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News Release


University at Albany Announces Commencement Weekend 2003

Contact: Heidi Weber (518) 437-4980
Karl Luntta (518) 265-4114 cell

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 14, 2003) -- The University at Albany will hold its Commencement Weekend 2003, which includes a formal graduate commencement ceremony on May 17, the main undergraduate degree conferral ceremony on May 18 and 30 small departmental and school recognition ceremonies throughout the weekend. An estimated 2,700 students are expected to participate in the 159th commencement ceremonies including 1,700 undergraduate, 870 master’s and 134 doctoral candidates.

The graduate commencement will be held at the uptown campus Recreation and Convocation Center (RACC) on Saturday, May 17, at 9 a.m. Catherine Bertini, a 1971 graduate of the University at Albany and undersecretary-general for management to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will address the graduates and receive the Medallion of the University. Prior to her current position, Bertini served for 10 years as executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest international humanitarian agency. In that role, she assisted hundreds of millions of victims of wars and natural disasters throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. She currently is responsible for all administrative and managerial matters in the United Nations worldwide, including the leadership and management of U.N. senior officials dealing with budget, finance, human resources, management policy development, information systems, purchasing, travel, investments, facilities management and security of the staff in New York City. (Please see the separate news release about graduate commencement titled "U.N. Official Catherine Bertini '71 to Deliver Keynote Address at UAlbany's Graduate Commencement 2003" for more details).

The undergraduate degree conferral ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 18, at 10 a.m. on the Science Library lawn, uptown campus. UAlbany Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Educational Opportunities Program Director Carson Carr, Jr., Ed.D., will deliver the address. Carr joined the University in 1985. Under his leadership the graduation rate of the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) doubled by more than 50 percent. For the past eight years, students in UAlbany’s EOP program have exceeded the national graduation rate for all students entering four-year institutions. For those EOP students entering in 1995, the graduation rate was 64 percent. In 2001, Carr became one of the first individuals ever to be honored with the Governor’s Tribute to African-American Leaders of Excellence in State Service Award.

Several departmental ceremonies feature speakers:

Congressman John Sweeney is scheduled to speak at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy ceremony Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in Page Hall (downtown campus).

Rex Smith, vice president and editor of the Albany Times Union, will speak at the Department of Communication’s ceremony Saturday at 7 p.m. in the RACC (uptown campus).

Dr. David Fleming ’75, deputy director for Science and Public Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will speak at the School of Public Health ceremony Saturday at 2 p.m. at UAlbany's East Campus in Rensselaer. Fleming received his B.S. in biology.

Steven Pleydle ’78, director of the Tax and Fiscal Studies Ways and Means Committee of the New York State Assembly, will speak at the economics department ceremony Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom (uptown campus). Pleydle received his B.A. in economics.

In 1926, when UAlbany was the New York State College for Teachers, a simple, traditional ceremony was held in what is now the Dewey Graduate Library. By 1929, the class had grown to 250 students, and President Abram Brubacher ordered the diplomas to be handed out by rows. By 1950, students stood to have their degrees conferred en masse.

President Hitchcock appointed a Graduation Task Force in 2001 to review all commencement activities at the University at Albany. In response to requests from undergraduates, the University moved to a "Commencement Weekend" format that has restored the intimacy of individual recognition ceremonies as well as reemphasized University traditions.

That same year, graduation returned to the University from the Pepsi Arena in downtown Albany where it was held for a decade, and was decentralized into departmental and school recognition ceremonies in which students are recognized individually by their own faculty in front of their families and friends. On Saturday afternoon (May 17), there is a family picnic on the Podium that has catered to 8,000 people for each of the last two years. UAlbany's Commencement Weekend also includes Torch Night (May 17 at 8:30 p.m., on the Podium, uptown campus), a traditional ceremony in which the senior class “hands the torch” to the junior class, along with a fireworks display.

For more information on commencement, visit All commencement activities will take place, rain or shine, as scheduled. In the event of severe weather (lightning/high winds), an announcement will be posted on the Web site and the Commencement Info Line (518) 442-5310, noting any cancellations.


Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit

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