ALBANY University at Albany President Karen R. Hitchcock urged the 1,700 undergraduates of the class of 2001 to remain involved and engaged in life during the university's 157th commencement Sunday morning. "Resist superficial answers and easy gains," she said to the thousands of graduates and their friends and families spread out before the Science Library on the campus. "You've accomplished a great deal, you're open to new possibilities and you can engage change with confidence in your abilities. You're survivors prepared to take on life," she said. "Be involved, be engaged and care. Life is not a spectator sport."
One graduate who's prepared to follow her advice is Difeson Genty, 22, of Haiti, but not right away. The premed and French major said he plans to return to his Caribbean country as an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are in short supply in Haiti, and he wants to do the most good with his medical training, he said. "My country needs professionals. I want to go back and open a clinic and help those who have lost their vision," he said. He knows he could make more money in the United States as a physician, but he dismissed that option. "It's not about the money," he said. "I want to give back to my country."
Genty has lived in the United States for eight years, he said, and attended college at his parents' expense. His parents support his decision to return to Haiti, where he was born and raised, he said. He's not sure where he will go for his medical training yet. "I want to take a year off and do some volunteer work before going back to school for four more years," he said.
This year's commencement was the first held on campus in 10 years, said Catherine J. Herman, the university's spokeswoman. The ceremony had been held at the Pepsi Arena, she said, but that venue proved "too impersonal and large." A task force appointed by Hitchcock developed the current format, based on input from students and parents, she said. Under this format, the university held 31 individual ceremonies during the weekend, one for each department or school. Sunday's event featured a formal degree ceremony and the awarding of honors to students and faculty.
On behalf of her fellow graduates, class of 2001 President Celina Fletcher presented the university with a $17,000 check. The money will be used to build the class gift, a 20-foot tall clock tower, next to the Science Library.