After a Decade, UAlbany Commencement Returns to Campus for Commencement 2001 Weekend

Contact: Vincent Reda, 518-437-4985

For the first time in a decade, the University at Albany commencement is back on campus for Commencement Weekend 2001, May 19-20. More importantly, for the first time since 1990, graduates will enjoy individual recognition for academic achievements and a series of events evoking the close-knit traditions of the college experience.

A formal Degree Conferral Ceremony for all undergraduates will take place on Sunday at 10 a.m. on the South Lawn of the Science Library. President Hitchcock and the senior class president will deliver remarks to the graduates. A formal Graduate Commencement will be held on campus on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the RACC. More than 1,700 undergraduates and approximately 900 graduate students will receive degrees from UAlbany this year.

In addition, each department or school will hold individual commencement ceremonies with a variety of speakers that reflect their fields of study. National pollster John Zogby will speak to the Department of Political Science; former Surgeon General and current NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello will speak at the School of Public Health ceremony; Hunter College professor and president of the National Association of Social Workers, Terry Mizrahi, will address the School of Social Welfare; and Abraham Lackman, secretary of the New York Senate and director of its Senate Finance Committee, will address the Department of Economics.

At the University's Graduate Commencement, Nobel Laureate in physics Jerome I. Friedman will present the major address and receive an honorary degree.

Said President Karen R. Hitchcock: "The smaller ceremonies will make it possible for us to honor our graduates, celebrate their accomplishments, and acknowledge their families in a more personal way. By dedicating an entire weekend to Commencement, we are recognizing it as a time of real significance and celebration."

President Hitchcock appointed a Graduation Task Force in 2000 to review all commencement activities at UAlbany, and what it found would not have surprised recent graduates or their parents. "The Task Force felt that the undergraduate ceremony was too impersonal, too crowded, and too remote from the campus where these graduates lived and worked for four or more years," she said. "Clearly, a new approach to this significant academic event was needed in order to appropriately recognize our graduates and their families."

In keeping with the Task Force's recommendations, the changes in UAlbany Commencement this year include:

  • An expansion of a one-day Sunday commencement into a two-day Commencement Weekend 2001;
  • Undergraduate ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday held on campus for each department or school to individually recognize each graduate and his or her academic honors;
  • A Commencement Picnic, 3-7:30 p.m. on the podium for all students and their families;
  • A greatly expanded Torch Night, Friday at 8:30 p.m., a traditional event in which each senior hands down a "light of knowledge" to a freshman student of their choice; and
  • A fireworks display to end Saturday evening.

Giving commencements the personal touch has become a growing challenge, particularly for the nation's large research universities, such as the University at Albany.

This February, the inaugural Commencement Planners Conference was held at Arizona State University. There, a new professional organization was established: the North American Association of Commencement Officers.

"What we found is that we face many of the same challenges as our sister institutions, and also that the amount of resources put into commencements varies widely," said Linda Wheeler, UAlbany director of special events, who attended the conference.

Wheeler reports that UAlbany's schools and departments have so far responded enthusiastically, trying to distinguish their ceremonies from others. "The art, music and theater departments will include an art exhibit, a chamber music performance, and a soliloquy by a theater student," she said. The Department of Classics chair, Louis Roberts, will recite to the graduates an approbation in Latin.

Said President Hitchcock: "We are enormously proud of our students, and we are making every attempt to organize meaningful, dignified ceremonies worthy of them and their families. We are confident that the series of events we have planned will permit our graduates - and their guests - to both enjoy themselves as well as provide a wonderfully fitting conclusion to their years at the University at Albany."

For more information, please visit the Commencement Weekend 2001 website at

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May 11, 2001


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