College to celebrate commencement for more than 1,300 undergraduate candidates

The State University of New York at New Paltz will hold the May 2010 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 23, on the Old Main Quadrangle. The ceremony will acknowledge the accomplishments of approximately 1,300 undergraduate candidates who will be participating in the ceremony out of 1,740 total eligible candidates in this May’s graduating class.

This ceremony recognizes degrees granted in August and December 2009 and the May 2010 candidates.

Steven G. Poskanzer

College President Steven Poskanzer will be presiding over his final commencement ceremony before leaving to assume the presidency of Carleton College in Minnesota. During his tenure, New Paltz’s four- and six-year graduation rates reached new record levels. The four-year rate rose from 30.7 to 48.5 percent. The six-year rate went from 52 to 68.9 percent. This is well above the national average four-year graduation rate for public four-year institutions (29.9 percent) and the six-year rate (54.9 percent) and compares favorably to private colleges, with an average four-year rate of 51 percent and average six-year rate of 64.6 percent.

At the ceremony, Poskanzer will award alumnus and Harvard University Political Science Professor Gary King with an honorary doctorate of humane letters, the highest accolade given by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York.

Gary King

At Harvard, King is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor – one of 22 with the title of University Professor – Harvard’s most distinguished faculty position. King was also recently elected as a member of The National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The National Academy of Sciences will call on King to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

This year, New Paltz will recognize two Valedictorians. Nicole Hitner (Carmel, N.Y.), an English major with an Environmental Studies minor, and Darian Pucciarelli (Staten Island, N.Y.), who double majored in Political Science and Sociology, both achieved a perfect overall grade point average of 4.0.

Nicole Hitner

After graduation, Hitner will be going to Regensburg, Germany, to be an au pair, where the mother of the host family teaches English and German at a university. Hitner said “it is a great opportunity to live abroad without incurring too much debt.”

While at New Paltz, Hitner was very involved with the Students for Sustainable Agriculture club and the Environmental Studies program, saying that she sees both her English degree and environmental experiences blending into a career someday.

“Whatever I end up doing, it will be changing the way we live,” said Hitner. “It is something I will be proud of doing and willing to devote my time to. I can use what I’ve learned in the English Department to do that because it is all about communication.”

Pucciarelli said she will continue to study for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and apply to go to a top-tier law school in the fall of 2011. She is uncertain about what she ultimately would like to do with her law degree.

Darian Pucciarelli

“I was not certain about what I was going to do when I came to New Paltz, but it did a good job of pointing me in the right direction – I’ll let my experience at law school do the same,” she added.

Also at the ceremony, four members of the college’s academic, professional and classified staff will receive 2010 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence.

Michele Halstead, assistant vice president for finance and administration, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service; Surinder Tikoo, professor of business, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities; Nancy E. Johnson, associate professor of English, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; and Charleen McCarthy, custodian in the Haggerty Administration Building, will receive the 2010 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for Classified Service.

The Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence are system-level honors conferred to acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence. These programs underscore SUNY’s commitment to sustaining intellectual vibrancy, advancing the boundaries of knowledge, providing the highest quality of instruction, and serving the public good.

On Friday, May 21, the college will grant master’s degrees to approximately 275 participating graduate candidates on the Old Main Quadrangle, beginning at 6 p.m., at the 2010 Graduate Commencement Ceremony. The graduate candidates will participate in a formal “hooding ceremony,” where the dean of the department of the degree granted will officially “hood” the students as they walk across the stage. There are a total of 667 graduate candidates for May 2010.

Both commencement ceremonies are ticketed events, and all graduation candidates and spectators must present tickets to participate. For more information, visit