday-Friday Test,’ and ask themselves two simple questions,” Senator Schumer said. “On Monday morning, do you feel that excitement in the pit of your stomach that says you can’t wait to go to work today? And on Friday, do you say to yourself, ‘I can’t wait to get home to spend time with my family’? If you can answer ‘yes’ to both questions, then you’ve achieved success, and you’ve got a very fortunate life.”
Student performances were also given by SUNY Fredonia’s Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble and Chamber Singers. In addition, the Star-Spangled Banner was performed by senior vocalist and Alden, N.Y., native Vincent Oddo, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre, Cum Laude.