Shift of Scene Brightens Day

Who says you cannot get a personal touch at a large public university?

After a decade of impersonal commencement ceremonies at the cavernous Pepsi Arena, the University at Albany moved its 157th annual graduation day festivities back to campus Sunday. After the formal commencement for all 1,700 undergraduates, each one was individually recognized at special departmental convocations.

The move also meant that more than 10,000 parents, friends and guests wouldn't have to lament never finding their child in the sea of black robes during the mass ceremony held on the South Lawn of the Science Library. But on a day meant to honor graduates for their individual achievements, why did everyone have to wear the same clothes, asked University President Karen Hitchcock.

"It symbolizes the journey you've made together,'' she said during her remarks. Hitchcock and Alumni Association President Michael Corso implored the graduates to change the world.

"Problem-solving is not a spectator sport,'' Hitchcock added. "Life is not a spectator sport.''

"What you provide (others) in value is measured in success,'' Corso told the graduates.

Class President Celina Fletcher spoke of the mixed emotions and memories running through everyone's heads and hearts on the sunny Sunday morning.

So that everyone could enjoy the day, Fletcher kept her remarks to a minimum, spelling out the five-letter word "brief.''

"B is for the beauty of getting good grades on the test you crammed for the night before or that 10-page paper you wrote,'' said Fletcher.

Fletcher also presented the university with a large, green $17,100 check from the senior class to go toward the purchase and construction of a 20-foot clock tower for the South Lawn.

Moving the ceremonies was not without its drawbacks, though. The flat lawn south of the Science Library didn't present the easy sight lines of the stadium seating inside the arena.

One man was on his cellphone speaking to the graduate he was trying to spot.

"Right by the trees, I'm holding up like two white things (programs),'' he said as he stood on one of the hundreds of folding chairs brought out for the occasion. After holding his hands up in a "V'' and waving, visual contact was confirmed.

Also, the sunny skies didn't agree with the black robes.

"This is the hottest suit I've ever worn,'' said 23-year-old Robert Lord of Colonie. Lord graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in business.

Lord's friend, Maggie Shandoff, 21, of Averill Park, was just glad college and the ceremony were over.

"This is such a relief,'' she said, "to be done with school forever!''

Graduate Kevin Lyons, who will be attending graduate school in the fall, spent Saturday night partaking in one last UAlbany "tradition'': hitting the bars until 5 a.m. But celebrating a last night as students with friends exacted a price Sunday morning.

"I felt kinda tired,'' said the 21-year-old psychology major from Staten Island, whose twin brother Danny also graduated. But not too tired to appreciate the pomp and circumstance.

"It hits like an instant caffeine rush when you realize it's all over,'' he said.

University at Albany, State University of New York