SUNY Orange Celebrates Nearly 730 Students who Earned Degrees During 2008-09 Academic Year

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PHOTO: Keynote Christine KingMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Nursing professor Jean Halpern offered “Three P’s” for success and keynote speaker Christine King inspired graduates to “think big and aim high” Saturday as SUNY Orange conducted its 59th annual Commencement Ceremony on the College’s Alumni Green in Middletown.

Under threatening skies that dropped a 10-minute shower one hour before the 10 a.m. ceremony but held their moisture the remainder of the morning, nearly 400 graduates participated in the outdoor ceremony, signaling the culmination of studies for 727 graduates who completed their degree or certificate requirements during August, December or May.

College President Dr. William Richards presided over the event, which was attended by more than 2,500 people. Richards received the largest ovation of the day, at 10:25 a.m., when he informed the crowd and graduates that he had changed the customary order of events—because of the threat of rain—so the College could confer degrees first before inviting the day’s speakers to the podium. Typically, the speeches precede the graduates’ much-anticipated walk across the stage with their degrees.

PHOTO: Faculty and faculty emeriti watch CommencementKing, a 1973 graduate who is presently chairman and CEO of SMSC, a world-wide semi-conductor company headquartered in Hauppauge, N.Y., delivered the keynote address. Halpern, SUNY Orange Board of Trustees Chairman Joan Wolfe, graduate Patrice Wiley, of Middletown, and Orange County Executive Ed Diana ’68 also delivered remarks.

King spoke of attending SUNY Orange while on welfare and of earning two degrees. She discussed overcoming obstacles she faced while attempting to climb the corporate ladder during her 23-year career at IBM. King assumed her role at SMSC—which maintains operations in North America, Asia and Europe—this past October after more than six years as the CEO of AMI Semiconductor.

When she was named to the top post at AMI in 2001, King became the first female CEO in an industry that was widely considered to be the toughest high-tech profession in terms of the advancement of women.

PHOTO: A 2009 Graduate“I ask you, ‘What are you going to do?’ … with ’do’ being the operative word. Life is about stepping up, meeting challenges and never backing down. Failure often offers you your best opportunities for success,” King said. “My message to you is, aim high, think boldly, don’t let failure get in your way, go around when you can’t get through, learn from your opportunity. Action, attitude and aim high. The sky is the limit for you.”

Speaking on behalf of the College’s faculty, Halpern urged each graduate to instill the “Three P’s”—perseverance, patience and passion—into their daily habits. Halpern and business professor Thomas Stack were each recognized as winners of the 2009 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, the highest award given to community college faculty by the State University of New York system.

“The first job you have may not be the perfect one,” Halpern remarked as she discussed patience. “My very first job was weeding and topping onions for 50 cents an hour. I learned time management and organizational skills from that job that I still utilize today. Each and every job I have had along the way has helped to plant the seeds and helped me grow to meet the challenges of the next one. I can finally say I have my dream job here at SUNY Orange. It takes time and patience.”

“If we remember the lessons we learned here, they will follow us into old age,” said Wiley, who earned her degree in mathematics. “I know I am not the only one who faced adversity and found a way to succeed. We had hope that all of this hard work will pay off for us, and that’s what inspired us to get up for that 8 a.m. class. Today, we have learned the worth of our efforts. We are all success stories.”

PHOTO; Patrice WileyWolfe encouraged the graduates to continue on a path toward lifelong learning.

“Carl Sandburg once remarked, ‘Nothing happens unless first a dream.’ When each of you arrived at SUNY Orange, you came with a goal. You may not have viewed it as a dream, but in reality goals are really nothing more than dreams and aspirations,” Wolfe explained. “Now, minutes from accepting your degree, I’m hopeful that today is simply a checkpoint on your journey to greater successes, and not your final destination.

“Today, you leave SUNY Orange, but I hope that SUNY Orange never leaves you. You will soon join a long line of alumni who have found that the educational roots they established here have nourished and invigorated their future endeavors.”

“SUNY Orange gave us an opportunity for success,” Wiley told the crowd. “The College was an unlocked door. All we had to do was turn the handle.”

Each year, SUNY Orange awards diplomas to students who earn Associate in Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science degrees, while presenting graduation certificates to those who complete the College’s various certificate programs.

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Links to Speeches

Christine King, keynote speaker (.wma audio file/10:05)

Joan Wolfe, Chair, Board of Trustees

Jean Halpern, Professor of Nursing

Patrice Wiley, Graduate

Lists of Graduates (.doc files)

May 2009

December 2008

August 2008

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940