College Celebrates Approximately 450 Graduates Who Earned Degrees in Past Academic Year

Speech Transcripts: De La Rosa | Paradies | Wolfe

Commencement Photo Gallery

PHOTO: SUNY Orange CommencementMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. -- To the nearly 450 graduates in attendance at SUNY Orange’s 64th Commencement ceremony Thursday evening, biology professor Dr. Michele Paradies praised some of the many traits they exhibited en route to their degree--courage, overcoming obstacles, perseverance, sacrifice and hope--while also lauding the impact those students had upon their instructors.

Paradies, a winner of the 2014 State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and student trustee Alex De La Rosa were the featured speakers as the College celebrated the more than 800 students who completed their degree requirements during the past academic year. Remarks were also delivered by Joan Wolfe, chair of the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees and Steve Neuhaus, Orange County executive.

The ceremony, the first weeknight Commencement in SUNY Orange history after this year’s event was moved off of its traditional Saturday morning time slot, was originally scheduled to be held outdoors on the College’s Alumni Green, but soggy conditions created by early morning storms forced the event indoors to the Edward A. Diana Physical Education Center.

PHOTO: Nurse Emily hatThe change of venue did not dull the luster of the event as a crowd of approximately 2,500 packed in the Christopher Schmid Gymnasium in support of the Class of 2014. Another 125 folks watched live video simulcasts at two auxiliary on-campus locations set up to handle any overflow from the gymnasium, and at least 250 computers or devices were logged onto the College’s live online video stream of the ceremony.

“As I worked to prepare my remarks, I spent some time reflecting on the relationship between students and faculty,” Paradies said. “I found myself envisioning my faculty colleagues and I walking along a long, winding road. This road has periodic intersections, where people join us for a while, then depart.

“Two or so years ago, each of you joined us on that road. The journey has been uphill in some areas and downhill in others, but we’ve walked shoulder to shoulder through it all. Now, we approach another intersection, and it is at this place where you will leave our road to head to new destinations,” she continued. “You cannot walk a journey like this without getting to know your fellow travelers on a deep and personal level. From your perspective, you may feel that we faculty have had a profound and lasting effect on your lives, and I believe that we have. What you may not know, is that you have had an impact on our lives as well.”

De La Rosa, of New Windsor, served as the student trustee this past year, representing the College’s more than 6,000 students. A graduate of Newburgh Free Academy who earned his degree in international studies, De La Rosa plans to transfer to American University in Washington, D.C., to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international studies.

PHOTO: Student accepts congratulatory handshake“Some people question the quality of the education received at a two year institution. The education we obtained at SUNY Orange was not about memorizing facts or regurgitating equations back onto tests,” De La Rosa explained “What we learned was to take that knowledge and information and apply it to our everyday life. We now have the tools we need to be successful. We do not need to wait for opportunities to knock; we can build our own doors.

“We can go onto our four year institutions and be successful; we can go into our field of work and be confident in what we do, we can be great. But it is up to us to do it. Will you sit back and wait for the things to work them self out? Or will you go out and make your dreams come true? Today we have all accomplished something great, but it does not stop here. Every night before you close your eyes I challenge you to ask the question “What have I done today to better my tomorrow?”

Speaking on behalf of the College’s trustees, Wolfe told the graduates, “As you celebrate graduation tonight and reflect upon your time at SUNY Orange, you should feel pride in your accomplishments, and know that all of those long hours of studying and perseverance have paid off. You’ve changed and grown during your time at SUNY Orange. You’ve been given a foundation and the tools to think for yourself, which is the most important asset you’ll ever have in life.

“I am proud to say that the College has changed as well. Much of our growth has been undertaken to improve our academic programs and enhance student success. As I look out upon another remarkable SUNY Orange graduating class, I know we are on the right track. Each of you is proof of that.”

PHOTO: Graduates depart CommencementAt the opening of his remarks, Neuhaus asked the armed forces veterans among the graduates to stand, and the group received a standing ovation from the crowd. Later, during his comments, his first at a SUNY Orange Commencement as county executive, Neuhaus said “the world is looking for people who are willing to offer selfless service.”

He also advised the graduates to: get balance in their life, have fun but get the job done, not fear change, keep their principles, make good friends, let their conscience be their guide and “surround yourself with people smarter than you.”

In addition to celebrating the graduates, Paradies and criminal justice professor Timothy Zeszutek were recognized for having received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Additionally, Cherie Wierzbicki-McMickle, senior clerk in the financial aid office, was lauded as a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service recipient.

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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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940