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05/19/2007
Hudson Valley Community College Celebrates 53rd Commencement
Class of 2007 is largest in college's history Photo Available

CONTACT: Janine Kava (518) 378-3835 - cell
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Saturday, May 19, 2007

Photo Available Photo Gallery Available

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

Remarks by Student Senate President Daniel Fogarty '07

Hudson Valley Community College celebrated its 53rd commencement today, and the Class of 2007 was the college's largest graduating class ever, with 1,830 students eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony.

Robert M. Chiusano, a 1970 graduate of the college who recently retired as executive vice president and special assistant to the chief executive officer of the aviation and aeronautics company Rockwell Collins, will give the keynote address. A native of Schenectady, Chiusano had a 28-year career with Iowa-based Rockwell Collins.

During his remarks, Chiusano spoke of the Wright Brothers, using their story as a way to illustrate the importance of perseverance and teamwork. He also urged graduates to embrace diversity and learn from those who are their polar opposites.

"You can learn the most, benefit the most by not walking way from people who don't look like you, talk like you, are a different color than you, a different religion than you � don't use those things as boundaries," he said. "Reach out, embrace and seek the guidance of people who think the exact opposite of you. Embrace life-long learning."

He also urged graduates to seek out mentors who would challenge them to be the best that they could be, and then return that favor to others. In closing, Chiusano said, "Promise me you will embrace life-long learning. Go have fun, make a difference and do great things."

The Class of 2007 also includes the college's first-ever class of students specifically trained to work in the emerging field of semiconductors and nanotechnology. Three students - two men and one woman - have earned associate's degrees in Electrical Technology: Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT), one of 18 associate's degree and certificate programs offered through the college's School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies.

The commencement ceremony, which began at 9 a.m. in the McDonough Sports Complex, was broadcast live on Time Warner Cable Channel 3. The college's Viking Video Technologies, a full-service video and communications production house, coordinated that initiative for the third consecutive year.

Class of 2007 graduates range in age from 17 to 64. Each year, approximately half of the college's graduates enter the workforce and the other half transfer to continue their education at four-year institutions; this year's transfer institutions include Albany College of Pharmacy, Cornell University, Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Skidmore College and The College of Saint Rose.

In addition, more students from the Capital Region graduate from Hudson Valley than any other college in the area. Ninety-eight percent of this year's graduate live in one of the four Capital Region counties: Albany (38 percent), Rensselaer (32 percent), Saratoga (16 percent) and Schenectady (12 percent).

The college's Semiconductor program, instituted two years ago in response to the Capital Region's growing Tech Valley initiative, provides students with a combination of classroom education and hands-on instruction to train them for employment as work station operators in clean room environments or for transfer to bachelor's degree programs upon graduation.

"Hudson Valley Community College's history is rooted in technology education, so it was only natural for us to seize upon this new opportunity to provide cutting-edge instruction in this emerging field," said Phillip White, dean of the School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies.

Graduates from the Class of 2007 include:

Katie Wehnau of Averill Park. When she graduated from Averill Park High School in 2005, Katie Wehnau had a choice to make: start her college career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University or accept a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship offered by Hudson Valley Community College.

Wehnau chose Hudson Valley and that choice has saved her between $70,000 and $100,000 in tuition and fees for those two years. Plus, she'll transfer as a junior to study Chemical Engineering at Clarkson this fall. An Engineering Science graduate, Wehnau is just one of the growing numbers of high achieving students who are choosing to begin their higher education at Hudson Valley and other community colleges around the country. The trend was highlighted in a New York Times article last month.

"The classes I took here and the professors I met at Hudson Valley helped me realize that I really wanted to go into chemical engineering," Wehnau said. "I'm glad I made the decision to come here."

Rahkeem Morris of Albany. A Business Administration graduate, Morris will travel more than 1,500 miles to attend Commencement. He spent his Spring semester studying abroad in the Dominican Republic, one of a select group of community college students picked this past fall for the Gilman Scholarship, which is funded by the U.S. State Department.

The $5,000 scholarship allowed him to spend this semester studying at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra. Morris, one of six Hudson Valley students to receive the prestigious SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, has been accepted at Cornell University and plans to study applied economics and management.

Sallam al-Salami of Troy. When he first arrived on campus four years ago, Sallam al-Salami was carrying on a family tradition. Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, al-Salami had two brothers and an uncle precede him to America and each found a start in higher education at Hudson Valley. It was their stories of success and new friendships at the college that convinced him to come to America.

"My brother told me by e-mail about the college, how he was enjoying it and having fun, how I had to come here. So my whole dream was going to Hudson Valley because of all the things I heard from my brother," he said.

Al-Salami knew he wanted an education but he also knew he had to explore, and sometimes navigate, the cultural differences between his home country and the United States. He took his entire first year at Hudson Valley to develop his English and communication skills, embracing the challenge of the new language.

During his second year, he settled on his chosen major, Civil Engineering Technology. He also has been active in the college's Muslim Student Association, which his brother, Talib Talib, helped establish in the late 1990s. After graduation, he plans to transfer to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and ultimately hopes to become the first person in his family to earn a Ph.D.

Al-Salami's story, of a foreign-born graduate who is either the second, third or fourth from their family to attend Hudson Valley, is not that unusual. In recent years, families from El Salvador, Argentina, Pakistan and elsewhere have used Hudson Valley as their quality path higher education.

Nancy Zipprich of Melrose. With a full career in customer service at Verizon behind her, Nancy Zipprich entered Hudson Valley's Nursing program for practical reasons. She wanted a career that was mobile, one that could accommodate the national and international travel she and her husband planned to do after his retirement.

But after graduating with one of the highest grade point averages among the 69 students in the program, Zipprich learned something about herself, along with the practical applications of the nursing profession.

"The women who teach in the Nursing program are all strong role models, real mentors for the students� Their standards are very high and that's one of the reasons that graduates from this program have such a great reputation in the hospitals in this area," Zipprich said. "This is a great program."

In some ways, Zipprich is typical of the adult student who returns to find a second career at Hudson Valley. She came here during the early 1990s and earned a Liberal Arts degree before returning to pursue nursing. "What I plan to do is work in the medical surgical unit of a hospital for a few years to build my skills," she said. "Then I am interested in pursuing my bachelor's and master's in nursing, eventually going into mental health field."

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 70 associate's 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.


Remarks by Dan Fogarty '07
Broadcast Communications Graduate/Student Senate President
Hudson Valley Community College
53rd Commencement
Saturday, May 19, 2007

Well, we made it.

I first want to thank President Matonak, Vice Chairman Lang, Kathleen M. Jimino, Rensselaer County Executive, Neil J. Kelleher, Rensselaer County Legislature, members of the platform party, all administration, faculty and staff.

I would also like to thank four special people that devote their time day in and day out to every student on campus. They were also the backbone of the Student Senate, working with the Senate behind the scenes to make the events possible. Thank you to Louis Coplin, Jonathan Winnicki, Susan Smith, and Ann Carrozza.

Thank you to my fellow Student Senate Executive Board: Vice President Lindsay VanAlstyne, Treasurer David Wollyung, and Secretary Ashley Pacelli.

I would also like to congratulate my fellow classmates, the Class of 2007.

It was not an easy task for any of us to get to this day. Whether we spent extra hours in the library, extra study sessions with our teachers, or took that class that we put off 'til that last semester, we worked hard to get the best educational experience possible.

We all have a different story of how we made it to this point. Some of us came here right after high school, and some of us came here after being away from education for a few years. But we all have one thing in common...

We knew that to achieve our goals and aspirations we have to have a first-class education. Sure, there were times during the year where we had doubts of getting through a class and making it to graduation. But, instead of letting these doubts get the best of us, we used it as a motivator and worked even harder to accomplish our goals.

Although we worked to our best ability during our time here at Hudson Valley, it is also important to have a well-rounded college experience. Your Student Senate did their best to bring you many on- and off-campus events: Movie Ticket Tuesdays, Lewis Black, and SpringFest are just a very few of the many events that we have sponsored to give this commuting campus a campus feel.

That is why this year's class gift will be to add signage along the upstairs of the Campus Center leading from the Exhibition Room to the Student Activities Office. It was just put up yesterday.

It will be promoting everything the Student Activities office offers so that future students will more frequently take advantage of all extracurricular activities at Hudson Valley. After all, it is your student activity fee that makes these events possible!

This Graduation ends one life-changing chapter in our life.

It also will allow future chapters to be even more rewarding. As each and everyone of you leave here today celebrate your accomplishment, but do not forget all that you have learned.

Hudson Valley has given you the directions you need to succeed in the real world, it is up to you to take these directions and apply them to your life.

Congratulations to the Class of 2007. Thank you.

Fogarty plans to attend Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, in the fall. A Deans' List and President's List student while at Hudson Valley, he was also was a member of the men's soccer team and served as freshman class president. In addition to being Student Senate president during his second year, he served as vice president of the State University of New York Student Assembly. He was the first community college student to ever serve on the organization's executive board.