The rain held off on an overcast
day for the 1,800 students of the Class of 2004
and their families during the 160th undergraduate
commencement ceremony of the University at Albany
on Sunday, May 16.
UAlbany’s graduate commencement
was May 15 at the Recreation and Convocation Center.
Author William Kennedy was the speaker.
On Sunday, Rebekah Hiser, Class
of 2005, sang the national anthem in clear tones
after the colorful academic processional led by
Distinguished Service Professor of English Ronald
Bosco, grand marshal.
Interim President John R. Ryan gave
his warmest congratulations to the graduates and
said he hoped commencement was a memorable day
for them. “I know last night was memorable for
you because I live in the dorm,” he quipped.
Ryan said he has tremendous pride
in the class and just one concern. “I hope nobody
has filled these balloons with water,” he said,
in reference to the hundreds of purple and gold
balloons that were located near the stage. The
crowd responded with laughter.
Sketching an image of the class
in his speech, Ryan said two-thirds of the class
entered as freshmen, and one-third arrived as
transfer students. Seventeen are veterans. Roughly
537 students have given more than 47,000 hours
of their time to the community as volunteers.
Half are 22 or younger, and 70 graduates are 40
“You come from as close as Clifton
Park and as far away as China,” Ryan said.
Having worked himself for nearly
40 years and served in 11 leadership positions,
Ryan said he has found that the most successful
men and women have several things in common. Among
- They are lifelong learners.
- They almost always make good choices, because
they accept responsibility for their attitudes,
for who they are, what they do, and the outcomes
of their work. They make things happen.
Seated among the graduates was Thomas M. Regan
of Gilboa, a psychology major who has already
made good things happen in his life. Regan, whose
dad Martin moved to the U.S. from Ireland 31 years
ago, first came to UAlbany as a high school student
attending the precollege summer experience program
for disabled students. The program is run by Nancy
Belowich-Negron, director of Disabled Student
Thomas Regan must have liked what he saw at UAlbany,
because he enrolled, and later volunteered for
two years as a mentor to disabled high school
students in the same summer program.
Belowich-Negron said he was a hard worker and
a focused student. On commencement day, he was
waiting to hear from several graduate schools
to which he applied, including the College of
Saint Rose and St. John’s University. He plans
to continue his work in psychology.
Elsewhere in the crowd was a legacy family, that
is, a family with more than one generation of
UAlbany graduates. The Cocca family of Watervliet,
which boasts three generations of UAlbany graduates,
turned out to see their daughter, Jennifer Marie,
who graduated cum laude. Jennifer Cocca transferred
to UAlbany from Western New England College. Her
major was accounting. The Cocca family owns Cocca
Appliances. Jennifer’s mother, Deborah, earned
her degree in history education from UAlbany in
1976, and Deborah’s grandmother, Estella Conley,
graduated from UAlbany in the late 1920s. Deborah
Cocca came to the ceremony with her parents, Janet
and Clayton Palmer, and family friend Dana Gordon.
Also in the audience was Erika Batista’s family.
Batista, of New York City, earned a bachelor of
arts with a major in communication. Erika’s family
was well represented, including her father Felix,
her younger sister Charlene, aunt Emilia Batista,
her grandmother Hilaria Mendez, aunt Prisa Solano,
and big brother Robert Hernandez. Hernandez said,
“Erika really deserves this. She worked really
hard. If anyone deserves it, she does.” He said
she is considering relocating to Atlanta.
Not traveling as far but just as proud was Cherity
Roberts’ family of Schenectady. Cherity’s father,
Robin, and brother Jacy, 17, were present, as
were Cherity’s grandparents, Joseph and Concetta
Robin Roberts said his daughter wants to attend
graduate school and possibly go into teaching.
“She is still deciding; we were just talking about
it yesterday,” he said.
Another graduate, Katherine Wright of Endicott,
who majored in math, posed for pictures with her
parents Raymond and Mary, on her way into the
ceremony. The Wrights arrived in town Saturday
so they could see Katherine in the individual
“It was a beautiful ceremony with a wonderful
speaker,” Mary Wright said. And what is Katherine’s
next step? “To get a job,” quipped her dad. To
which Katherine added, “Hopefully in insurance.
And to pay off my loans!”
the Commencement pages to view photo galleries.