May 14, 2012
Seniors bid a fond farewell
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Commencement speaker Geoffrey Godbey addresses the SUNY Cortland graduating class gathered at the undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday morning at the college’s PER Center.
If there was one final lesson for this year’s SUNY Cortland graduates, it was to make sure every aspect of the last four years in school was put to good use.
Hold on to the past, live in the present, and think about your future, keynote speaker Geoffrey Godbey said when he addressed graduating seniors Saturday at Park Center Alumni Arena. Godbey is a 1964 SUNY Cortland alumnus.
More than 1,400 seniors received their bachelor’s degrees Saturday during morning and afternoon ceremonies.
As they began taking their first steps into the challenges of reality, their educators and fellow alumni urged them to do their best in life, regardless of what paths they take.
“You are not a spectator, the world is being placed in your hands today,” said Godbey, who achieved national and international success for his research in leisure activities that helped influence public policy.
Some seniors reflecting on the past four years said they learned it was OK not to fit any particular mold.
Others learned how to think about issues from different perspectives.
However they use those lessons, they should strive to make the right choices and try to do something of lasting worth, SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said in his speech Saturday morning.
For senior Jamie Piperato, college would be unforgettable for three reasons.
She played women’s varsity basketball, was a residential advisor and also became president of the Student Government Association.
“I am who I am today because of the people I crossed paths with at SUNY Cortland,” Piperato said in a speech to her fellow graduates. “I learned that even the hardest times, a leader needs to be strong and needs to be present.”
That lesson came from Mike Holland, she said. Holland, the executive assistant to Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory Sharer, died in October of a heart attack at age 52. The college held him in high regard as an advisor to many students for 30 years.
He had the heart attack on his way back from Binghamton, where he had delivered food and supplies that students collected for flood victims.
Pausing at times to wipe away tears, Piperato said Holland became her friend and mentor.
“We should always be open to the impact of others on our lives,” she said. “Mike’s life and death changed who I am forever — as a person and a leader.”
She said his example has helped her decide to pursue a career in student affairs, something she never knew was an option when she began college.
Reality will no doubt be challenging, something that will force everyone to keep thinking independently, Piperato said in her speech.
“I’m not saying this to stress you,” she said. “I say this because you are ready.”
A standing ovation followed from the audience of students, faculty and their families.
The college presented its inaugural Presidential Champion of Excellence Award to 1983 graduate Brian Murphy, chair of the College Foundation Board of Directors, in honor of his role in launching and steering SUNY Cortland’s current $25 million capital campaign.
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