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More than 400 Graduate at Annual SUNY Plattsburgh Winter Commencement

The SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Association welcomed some 400 new members into the fold Saturday, Dec. 13 at the college’s annual winter commencement ceremony at the Field House.

President John Ettling presided over the ceremony with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs James Liszka, who presented the candidates for degrees. Thomas Corigliano, associate dean, SUNY Plattsburgh Branch Campus at Queensbury, served as faculty marshall. 

AuSable Forks native and master’s in literacy education candidate Michaela Bushey, who was paralyzed from the chest down following a diving accident several years ago, gave the student commencement address from her wheelchair on the dais.

She summed up the graduation experience and then asked, “Now what?”

“Maybe you know, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re heading straight into a job or another degree program, or maybe you’re just starting to look. Either way, something we all have experienced is a certain amount of fear and uncertainty.”

‘Be Brave’

No one can know what the future holds, said the woman who, before her diving accident took away the singing career she had hoped for as an undergrad at Ithaca College.

“No matter what happens though,” she continued, “there is one thing I have seen that emerges in all those friends and peers who have found happiness and their own definition of success, and that’s bravery.”

And what is bravery, she asked?

“Personally, I think bravery takes on a lot of different forms.” It’s leaving home, it’s going for a job or internship, it’s fighting for your country, fighting illness or “experiencing an injury that turns your life completely upside down and figuring out how to put the pieces back together.

“And sometimes, bravery is as simple as standing up for yourself. Whatever form it takes, you have all exhibited bravery at some point in order to graduate today,” she said. “When you leave here today, I hope you’ll be brave. I hope you’ll have the audacity to tell yourself that you can have and do the things you’ve always wanted.  … Life can be hard, people can be cruel, and times may be tough. When you hit those tough times or feel afraid to chase after your dreams, be kind to yourself and be brave.”

Distinguished Service Award

Christopher “Kit” and Sally Booth were honored with the college’s 2014 Distinguished Service Award, given to the couple for their role in advancing the college, contributing to the community and demonstrating leadership in service to others.

Graduates, faculty and staff were escorted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bagpipe Band, and the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir performed “The Star Spangled Banner” and the college’s alma mater.

Newest Members of Alumni Association

Priscilla Burke, president of the SUNY Plattsburgh Student Association, congratulated graduates, encouraging them to serve as role models for current students. After instructing them to move their tassels from the right to the left side of their mortar boards to symbolize their moving from undergrads to graduates, pronounced the assembled as graduates of SUNY Plattsburgh.

Jodi Carpenter, a member of the Class of 1992 and member of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, welcomed the newly minted graduates into the association, whose membership tops 61,000.

“Help us continue to ensure that students enjoy the Plattsburgh experience as much as we are today,” Carpenter said. “Congratulations and welcome to the Plattsburgh Alumni Association.”

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