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Presidential Speeches

05/20/2006
Commencement Remarks by President Andrew J. Matonak, Ed.D.

Remarks by President Andrew J. Matonak, Ed.D.
Hudson Valley Community College
52nd Commencement
9 a.m. Saturday, May 20, 2006

  • Welcome again to our honored guests, faculty, staff, family, friends, and most importantly, members of the Class of 2006, to Hudson Valley Community College’s 52nd commencement ceremony.

  • We are here to mark a turning point in the lives of our graduates … to celebrate their accomplishments … honors they have achieved … obstacles they have overcome … and differences they have made, in their own lives and in the lives of others.

  • It’s not easy for our students to juggle college, work and life. They needed lots of support from their parents, children, brothers, sisters, best friends, spouses, and others.

  • I thank you for everything you have done – at home, behind the scenes, to support your graduate. You have played an important role in your student’s life, and in his or her success. Now, I would like to ask all of the family members and loved ones to stand so that our graduates can thank you.

Lead the audience in applause.

  • The Class of 2006 is one of the largest in the college’s 53-year history – nearly 1,700 students will receive either associate degrees or certificates from one of the college’s nearly 70 academic programs. That’s a far cry from the 72 graduates from one of five academic programs at the college’s first commencement, in 1955.

  • Of course, the number of annual graduates isn’t the only thing that has changed in the intervening 51 years. However, the thing that has struck me the most during the past year is that regardless of how much we have grown, no matter how big we’ve become … we’re still small … we haven’t lost our connection to each other as individuals.

  • How is that possible, at an institution with more than 12,000 students?

  • It’s possible because of the people – classmates, faculty and staff – you have met during your time here. It’s possible because of the personal relationships you have forged and the experiences you have shared.

  • It’s possible because “student centered” aren’t just words in the college’s mission statement. Student centered is what we are; how we approach our work; why we do what we do. Even though we serve thousands of students a year, we haven’t forgotten the importance of making every student feel comfortable … and providing the support you needed to achieve your goals.

  • And that support comes …

  • … from faculty members such as Mathematics Professor Cherie (pronounced Shirr-EE) Pash-Corr, whose individual attention in Calculus allowed Business Administration graduate Christopher Foundas to succeed. In Chris’ words:

    • “I ended up spending eight hours in Professor Pash-Corr’s office before the test, trying to make sure I got through the course.”

    • Chris not only “got through” – he graduates today with honors.

  • … and support from Assistant Professor Rachel Jorden, honored this year with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. In nominating her, a student wrote: “Professor Jorden has a rapturous fire for learning, and through her teaching, has re-ignited that passion for learning inside of me.”

  • … support from fellow students whose life experiences brought a whole new dimension and perspective to class … including graduate Leo Osborne. A Construction Technology student who already had more than 20 years of experience in the construction field when he enrolled in 2004, he was the guy faculty could turn to when students asked that age-old question: when are we ever going to use this?

  • … support from fellow students whose youth and energy made a return to college easy for Fine Arts graduate Susan Cortesi (pronounced Core-tez-ee) – the holder of two bachelor’s degrees and a mother of children in the same age range as her classmates. They teasingly called her Studio Mom, because Susan always had a Band-aid, knew how to get paint stains out of a new shirt, and complained good naturedly about the continuous music blaring in the Fine Arts studio.

    • Susan recalls: “I thought it would be awkward, I thought it would be uncomfortable, but the kids and I, we have adapted to each other very well.”

  • Studio Mom, yes, but also, Studio Friend.

  • And … support from the staffers and educators in the Learning Assistance Center and every other support staff member – academic or otherwise on campus – who works tirelessly, one-on-one, to ensure that students succeed.

  • Yes, we have grown. But we are still small, because our faculty and staff never lose sight of the fact that each of you is an individual – with a unique personality, learning style, and aspirations that are your own.

  • From every corner of campus, there are people who have guided you, challenged you, supported your efforts and championed your cause. And that support doesn’t end when you leave here today. To help me illustrate that point, I’d like to ask all of the Hudson Valley alumni in the audience to stand – parents, family members and friends of today’s graduates, along with faculty and staff.

Allow for standing.

  • 2006 graduates – look around and see those who have come before you – and those who are there to help you as you begin the next chapter of your life, whether it’s at a four-year institution or the job of your dreams.

  • Please be seated.

  • Hudson Valley alumni number more than 60,000 strong. When you leave here today, remember that you have become part of a diverse, dynamic group of men and women who call Hudson Valley Community College their alma mater.

  • Stay in touch with your fellow graduates, seek out alumni in your field, and once you’re established, remember that there are others who will follow in your footsteps. Extend a hand back, and help them achieve their dreams.

  • Remember, our doors are always open to you: come back and share your successes with faculty and staff, share your experience by mentoring a student or simply share a laugh with a classmate at an alumni event.

  • Stay connected with us. We are your community college.

  • On behalf of the entire college community, I extend my best wishes to today’s graduates and their families. Remember, stay connected to Hudson Valley. Join the Alumni Association, serve on an advisory committee, become a mentor, share your positive experience with those you meet, but most importantly, make us – and your family, friends, loved ones – proud.

  • Congratulations, Class of 2006.