Decker School of Nursing students Cuiting Chen and Caileigh O'Rourke embrace at the end of the school's Commencement ceremony on May 21.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2016: Student speakers address classmates
May 23, 2016Tweet
Here are some of the highlights from the eight school Commencement ceremonies held May 21-22 at the Events Center:
Harpur College of Arts and Sciences
As the president of programming for Showtime, Gary Levine ’74, MBA ’76, guides writers for a living. His network is the home for acclaimed shows such as “The Affair,” “Homeland,” “House of Lies,” “Masters of Sex” and “Ray Donovan.”
“My job, in a nutshell, is to encourage very talented people to tell the best versions of their stories,” said Levine, who received an alumni award from Harpur College and spoke to its graduates. “As I look out at all of you, I see a room full of exciting stories waiting to be told. Up until now, so much of your story has been dictated by your family and your teachers. But that ends today! Now you get to be the sole author and decide what your story will be about.
“So, just as I do with the best writers in the business, I want to encourage you to write your stories. And tell them fearlessly! Don’t be afraid to be different; don’t be afraid to go deep. Make them messy and complicated and sexy and fun. And if you find yourself hitting a wall, just turn the page and start a new chapter.”
Levine told graduates that a Harpur College education is a “secret weapon” to fill those pages. He even incorporated some Showtime characters in his advice to the Class of 2016.
“Whether you are as poor as the Gallaghers in ‘Shameless’ or as rich as Bobby Axelrod in ‘Billions,’ you’ve got a great story to tell,” Levine said. “Whether you are a fixer like ‘Ray Donovan’ or a killer like ‘Dexter,’ you’ve got a great story to tell.”
Alumni award recipient Dr. Kenneth Zaslav ’79 offered a number of lessons to graduates: leave things you touch in life better than when you found them; find a mentor and become a mentor; listening is a great talent; and time is a commodity.
“I want you to understand that starting today, you too now have limitless possibilities,” said Zaslav, an orthopedic surgeon and founding director of Advanced Orthopedic Centers: Sports Medicine and Cartilage Regeneration Centers in Richmond, Va. “I realize this is both exciting and yet somewhat frightening, but you should embrace both of these emotions as you start your personal journey.”
For alumni award recipient Lynda Markoe-Anticev ’88, a liberal-arts education supplies lifelong skills that can be applied anywhere. Markoe-Anticev, J.Crew Group’s executive vice president and head of its human resources and charitable partnerships, told graduates that she is confident that their best work is still to come.
“Do not feel like you have to know the final destination,” she said. “To the contrary, it actually serves you well to not solely focus on the end game – if you do, you may miss unplanned opportunities along the way. Point yourself in the right direction and follow the many twists and turns. It is in those moments that you are able to refine your thinking and is quite possibly when the destination changes.”
Harpur College also had three student speakers – one at each ceremony. Zoe Liebmann, who graduated with a degree in political science, compared finding one’s passion or career path to eating sushi for the first time.
“You don’t know what it will taste like, whether you will like it or not, or what it really is,” she said. “But then you try it and you realize: It’s either better or worse that you thought.
“The unknown is scary and that’s why trying something for the first time is, too. Asking questions, getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new can provide you with a fresh understanding and a new outlook.”
Robin Steiglitz, who received dual bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and French, said she prefers to think of life as a mosaic – and no two tiles are the same.
“When we think we’ve messed up, remember that’s one tiny dot on one square of the giant mosaic of our lives,” she said. “Even if this piece is a little messy or it has different colors than what we imagined or maybe a scratch here or there, remember that it’s going to be a beautiful work of art in the end, and luckily for us, this beauty has been enhanced by Binghamton University.”
Elizabeth Gellis, who received a degree in English, stressed the uniqueness of the graduates.
“Don’t worry about what other people are doing,” she advised her classmates. “Set goals that mean something to you – goals that make you a better person, not just goals that get you something you think you want. Find meaning and purpose in the life you already lead. Have the courage to be happy on your own terms. Help other people. Better yourself.”
School of Management
Daniel Black ’94, recruiting leader for EY, received the school’s alumni award. He told SOM graduates that success is about finding three things in life: perspective, passion and purpose.
“You all have the innate ability to make a real impact, and the opportunity to do so starts the minute you leave here today,” Black said. “As Binghamton alumni, you can touch the lives of current and future students, and make a meaningful contribution to the legacy of this great institution. I would encourage you to get involved early and often – and give back both professionally and personally. I can tell you from experience that your life and the lives of those around you will be better for it.”
Black gave the graduates one last “p” word before ending his speech: permission.
“Don’t wait for permission to broaden your perspective,” he said. “To tackle the challenges in your lives with zeal and passion. To try anything and everything that might lead you to your purpose. These opportunities aren’t ever predictable or linear. Instead, be the person who’s paying attention. And then? Go for it.”
Student speaker Jacob Weiss, who received a bachelor’s degree in finance, used music from “The Lion King,” along with dolls of Simba, Buzz Lightyear, Dory and Elsa to urge his classmates to remember that the key to a successful adulthood is to take a piece of their childhood with them.
“It is time to be like Elsa and ‘let it go,’” Weiss said. “It is time to be like Dory and ‘just keep swimming.’ It’s time to be like Buzz and go to ‘infinity and beyond.’ Yes, we have a difficult journey ahead, and it may require us to work harder than ever before. But while we push ourselves, each of us should remember to be the same person that laughed with Timon and Pumbaa, who cried with Carl in ‘Up’ and who saved the world with Mr. Incredible.”
Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science
Tremayne Stewart, who received his bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, praised his Watson classmates, calling them “the brightest and most dedicated people I’ve ever met.”
He urged the graduates not to lose momentum at the first sign of resistance.
“It doesn’t matter what path you take to get where you need to go – and odds are it won’t be the one you dreamed up when you were younger,” he said. “But it will be the one you are prepared for and it will be the one you carve.”
The school’s second speaker, Tyler Mehlman, said that “no problem is too big nor too small” for engineers.
“Although our futures will lead us down different paths, we will always share the same mindset: identify a problem, formulate a solution,” said Mehlman, who received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “That is the mindset that drives us, and that is the mindset that brought us here today, when we can stand together as graduates and engineers.”
College of Community and Public Affairs
Justin Hayet, who received his master’s degree in public administration, emphasized that the core lessons taught to CCPA students were not “written by rule followers.”
“The blind acceptance of reality – and the rules with it – simply are not part of our DNA as Binghamton students,” he said. “Be like Binghamton: impressive yet modest; steady yet thriving; bold yet becoming. Whatever reason or path or reality or shortcomings or strength that brought you here today, know that nothing is a coincidence, but a strange loop of events wrapped in opportunity.”
The CCPA undergraduate speaker, Nicolette Roselli, said she never imagined that she would meet so many people who wanted to make a difference.
“People who desire change,” said Roselli, who received a bachelor’s degree in human development. “People who went back to school to create a better life for their children so they could educate them on issues that our society’s schools don’t address. … People who want to see others treated with dignity and respect, and to be granted true equality and true opportunity from the rest of society. People who want to restore others’ basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“CCPA is where passions are born and global issues are recognized.”
Decker School of Nursing
Nannette Cowen, a clinical assistant professor, received the Margaret G. Tyson Dean’s Award for Nursing Excellence. The award is presented annually to a person who displays extraordinary effort to enhance the teaching, research, practice or service mission of the school.
Decker also presented graduate-student and undergraduate-student speakers. Estacy Porter, an officer in the U.S. Army, received a community health nurse practitioner degree. She thanked the Decker faculty and staff for the support in her transition from her military home in Georgia to Binghamton.
“I charge each and every of you to get past any fears and doubts and know that you are graduating today prepared,” Porter told her classmates. “Binghamton University has prepared you, the Decker School of Nursing has prepared you and now you have the tools and resources to make a difference in healthcare.”
Camryn Benjamin, who received her bachelor’s degree in nursing, said people have asked her: “Why not become a doctor? Don’t you think you can be more than just a nurse?”
“We chose nursing because even though the journey to get there is long, the destination is worth it,” Benjamin said. “So when someone tries to tell you that you are just a nurse, look them in the eye and say that being just a nurse is one of the greatest positions you will ever hold.
“If being just a nurse means handing a newborn to their mother, being the first person a family comes to when they hear the word cancer, or having the reassuring voice someone needs to continue fighting, then I will gladly own the title of ‘just a nurse.’”
Watch the full ceremonies
Graduate Commencement; Watson School; College of Community and Public Affairs; School of Management; Decker School of Nursing; Harpur College 1; Harpur College 2; Harpur College 3