May 18, 2009
‘You’re in for a wild ride’
4-star general tells SUNY graduates to work hard, love what they do
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland alumna Gen. Ann Dunwoody speaks to this year’s graduating class during Saturday’s morning commencement ceremony. Dunwoody is the first female four-star general in U.S. history.
Addressing graduates at her alma mater on Saturday morning, Gen. Ann Dunwoody said to be “ready for surprises.”
“There’s no magic formula, but if you work hard and love what you do, then you will find your passion,” Dunwoody said, noting that she thought enrolling in the Army’s Airborne school in 1975 after graduating from SUNY Cortland would be a two-year stint on her way to becoming a physical education teacher.
“So fasten your seat belt because you’re in for a wild ride,” added Dunwoody, the nation’s first female, four-star general.
Following her speech, more than a 1,000 audience members stood and clapped for Dunwoody as she received an honorary doctorate from the college.
About 1,430 seniors received baccalaureate degrees during two ceremonies held at SUNY Cortland in the morning and afternoon at Park Center’s Alumni Arena.
The graduating class was the largest in the school’s history, said SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum.
About 100 students graduated summa cum laude, which is the highest academic honor and requires a grade point average of at least 3.75 on a 4.0 scale.
On Nov. 14, Dunwoody became the first woman four-star general in U.S. history. She oversees the Army Material Command, which consists of 61,000 service members in 150 worldwide locations that equip and outfit the nation’s soldiers.
Before her promotion, she was deputy commander of Army Material Command, one of only three female three-star generals serving at the time in the U.S. Army.
A native of Randolph, Cattaraugus County, Dunwoody studied physical education and played on the tennis and gymnastics teams at SUNY Cortland. She also enrolled in the College Junior Program, which required spending four weeks during the summer of her junior year at Fort McClellan in Alabama to sample Army life.
Dunwoody joked that she returned to Cortland about eight years ago with her parents for the first time since the 1970s and went to the information desk to ask what had changed at the college.
“The women behind the desk said, ‘We have a new Wal-Mart store,’” Dunwoody said. “So I took my parents to Wal-Mart.”
She also urged graduates “to embrace the opportunities that are available” and said she knew from the moment she donned a uniform that she wanted to be a soldier.
“But today, it’s not so much where you have been or how far you have come but where you’re going,” Dunwoody said
Dr. Bert Mandelbaum also received an honorary degree from SUNY Cortland and spoke at the afternoon commencement.
After Mandelbaum graduated from SUNY Cortland cum laude in biological sciences in 1975, he attended medical school at Johns Hopkins University and then finished at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., in 1980.
He serves as the medical director for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association Medical Center of Excellence in Santa Monica, Calif., and was named to the FIFA Medical Research and Assessment Committee in 2002.
He also served as medical officer during the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics and has worked with well-known soccer players such as Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers.
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