Grads get history lesson, inspirational advice
By Eric Coker
James Carrigg has no doubts that the Class of 2012 will make the right decisions in the future.
"As you all venture forth from this great University to a new job, additional education, or to start your own business as an entrepreneur, I submit you will someday have your own 'defining moment' when you must ask yourself: 'Is this the right thing to do?'" said Carrigg (at center of photo above).
Carrigg, a longtime chairman, chief executive officer and president of New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG), received an honorary degree and spoke at the Commencement ceremony held in December at the Events Center.
More than 760 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees were awarded during the two-hour ceremony, which also featured addresses from President Harvey Stenger, doctoral-degree recipient Jason Loew and bachelor's-degree recipient Matthew Comite.
Carrigg has had a long and involved connection with Binghamton University, supporting the Anderson Center for the Performing Arts, Athletics, the Institute for Child Development and scholarships honoring former President Lois B. DeFleur, former Watson Dean Lyle Feisel and Vice President Thomas Kelly. He is also a past chair of the Harpur Forum and a past member of the Binghamton Foundation Board of Directors.
But Carrigg admitted to the graduates that "my role here today is clearly linked to the establishment of the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science," which opened in June 1983.
"A number of key people in this community banded together and embarked on a crusade to make it happen," Carrigg said. "Why? Because it was the right thing to do!"
Carrigg told how he and other community members and business leaders met with then-President Clifford Clark and his staff. After the local group made its presentation, the University officials expressed concerns such as a lack of labs and facilities, the amount of money needed for the project and the various constituencies in Albany that would need to approve the school.
"As I stood there at the beginning looking at the task we had, I said two words: mission impossible," Carrigg said.
But after all of the concerns were expressed and Carrigg was feeling pessimistic, a "defining moment" took place: Clark told his staff, "Let's not be too hasty."
"At that moment, the tone of the meeting changed completely and we were on our way to making this engineering school a reality," Carrigg said. "The community team and the academic team banded together to take on the skeptics in Albany.
"It took many months and countless trips to Albany to change minds, but again: This was the right thing to do."
Carrigg left the Class of 2012 with some advice that he considered "profound."
"The future is not something we enter," he said. "The future is something we create."
'Dear Students of the Class of 2012'
For his second Commencement address as president, Stenger again read a letter to the graduates. In the letter, Stenger discussed the four characteristics that he has found in great people and "a great class": dependability, enjoyability, perspective, and being "slightly obsessed."
With dependability, the Class of 2012 has shown dedication and commitment to campus and beyond, Stenger said.
"Your dependability made you true to obligations when you volunteered for campus and community organizations – swinging hammers for Habitat for Humanity, donating blood to the Red Cross, buying and packing thousands of gifts for less fortunate children, and – most memorably – helping community members dig out from the floods that devastated the region last year," he said.
Great people are also enjoyable, Stenger said, and this class is no exception.
"I know you are enjoyable because of the fun I have had with you over the past year: watching and listening to you perform in a cappella groups, ensembles, musicals, concerts, plays and sporting events," he said.
Through volunteer work and interactions with students from across the globe, the class has acquired an "enhanced perspective to the challenges and opportunities in the world."
"The breadth of education you received at Binghamton offers many paths for your future, and it is up to you to the take the first steps on that path and then to begin running," Stenger told the graduates. "Whether your direction is in engineering or art, in government or healthcare, you will need perseverance and dedication to achieve your goals. Whatever direction you keep, please stay dependable, enjoy what you do, keep a wide perspective, and remember that it is OK to be a little obsessed."
The student speakers
Loew, who received his doctorate in computer science, said his time at Binghamton University has helped him learn about his motivations and goals in life.
"Our experiences have shaped us in ways we could never have predicted, and even though each of us will follow our own path, we are leaving here with the skills we need to achieve our goals," he said.
Binghamton University has not only provided its graduates with those necessary skills, but it has also prepared them for further growth, Loew said.
"There is a place for each one of us out there," he said. "We will all find our path, and as we each pursue our personal goals, seek out what fulfills your needs and matches your interests. Feed your aspirations. Find out what makes you happy."
Comite, who received a bachelor's degree in human development, was the day's final speaker and received the most enthusiastic ovation from the graduates and guests. He first told the crowd that he has lived his life with a stutter.
"The hardest part about having a stutter is saying the word 'stutter,'" he said. "Whoever thought of that word, I guarantee you did not have a stutter! But here I stand before you to prove that anything can be accomplished when you accept yourself and have the right attitude."
Comite gave his classmates three tips that allowed him to succeed at Binghamton University. The first: "Be yourself."
"There has never been anyone exactly like you since human life began," he said. "That is why being yourself is crucial. Oscar Wilde once said: 'Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.'"
The second characteristic: "Find your strengths and play to them." Be great at something and don't settle for just being good, Comite said. The final characteristic: "Control your emotions. Do not let them control you."
"I have a ton of emotions going through my mind right now, but the only one that you see is happiness because I am in full control of my emotions," Comite said. "We are about to enter a new world. A whole new world where all we have is ourselves and those we surround ourselves with. So be yourself, find your strengths and stay in control of your emotions."