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Hudson Valley Community College Celebrates 51st Commencement \"Photo

More than 1,600 Class of 2005 graduates join alumni ranks

CONTACT: Janine Kava (518) 629-8071 or (518) 378-3835
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Saturday, May 21, 2005

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

Hudson Valley Community College President Andrew J. Matonak, Ed.D., holds four academic degrees – but none of them, not even his doctorate – is as important as the associate degree he earned from Butler Community College in western Pennsylvania.

Matonak shared his story – and highlighted the stories of several graduates from the Hudson Valley Class of 2005 – during his keynote address at the college's 51st Commencement ceremony, which was held today in the McDonough Sports Complex on campus.

"Just like many of our alumni, I owe everything to the community college experience," said Matonak, who joined the college five weeks ago as its sixth president. "If it was not for the education, the encouragement, the building of self-esteem, the guidance and sense of opportunity I gained from certain faculty and administrators, I don't know where I would be today, maybe working in a western Pennsylvania steel mill."

This year, 1,634 graduates earned associate degrees and certificates from the college, which offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs through four schools: School of Business; School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies; School of Health Sciences; and School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Matonak urged graduates to remember that they have a tremendous support system in the more than 60,000 Hudson Valley alumni, the majority of which live in the Capital Region. He illustrated his point by asking all alumni in attendance at today's ceremony to stand.

"The alumni who surround you are part of your network for success as you move on in the world…. As you build upon your Hudson Valley foundation – whether it is in further academic efforts or directly into your career – think about its value and the value of our network," he said.

Typically, between 40 and 45 percent of Hudson Valley's graduates transfer to a four-year college or university after earning their associate degrees; the remaining graduates enter the workforce, pursuing careers in fields ranging from nursing and chemical dependency counseling to construction and computer information systems.

Members of the Class of 2005 include:

Mary V. Haynes of Albany. Haynes fell in love with the English language at a young age, but it took her some 30 years to earn the diploma that validates her devotion.

Jump back twenty years and you'll find Mary, or "Val" as she's known to friends, in front of Albany's most popular band, Fear of Strangers. She was lead singer, chief songwriter and the focal point of a band that local critics said would make Albany the next big music mecca.

The band broke up, and Haynes traveled to New York City, where she began a solo career that saw her named Musician magazine's Best Unsigned Artist of 1988. But like a lot of talented musicians, the big break never materialized.

Back in the Capital Region, she rekindled her love of language, and decided the string of dead end jobs she was enduring did little to keep that fire burning. The solution? Education and the chance to one day share her love of language with others. The starting point? Hudson Valley.

Haynes received her associate degree in Individual Studies – the first step on a journey that she hopes will bring her back to the college – as a teacher. This fall, she will study English at the University at Albany.

"All of my teachers have inspired me. They have a passion for what they are teaching," said Haynes, who is 51. "I am really going to miss this place."

Sheila Cintron of Albany. A full-time member of the Albany Police Department for the past five years, Cintron graduated with a degree in Physical Education. For two years, Cintron balanced her life as a patrol officer on the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, with her life as a student during the day. Her schedule is hectic, to say the least:

Cintron typically wakes up around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., and heads to school; studying takes place during the hours on campus when she's not in class. By mid-afternoon, she must leave for work. After her shift, she gets home and, if she's lucky, can fall asleep before 1 a.m.

Repeat this cycle for most weekdays and you'll understand why Cintron not only wants to stay in shape, but needs to stay in shape. She's also a member of the Albany Ambush women's football team – and a former fitness training officer for the local Zone 5 Police Academy.

As a returning adult student, Cintron was a little apprehensive about completing college-level work. "Yes, there was some fear. I was, like, can I do the work? But it's been an awesome experience. The teachers are very good about giving you the extra time."

Cintron, who received the Academic Excellence Award in Physical Education, will continue her studies at The Sage Colleges in the spring of 2006, after a short break.

Larry Duane LeBarron and Larry Duane LeBarron II of Hoosick Falls. The LeBarrons are graduates of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program in the School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies.

When his employer – and his job – relocated to New Hampshire two years ago, Larry Duane LeBarron decided to enroll at Hudson Valley – and convinced his son to return with him. In 2000, the younger LeBarron was enrolled in the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program, but he left after one semester, deciding instead to work in the field.

"I didn't have to convince him too much," recalled the older LeBarron, who is 52. "He enjoys the work, and enjoys the money. My wife and I wanted to give him the same opportunity as my daughter to go to college."

His son, who is 25, added, "You can't do much without a college education, and the program is outstanding. They teach you everything, from the basics to advanced work. The instructors are just unbelievable."

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs in four academic divisions: Liberal Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Business; as well as programs run through the Educational Opportunity Center offering certification programs in workforce and academic preparation. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 12,000 students, and it is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining. Hudson Valley has more than 60,000 alumni.