Celebrating legacy graduates
By Lisa Kashinsky
At Spring Commencement, Binghamton University welcomed new legacy families to its alumni community. For the parents, seeing their children graduate from their alma mater gave them a chance to look at how much the University has changed over the years and what has remained the same, as well as adding a special sentimentality to the ceremonies.
Spiro family (left to right: Deborah, Robert, Brian, Jordan, Steven)
Steven and Deborah Spiro, both '79, celebrated the graduation of two of their sons, Jordan and Robert, from the School of Management. While their eldest son, Brian, graduated from Indiana University three years ago, seeing their twin sons graduate from Binghamton University was "very touching and very nostalgic," Steven said.
"When Debbie and I attended the State University of New York at Binghamton fondly called SUNY-B, we thought it had it all. And for us, at the time, it did," Steven said. "Looking at Binghamton University now with many more residential communities, more buildings, an Events Center, a new union and a much larger student population, we see a self-sustaining University Center ready to rival so many others for the best talent, both student and faculty."
As the University's exterior changed, so did its students' experiences on campus. For instance, Steven spent two years of his time at Binghamton as the treasurer for the Binghamton Concert Commission, which got many well-known musical groups and comedians to perform at the University. His sons, however, got to witness Binghamton win the 2009 America East Men's Basketball Championship. The two generations lived in different dormitories as well; the parents lived in Dickinson and Hinman, and the sons lived in Newing and College-in-the-Woods.
While the Spiros' on-campus experiences differed, they all agree that, "coming from Long Island, Binghamton was far enough away from home to have a great college experience, but it was also close enough to return home any time we wanted to."
Robert is returning to Binghamton to complete his master's degree in accounting and has a job lined up at PricewaterhouseCoopers for afterward. Jordan is seeking a position in either finance or marketing. Steven is an owner of The Excelsior Group, Inc., and Deborah is an educational technologist working on her doctorate in instructional technology and distance education.
Assael-Sands family (left to right: Steven Assael, Sandra Sands, Brian Sands, President Lois DeFleur, Hilda Velasquez)
For the first generation in legacy families, coming back to Binghamton University and seeing how it has grown is both intriguing and comforting. While the University has changed greatly over the years, parents such as Steven Assael '71 know that their children are still learning the same valuable life lessons they once did, while also having access to many more academic opportunities.
"[There was] a sense among my fellow students that we could change the world," Assael said. "To this date, this school continues to inspire students to think that way."
Since Assael's time as a student, the University's academic and athletic programs have greatly expanded, helping to promote school spirit and make the institution a larger part of the local economy, he said.
Despite those changes, Assael and his stepson, Brian Sands '10, agree that a few things have stayed the same. The professors are still very accessible and the academics are increasingly strong. Unfortunately, the disconnect between the students and the "townies" still remains, they said.
"I am extremely proud that not only my son graduated from one of the best schools in the country, but also that this school gave him great life lessons for the future," Assael said.
Sands will to take Binghamton's academic and life lessons with him to Touro Law Center in the fall.
Ramsey, Heller and Wilford families (left to right: Harold Ramsey Jr., Esq.; Darien Sutton-Ramsey; Callie Heller; Desmond Sutton-Ramsey; Annette Heller; Edward Wilford, Esq.; David Heller, Esq.)
Two legacy families shared experiences at Binghamton University that intertwined two generations and produced lasting friendships and relationships.
Harold Ramsey, Jr. '77, David Heller '77 and Edward Wilford '76 met as students at the Bronx High School of Science, went to Binghamton University together, and maintained their friendships long after graduation. Heller also met his wife, Annette '77, at the University.
Years later, Ramsey and Heller ran into each other at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York. Ramsey told Heller he had just moved his two sons, Desmond and Darien, into their residence hall at Binghamton, and Heller replied that he had just done the same for his daughter, Callie. Coincidentally, the children all lived on the same floor. Ramsey called his sons, explained his generation's history and told them to introduce themselves to Callie. The three children became fast friends, adding another generation of connections to Ramsey and Heller's stories.
These friendships are something members of both families value greatly. "I will always treasure the close friendships I made while living in the dorms and the late nights spent with my friends here," Callie said.
"I feel very grateful to Binghamton for providing this wonderful place to come for college, a place where I would meet my wonderful wife and continue old friendships while making new ones," David added. "A generation later our daughter Callie would come and receive the same gifts that we did, which for me was like getting them for the first time, but better."
While both generations enjoyed great friendships during their time at the University, their other on-campus experiences differed.
"Now Binghamton is wired so everybody can pretty much stay connected to everyone and everything else," David said. "So perhaps you had to scrounge a little more to entertain yourself [during my time at Binghamton]."
Despite the differences in on-campus activities, Harold said, "it is a dream fulfilled," to see his sons graduate from the University.
Darien will attend medical school at New York University, Desmond is attending Einstein Medical School and Callie will attend school at the University of Wisconsin.