SUNY New Paltz to celebrate commencement

NEW PALTZ – The State University of New York at New Paltz will hold the May 2012 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 20, on the Old Main Quadrangle. The Graduate Ceremony will be held on Friday, May 18, at 6 p.m. in the same location.

This year, there are more than 1,900 undergraduate and 605 graduate degrees being conferred. There will be 1,291 undergraduates and 231 graduate candidates participating in the ceremonies who will celebrate their achievements in the presence of their family and friends. All members of the campus community are invited and encouraged to attend the ceremonies, which will recognize two cohorts of students: August and December 2011 and May and August 2012 candidates. President Donald P. Christian will preside over the ceremonies.

College of Staten Island President Dr. Tomás Morales, an alumnus of New Paltz, will be this year’s Undergraduate Commencement speaker. He will also receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the ceremony. This is the highest honor that the State University of New York (SUNY) can bestow upon an individual and is authorized by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

For more than 36 years, Morales has been an educator and leader in higher education administration. In 2007, he became the third president of the College of Staten Island, one of the largest colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. He is one of only a few individuals to have held senior administrative positions at the three largest public university systems in the country: the California State University system, SUNY, and CUNY.

Morales has committed his professional life to advancing public higher education. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx, Morales came as a student to New Paltz through its Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), graduating cum laude in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts in history (secondary education). He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in educational administration and policy studies from the University at Albany (SUNY).

Prior to becoming president at the College of Staten Island, Morales served in various executive roles including positions at New Paltz. From 1991 to 1994, Morales was the assistant dean, School of Education, and assistant vice president for Student Affairs. He served as director of the Office of Special Admissions and EOP from 1981 to 1994, and, prior to that, was a counselor in EOP from 1977 to 1979. This summer, Morales will return to the California State University, where he has been selected to lead the campus at San Bernardino as its new president.

Danielle Brown (Merrick, N.Y.) was selected as this year’s valedictorian. Brown, who achieved a perfect overall grade point average of 4.0 during her four years at the college, will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in adolescence education/English. She will deliver a short speech to her fellow graduates during the ceremony.

Corinna L. Ridgeway (Port Crane, N.Y.) is the salutatorian. Ridgeway, who also has a 4.0 GPA, will receive her Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a cell and molecular concentration.

At the ceremonies, five members of the college’s academic, professional and classified staff will receive the 2012 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in the categories of Classified Service, Faculty Service, Librarianship, and Professional Service.

The following staff will receive their awards at the Undergraduate Ceremony: Cecelia Donato, secretary in the Department of Elementary Education will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service; Gwen Havranek, director of business operations for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Linda Smith, senior instructional technologist in the Department of Academic Computing, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service; and Susan Kraat, associate librarian and coordinator of instructional service in the Sojourner Truth Library, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship. Tom Meyer, associate professor in the Department of Secondary Education and director of the Hudson Valley Writing Project, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service at the Graduate Ceremony on Friday evening.

The Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence are SUNY System-level honors conferred to acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence.