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05/20/2006
Graduates with Diverse Goals, Backgrounds Earn Hudson Valley Community College Degrees
College celebrates 52nd commencement

CONTACT: Janine Kava (518) 629-8071 or (518) 248-4555 (cell)
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Saturday, May 20, 2006

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

Hudson Valley Community College today celebrated its 52nd commencement, and this year, approximately 1,700 men and women graduated with associate degrees and certificates from the college's four schools: Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Members of the Class of 2006 range in age from 18 to 66, and more than 350 students graduated with honors, which means they achieved a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 through the semester prior to graduation (the Fall 2005 semester, for those students graduating in May 2006).

Today's graduates join the ranks of more than 60,000 Hudson Valley alumni, 80 percent of whom live in the Capital Region. Typically, half 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 dental hygiene, nursing and chemical dependency counseling to law enforcement, accounting, and information technology.

Former U.S. Navy Vice Admiral John R. Ryan, chancellor of the State University of New York, gave the commencement address and Hudson Valley President Andrew J. Matonak also spoke at the ceremony, which was held in the field house at the McDonough Sports Complex on the college's campus in Troy.

Ryan shared with graduates the four habits that he believes are important to a successful, happy life: have passion for your chosen path, embrace a life-long love of learning, be a person with values and real character and lead a balanced life.

"First, find what it is that you love, and are good at . and do it with all your heart," Ryan said.

To illustrate strength of character, he shared a story about U.S. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war who was told by his captors - who had found out that McCain was the son of a four-star admiral - that they would set him free as a show of mercy. McCain's response, Ryan said, was simple: I'm not going home until all my friends go home.

"I think that's character. I urge each of you . pay attention to your inner voice, be honest, make ethical choices, and show respect and responsibility, for yourself and others," Ryan said.

Members of the Class of 2006 include:

Prudencia Iyok of Latham. Even today, it is common in rural Cameroon to blame illnesses on witchcraft or other superstition. Growing up in the small village of Muaku, Prudencia Iyok instinctively knew these superstitious beliefs were unfounded, but modern medicine had not yet found its way to rural west Africa.

Immigrating to the United States in 2001, Iyok began working as a nurse's aide, and quickly saw the powerful effect medicine can have to treat illness and disease. She resolved to learn more, and in 2004 she enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College with the goal of entering pharmacy school.

On Saturday, May 20, Iyok will be one step closer to achieving that goal. A, Iyok will be one of about 1,700 students graduating from Hudson Valley.

The next stop on Iyok's educational journey will be the five-year doctoral program at the Albany College of Pharmacy. It's a long way from Muaku, Cameroon to the Albany College of Pharmacy, and Hudson Valley has helped her bridge that gap.

A 32-year-old Individual Studies graduate who also is a President's List student and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for students at two-year institutions, Iyok is especially grateful for the services offered through the college's Learning Assistance Center, where students can go for one-on-one academic assistance and tutoring.

"For those who use it, it is very, very helpful, especially in Calculus," she said. "HVCC has been a great experience for me."

All this would simply be another success story if one didn't take into account the fact that Iyok is a mother of two small children who also works a full-time job at the New York State Department of Children and Family Services. Demanding doesn't even come close to describing her schedule. She works from midnight to 8 a.m., arrives home to care for her children and then attends school from about 3 to 9 p.m. She says she catches about 2 hours of sleep a night, and naps with her sons during the day.

It's hard to leave her children and head off to school but, she said, she's doing all of this for them. "They are the main reason I decided to come to school. I thought about my kids and their future," Iyok said.

***

Leo Osborne of Queensbury. A former Marine with more than 20 years of experience in the construction trade, Osborne enrolled in the Construction Technology program in 2004, after deciding that he "reached my ceiling" working as a carpenter's union representative. The 46-year-old wanted to go back to the construction field that he missed, but this time as a manager.

"I knew I had to upgrade my skills and I figured what better program than Hudson Valley," said Osborne, noting the location, cost and quality of instruction made the college his first choice. "I didn't want to pound nails anymore. I wanted to use my brain."

And use his brain he did (as evidenced by his perfect G.P.A.). His hard work and experience also benefited fellow students, and even faculty members, who found themselves turning to Osborne on occasion to help stress the real-world relevance of the coursework.

"That's been an experience I wouldn't trade for anything," Osborne said. "I enjoy that role, I really do. It's a good role to have – helping others, helping myself in the process."

After graduation, Osborne will take a construction management job at Troy Management Group, a local construction company founded by Hudson Valley alumnus Michael Hart. He also plans to earn a bachelor's degree, and perhaps even a master's.

***

Christopher Foundas of East Greenbush. Like many students graduating high school, Foundas wasn't sure what career path he wanted to pursue and didn't want to spend a lot of money – $20,000 or $30,000 a year – at a four-year college or university finding out.

"Hudson Valley let me keep my options open and evaluate all the choices in life," he said. "The savings was significant: it's like the price of a down payment on a house," he said. "It's a good head start in life: paying off college loans faster, being able to have a life faster."

Foundas, who is 19, will graduate with a Business Administration degree, and now knows where his life is headed: he plans on studying business and technology management at Clarkson University, with a specialization in project management.

"(My Hudson Valley experience) really helped me develop as a person, meeting different people from different walks of life and different backgrounds and different places in their life," he added.

***

Corinne Corey of Troy. Already a Hudson Valley alumna who also has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University at Albany, Corey considered being a dentist, but two years ago, decided to re-enroll at Hudson Valley in the Dental Hygiene program.

She will graduate with a 4.0 and the firm belief that "this program has changed my life for the better. I'm more confident, and it has given me the opportunity to work in the community. My two years here have been the most rewarding, positive, and yes, stressful, experience."

The program is selective and its graduates, successful. In 2005, Hudson Valley's Dental Hygiene graduates enjoyed a 98 percent pass rate on the national licensing exam.

After graduation, the 26-year-old Corey will work as a hygienist, and also hopes to return to Hudson Valley to teach. "As a student, I know how challenging the program is, and I feel that I could give back what I've learned to other students," she added.

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs in four schools: Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences; and workforce and academic preparation programs offered through the Educational Opportunity Center. 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.