A single mother of a 4½-year-old daughter, Casey VanKuren juggles responsibilities as a Discovery Adviser, founder of the Binghamton Gaming Group, SOS Children’s Shelter volunteer and mentor to a sixth-grader. This fall, add tour guide duties and an elementary school internship.
Casey VanKuren, junior, double major in English and human development
From Inside BU
Take risks. Find mentors. Discover your passion and inspiration. Keep learning.
That is just a sampling of the advice graduates received to help them through what President Lois B. DeFleur called “challenging and unsettled times” in her Commencement remarks. DeFleur and other speakers offered encouragement and support during Commencement ceremonies, held May 16-17 at the Events Center on campus.
“I know as Binghamton University graduates, you will succeed because at the foundation of your education are broad, transferrable skills and experiences that are applicable in many different fields and areas,” DeFleur said.
About 2,900 degrees were conferred at the ceremonies. For the second straight year, four ceremonies were held – one for the Graduate School, one for the professional schools and two events for Harpur College students.
U.S. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-N.Y. (pictured), spoke at the professional schools ceremony and praised DeFleur, faculty and staff for contributing to the University’s growth.
“The value and benefits of this great university get better and better every year,” he said.
Hinchey told graduates that the day marked the beginning of an “eternal search” for fairness, justice and truth.
“All of you have the ability to play a significant role in shaping your community, your state, your country and the world,” he said. “You have an obligation and an opportunity to positively impact those around you.”
Hinchey’s advice included learning from everyone, even those who have different opinions and views.
“Remain open to evolvement as a person in order to become better,” he said. “Evolving as an individual and as a nation is critical to living a strong and meaningful life.”
Lawrence Schorr '75, '77 (at center of photo), received the honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the first Harpur College ceremony. Schorr, a business leader, attorney and philanthropist who chairs the Binghamton University Foundation Board of Directors, discussed the seven lessons he has learned on a path that has taken him from Binghamton to life as CEO of Boltaron Performance Products LLC.
Schorr’s lessons: make sure you have mentors; connect to what emotionally inspires you; when one door closes, another one opens; you make your reputation by who you are and the company you keep; know when to play a support role and when to be a leader; if you’re smart enough to survive, you can be lucky enough to succeed; and find good people and allow them to be great.
“In the heart of darkness, there will always be light,” he said. “It is our destiny to continuously reveal that light to each of us, our families, friends and to the people we have yet to meet.”
At the afternoon Harpur ceremony, Mario Paniccia '88 (at center of photo) offered his own life lessons. Paniccia, an Intel fellow and director of the Photonics Technology Lab for Intel Corp., has more than 65 patents issued or pending.
“The key to life is to keep moving on and to keep learning,” said Paniccia, who received the honorary Doctor of Science degree. “Life is about picking up these little golden nuggets. By themselves, they don’t seem to add up to much. But together, over time, they’ll add up to something special.”
Paniccia’s five “nuggets”: there are no problems in life, only opportunities; don’t be afraid to fail; find your passion; find mentors; and never forget where you came from.
“When you become successful in life, remember to help others,” he said. “When you were struggling and starting out, someone took the time to help you. Remember to return the favor.”
Both Paniccia and Schorr added crowd-pleasing elements to their speeches. Paniccia paid tribute to his mother’s recent 75th birthday by having the graduates yell “Happy birthday, Mom.”
“It’s nice to embarrass your parents for a change,” he said.
Schorr ended his talk by reading a humorous letter that job-seeking graduates could send in response to rejection letters.
“After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me employment,” Schorr said to great laughter from the audience. “Despite your outstanding qualifications and previous experience rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will initiate employment at your firm immediately following graduation.”
DeFleur touted students’ communication, leadership and problem-solving skills, all necessary ingredients in today’s working world. She also emphasized the importance of risk-taking. Studies show that risk takers make better leaders, DeFleur said, as they are more self-confident, can cope with stress and are not afraid of failure.
“I believe that taking risks is essential to developing your full potential,” she said. “The next stage of your life will also entail some risk tasking – reaching out far beyond your comfort zone. I believe that you will be successful and I’m very optimistic about your futures.”
Last Updated: 11/12/13