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Campus News


Campus News

UAlbany’s 160th Commencement

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.

May 16 was a day of elation and celebration at the University at Albany's undergraduate commencement ceremony.

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 or older.

“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 them:

  • 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 Services.

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 Bellomo.

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 recognition ceremony.

“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!”

Visit the Commencement pages to view photo galleries.