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PHOTO: Aerial view of CommencementMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Global Studies professor Heidi Weber encouraged the more than 500 graduates attending Thursday night’s Commencement ceremony at SUNY Orange to “create a picture of what you want your life to be” and then make it happen, while student speaker Renita Johnson urged her classmates to “remember the lessons” they learned at SUNY Orange, even if they didn’t always retain the facts from every class.

Weber, a winner of the 2017 State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and Johnson, who was named to Phi Theta Kappa’s 2017 All New York Academic first team, were the featured speakers Thursday as an estimated 503 graduates gathered for the College’s 67th annual Commencement held on the Alumni Green on the Middletown campus. In all, 833 students completed their academic degree or certificate requirements during the past academic year.

Additional remarks were delivered by Fred Watson, representing the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees; Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus; and Terry Saturno, chair of the SUNY Orange Foundation Board of Directors. SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young hosted the event.

“Do not take lightly this accomplishment you celebrate this evening. You are entering a minority, and that minority is Americans with a college degree,” Young said. “You fill me with great joy and great pride. Go out into the world and do great good.”

Under clear skies on an unusually hot evening, the Alumni Green crowd swelled to approximately 4,500 vocal supporters who offered rousing applause as their favorite graduates crossed the stage. An additional grouping of approximately 50 folks watched live video simulcasts at two auxiliary on-campus locations while the College also provided a live online video stream of the ceremony.

PHOTO: Renita Johnson“Always believe in yourself. You are responsible for creating who you are. Own it and don’t let others tell you differently,” Weber said. “Create a picture of what you want your life to be like, and with your hard work and determination, you can make a plan and fulfill that dream.

“Learn, understand, consider, formulate your own opinions,” Weber added. “It is your choice whether you choose to just exist, or whether you choose to live, and live to the best you can be. Life is about taking risks. Sometimes you are successful and sometimes you fail.”

Neuhaus offered the graduates eight bits of advice: let your conscience be your guide, always take time for family, find a career you enjoy, take risks, learn from your mistakes, never quit, embrace change and make a difference.

“Over the last few years there have been thousands of facts that you had to memorize and by now you may have forgotten,” Johnson (left) explained. “Though we may not remember the small details, what is perhaps more important are the lessons not found in textbooks or taught in lecture halls. Over the past few years I learned not only how to pass the tests but also how to juggle crazy schedules, manage time, how to be a student leader, and most importantly I learned that if I truly tried hard enough I can ultimately succeed.

“That is an accomplishment that I share with all of you in caps and gowns today. Despite work, family, or other outside obligations that could have gotten in your way, you are here now,” she added. “I would also encourage you to enjoy all the simple pleasures encountered along your journey, like today.”

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.

Two students graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages (Nicole Stone and Natassia Velez) ... five graduates had their degrees presented to them by a parent who works at the College: Angela Contarino (mother Rosamaria, chair of the Medical Laboratory Technician Department), Michael Kelly (mother Laura, senior secretary in the Admissions Department), Alexandra Mansueto (mother Sue, director of student accounts), Kathryn Misiak (father Bob, interim chair of the Diagnostic Imaging Department) and Peyton Smith (father Wayne, athletic director) … 94 students earned their entire degrees at the Newburgh campus … the top degree awarded was the Associate n Arts in liberal arts (229) … four graduates had earned the President’s Scholarship for Academic Achievement, a full-tuition scholarship (Meghan Duffy, Brandon T. Ferrier, Nathanael Linton, Carolyn Weller).


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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940