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Campus News

May 20, 2008

2008 Senior Memoirs: Nick Fahrenkopf

Class of 2008 speaker Nicholas Fahrenkopf.

Nick Fahrenkopf

As I stand here before you on this momentous occasion, I can’t help but feel moved that I was chosen to speak today. I’m reminded of the words of the wise and noble Will Ferrell who once said, “You obviously have made a grave error. But it’s too late now. So let’s just go with it.”

Interim President Philip, vice presidents, Council members, deans, professors, staff, family, friends and of course, the graduating class, thank you for giving me this honor.

As I look out across this field I see so many familiar faces. Friends… classmates… group members… people I’ve passed on the podium, and even a couple of students from my freshman orientation session. We’ve all grown since we first met; especially since we first set foot on campus nearly four years ago. In fact a lot has changed since our freshman year. Who knew that someday… massive concrete structures wouldn’t look that bad?

As freshmen we were told the men’s basketball team never had a chance at a winning season, and yet we witnessed two conference championships and two NCAA appearances. Last year the basketball arena changed acronyms, but it’s still the house that [Will] Brown built.

We were under the impression that students were apathetic and didn’t care. Yet, this semester alone, UAlbany students raised nearly $100,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Fountain Day changed our freshman year and we expected it to be lame. Instead we set a Guinness World Record for the largest pillow fight and subsequently Fountain Day has been the best event each year. Even in the torrential downpour of Fountain Day '06, we braved and celebrated in the fountain.

We saw Burger King become Wendy’s, and Cee Cee’s become the Outtakes Store. And yet… we still call it Cee Cee’s… and honestly so do the freshmen.

I guess some things never change like that. There will always be that one guy who swears he’ll never pay his parking tickets. It will always be called “Indian Quad,” not “Native American Quad.” Some things never change… like the high caliber programs here at UAlbany, or the excellence of our graduates.

For decades our alma mater has been producing some of the standouts in almost every field. Frances Allen of the Class of 1954 was the first female IBM Fellow, IBM’s highest technical honor.  In 1971 Catherine Bertini graduated from UAlbany and later became the Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme - the world’s largest food aid agency. Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, which is now a Broadway musical, graduated in '76. Norman Snyder graduated from UAlbany in 1983 and went on to found a little company called SoBe. Valerie Walsh, who graduated in 1988, is the producer and co-creator of Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go! And just three years ago, Bouna Coundoul graduated before becoming the star goalie for the Colorado Rapids Major League Soccer Team. The interesting thing is that years from now someone will recall a graduate of the Class of  '08 and their accomplishments. That means that at least one of us needs to make something of ourselves…

Like the alumni before us we’ll go on to do amazing things in our chosen fields. Maybe our field will change, like everything else, but we will continue to excel. So while we’ve seen many changes these past four years, large or small, good or bad, we can take comfort in them. Change is nothing new to us; it is no longer unexpected. While the names of the graduates of the University at Albany change from year to year, their quality does not, and their future success is imminent. I would go as far to say that we are more than experienced, or accustomed to change. We will embrace it, and thrive on it. Even more so, we will be the effectors of change.

Harry Truman once said: “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” As students we’ve learned about and experienced changes in a multitude of fields and ways. We’ve seen what needs changing, and from this day forward it is our chance to walk in the footsteps of the alumni before us and create that change.

In closing, I recall the insightful words of Robert Gallagher, who said, “Change is inevitable… except from vending machines.” Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2008… Let’s show the world what we can change.

Before I sit down, I have one more duty. Interim President Philip, would you please join me at the podium for the presentation of the Senior Class Gift? The Senior Class Gift is our chance, as the Class of 2008, to leave a lasting impression on our alma mater and to leave the University in a better situation than we found it. It is our introduction to philanthropy.

This year the Class of 2008 decided to help an organization that helps so many students and community members by donating money to help Five Quad Volunteer Ambulance Service purchase a much needed new ambulance. We were challenged by Interim President Philip, Foundation Board President George Hearst, and Acting Vice President for Development Fardin Sanai. If we had more than 300 students donate to the Senior Class Gift, they would each donate $1,000 of their own money. I’m thrilled to announce that the 2008 Senior Class Gift is the most successful Senior Class Gift in the history of this institution with (436) seniors donating to date. On behalf of the Class of 2008, I present to the University at Albany this check for $16,316.12.

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