Three honorary degrees were conferred at Binghamton University’s doctoral recognition ceremony on May 16. All were Harpur College alumni, as Eric Schwartz ’79, LLD ’14; Carol Harter ’64, MA ’67, PhD ’70, LHD ’14; and Deborah Gray White ’71, LHD ’14, were honored and spoke to graduates. Schwartz, now dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, previously served at the National Security Council in the White House and as U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. The academic experiences, mentoring and ability to explore career options provided by Binghamton were critical to Schwartz’s growth and development, he said. “I often reflect on the life lessons learned here,” he said. “Not a day goes by without my thinking about a concept, a lesson or an experience I had at this wonderful institution.”
The first female to earn three English degrees from Binghamton University, Harter served as president of SUNY Geneseo and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). After leaving UNLV, she established the Black Mountain Institute, which provides a forum for international writers and scholars to address society’s most pressing issues.
Harter credited her successes to receiving “the best education imaginable” from Binghamton University.
“The incredible faculty here challenged us to examine new ideas, understand different ideologies, and stretch our minds and hearts as we tried to absorb centuries of knowledge and read hundreds of books,” she said. “The faculty simply made higher learning an all-consuming, transformative experience in our lives. There was nothing we couldn’t do and there is nothing you won’t be able to do either, despite some of the obstacles you now see before you.”
White, an acclaimed historian, author and professor, recalled coming to what was then known as SUNY Binghamton in 1967, as a student “fresh out of the New York City housing projects and public schools.” White was part of the first Special Admission class at Binghamton — a program now known as the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
“(Binghamton) took affirmative action to give me the chance to fulfill my potential and I ran with it,” she said. “Looking back, I can truthfully say that Harpur gave me the chance to take the road less traveled and it surely made all the difference.”
White advised the graduates that if they ever find themselves in a position to give someone a chance, do so.
“Like Binghamton did for me, you might make the crucial difference in someone’s life,” White said. “And they in turn might make a difference, or the difference, in yours.”