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INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY

Record-breaking class celebrates Commencement

By : Katie Ellis


Erwin Rowe from South Carolina hugs graduate Raquel Bailey, a friend of his daughter, Tisha Rowe, following the Harpur College ceremony.
When all was said and done, the words may have been different, but the messages were the same. Members of Binghamton University’s largest graduating class ever — an estimated 3,351 strong — were reminded by each speaker that their hard work had paid off, but, as they make their way in today’s confused world, they will still need to work hard and give back.

“Our primary goal is to foster individual talents and interests and to help our students be all they can be,” President Lois B. DeFleur told the audience. “They have excelled, and we’re so proud of them. We look forward to their future achievements.”

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Alan MacDiarmid and director and producer Sydney Pollack addressed the Harpur College graduates in the morning ceremony.

MacDiarmid said that with the explosion of new knowledge, today’s graduates will have to keep up or be left behind. “Nothing in life that is worthwhile is easy,” he said. “I have a saying on my study wall to remind me. It says, ‘I am a very lucky person, and the harder I work, the luckier I seem to be.’”

Pollack said he couldn’t think of a more difficult and complex time to move into the world, but the new graduates are needed to interpret the world through their compassion. “How do you get ready for that, to deal with it, to understand it?” he asked. “I’m someone who has spent my life avoiding jobs and spent my life in an imaginary world. There are fictional worlds in the liberal arts, which is the gymnasium for your emotional muscles. As graduates, you’ve equipped yourselves to be our interpreters, and we’ve been waiting for you.”

The afternoon ceremony included a welcome from Russell Bessette, MD, executive director of the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR), and remarks from inventor Dean Kamen and investment banker and philanthropist Mark Zurack ’78.

Bessette said that the ability to work hard and persevere would serve the graduates well. “You must look at what you’ve learned so far and know it’s only the first step to what you need to know,” he said. “You must be prepared to embrace change.”

Zurack told graduates that “it’s important to sweat the details” and respect for others, maintaining a solid reputation and finding happiness beyond the world of work are keys to success. “It’s important to find balance, and Binghamton University gave me the opportunity to develop that balance, both academically and personally,” he said.

Kamen, who entered the arena on his Segway scooter, told the graduates there are 99 things needed for success. “First, think of something to do with your life,” he said. “Second, don’t give up, even though all of the easy stuff is done, like the wheel, fire and language. And numbers three through 99? They don’t matter.”

Commencement 2003 also featured a group of students who, for the most part, never set foot on campus. Twelve graduate students enrolled in EngiNet, a distance learning program offered in the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, received their master’s degrees in computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and systems science and industrial engineering.

The students hailed from across New York state as well as Ohio, Virginia, California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. All 12 are employed full time — one serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy — while attending to their studies between career and personal schedules.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08