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Graduates and Gonfalons

UAlbany’s winter Commencement, which takes place at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12 in UAlbany’s Recreation and Convocation Center (RACC) has all the pomp and circumstance of the outdoor ceremony in the spring. About 4,000 family and friends will turn out to celebrate the graduation of more than 600 graduate and undergraduate students – about half of all those who will receive diplomas in December. The ceremonial aspects of this year’s event will be heightened by the addition of students in the procession bearing the newly designed, updated gonfalons that represent the University’s nine schools and colleges.

Although gonfalons have been associated with pageantry for centuries, they have recently made a comeback at colleges and universities, where they are used for many institutional, ceremonial purposes, in addition to Commencement. UAlbany’s gonfalon designs were researched for accuracy of color for each school and college and also bear the new University seal. The gonfalons will be carried by graduating students who have been recommended by their particular school or college.

Katarzyna (Kathy) Radoszek-Paez and Krystal Abrams

Katarzyna (Kathy) Radoszek-Paez and Krystal Abrams

Students have also participated in past ceremonies as flag bearers – either international students carrying the flag from the country they are native to or those students who have been chosen through recommendation or application to carry the American, New York State and University at Albany flags. “The presence of the gonfalons and flags add to the pageantry and the rich color of the ceremony,” said Linda Wheeler, who is the Director of Academic Events at UAlbany. “Also, the students feel it is an honor to participate.”

Krystal Abrams, a graduating senior from Warwick, NY, agrees. She’ll be carrying the American flag. In addition to the honor of being chosen, she carries it in tribute to her two brothers who have served in Iraq. Her older brother Charles is currently on his second tour of duty there and won’t be able to see her graduate. “When I look at the flag, I will think of him – it will be as if he were with me.”

The spring Commencement of 2002 marked the first addition of international flags to the procession. At this year’s winter Commencement School of Business senior, Katarzyna (Kathy) Radoszek-Paez will carry the flag of her native Poland. “I feel proud to participate,” she said. “It also honors the contributions that my parents made when they moved to the United States from Poland fifteen years ago.” 

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