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Presidential Speeches

Commencement Remarks by President Andrew J. Matonak, Ed.D.

Hudson Valley Community College Commencement Address
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium
May 19, 2012

Well, students…You made it!

Is there anyone here who is proud of our graduates? Let’s hear it!

Students, you should be proud of your accomplishments.

I have a few statistics to share with you that underscore your special place in our college history, here on the cusp of our 60th anniversary of celebrating amazing students like you.

So, Be Proud!

You are our most diverse graduating class, earning the widest variety of degrees and certificates in our history—a reflection of your interest in emerging careers and of your willingness to embrace a new world.

You are our most academically talented graduating class, earning the highest number of honors designations ever…458 to be exact!

You also are our largest graduating class ever at 2,300 students—nearly 18 percent larger than last year’s class.

Today, as I look out at all of you on this beautiful day, I see hopefulness and I see tenacity and I see boldness.

But I also see resiliency. Graduates, your future is unknown, and that uncertainty can at times seem daunting.

It’s true that today we stand facing a scale of change never before experienced in human history. Our world reinvents itself continually before our very eyes—technologically, economically, socially, and culturally. Indeed, the pace at which “new” becomes “old” is accelerating to the point that it’s no longer clever or astute to say, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.”

There is one thing more I observe as I look out at your happy faces today, something that perhaps you do not see yourself.

I see an eagerness for this new frontier, despite its uncertainty. I see a bold group of graduates who do not simply manage the onslaught of change. I see, among you, a passion for bringing about change yourselves.

In fact, I would like to show you today what it means to “be bold.”

We, the Vikings of Hudson Valley, boast a long history of being bold. If we look back fifty-five years, we can see that being bold means being fearless—a quality held by Claudell Dwyer Galea. In 1957, Claudell was the first female graduate of Hudson Valley Community College, from the Construction Technologies program.

Being bold is being tenacious. Just two and a half years ago, Robbin Dzembo’s life changed forever. She lost her vision suddenly and unexpectedly. Today, Robbin is here as a college graduate ready to continue her studies in a bachelor’s program in psychology. Few of us can fully imagine the courage and fortitude it took for Robbin to return to school—newly blind, a mother of three, and, by her own admission, “terrified.” She says she chose Hudson Valley for its strong sense of community and for the care and capability of the staff in our Disability Resource Center. I say we are privileged, and enriched as a college, because Robbin chose us, because Robbin taught us what it means to be bold.

Michael Fitzpatrick shows us that passion and compassion are other traits of being bold. Mike is graduating from the Human Services program with the highest grade point average possible. Mike loves to help people, and his selfless efforts to create a program to better serve our returning veterans define what it means to be bold.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Mike has used his Hudson Valley education and practicum classes to forge closer connections between the college, its Armed Forces Club, and the Veterans Administration—all in service to our growing population of returning vets on campus. To be bold, of course, also means to be strong. Kimberly Wennberg’s path to her Nursing degree was far from straight and easy. On the day before the start of her third semester and the challenging Nursing III clinical rotations, Kimberly’s home in Schoharie was lifted off of its foundation in a powerful flood of mud and debris from Hurricane Irene. Just four years from paying off the mortgage, she found herself, with her daughter and husband, homeless. Kimberly powered on. She continued her studies and her full-time work in a lab at Saint Peter’s Hospital. Before this experience, Kimberly never knew her strength. Now she knows, and today is evidence of it.

To be bold is to be inspirational. Tina Duerr, winner of the Women’s Fund of the Capital Region Scholarship offered by our Foundation, transformed her life by coming to Hudson Valley. She is here today, with her large family, celebrating her degree in Invasive Cardiovascular Technology.

Tina has an inspirational message she plans to carry to other women who find themselves caught in difficult situations: “There is a world of possibility available to you if you’d only try.” Her message is: You must step out of yourself sometimes to be bold.

This imperative is best undertaken paired with another bold trait: perseverance. Maurissa Jenkins did not let multiple moves as a military wife interfere with her college education. First in California, then in Virginia, then to a third home in Virginia after her family experienced a house fire, Maurissa finished her degree in Health Information Management and Technology online. When some of her required courses were not offered online, she relied on our caring faculty and instructional technology staff to discover new ways to attend class and seek advisement through videoconferencing.

And, though Maurissa couldn’t make to the ceremony in person, we thought it would be nice to conference her in once again to share our congratulations!

Maurissa, I told you earlier this spring semester we would find a way for you to attend graduation. Congratulations!

And finally, to be bold, is to be pioneering. Our oldest graduate this year, Ihor Evanick, worked for three decades as an attorney. Today he carries a degree in Physical Education Studies—at 69 years old—and is on his way to fulfilling his goal of giving back to children through recreation programs. Our youngest, Mercedes Paul, is just 17 years old. She leaves us today with a degree in Liberal Arts and Science.

Another pioneer, Jessica Alger, is our college’s first graduate in the rigorous Mathematics and Science Honors Program. Jessica is transferring to the Albany College of Pharmacy where she plans to earn her doctorate in just five years.

So, as you can see, being bold means many things, and each carries the necessary attitudes and skills to navigate this new frontier.

With that in mind, I would like to propose that to be bold is also to be forward-looking.

Most of you on your trip to this ceremony passed the latest evidence of Hudson Valley’s commitment to being ahead of the curve. You passed the construction site of our new Science Center. The science center is a visible testament to our enthusiasm for our new frontier. From forensic investigation to biotechnology to DNA sequencing, the careers of the future will be pursued by Hudson Valley graduates like you.

Some of you may have taken classes at TEC-SMART, our new platinum-certified facility in Malta. If so, you have witnessed Hudson Valley providing education for the new 21st century jobs in semiconductor technologies as well as wind, solar, geothermal and alternative fuel technologies.

By being forward-looking, you can move beyond simply navigating this new frontier. You must strive to shape it, even moderate the stunning rate at which it shifts and transforms, in order to bring your wisdom and compassion to our world.

You have earned the right to be bold, for you have been fearless, tenacious, compassionate, strong, inspirational, persevering and forward-looking.You have been all this. We, as a caring college, proud of our personal attention to students, have observed it. The future demands it, and your newly earned certificates and diplomas give you the mandate.

I am looking ahead at the new frontier for you, and I am going to make this bold prediction.

As you set out tomorrow in your new endeavors, you are bound to keep the same focus and determination that got you here today. I know this because I also see among you today the source that fortifies and emboldens you, and validates your choices. I see your families and your teachers, classmates, advisors, and colleagues on campus. Together, we form that supportive place, right here and within you, that will always sustain you in your pursuits. We will always advocate for you, and we will always celebrate your victories with you, just as we are gathered here to do today. On this day, Saturday, May 19, 2012, at Hudson Valley Community College…

Be Proud. Fortify yourself. And please continue. To be bold. Congratulations!!