College getting ready to celebrate Commencement

SUNY New Paltz will hold its 2017 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies on Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, on the Old Main Quadrangle on campus.

The Saturday ceremony will recognize graduates of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the Sunday ceremony will recognize graduates of the Schools of Business, Education, Fine & Performing Arts and Science & Engineering. Both ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m.

[Follow this link to learn more about the decision to hold two undergraduate ceremonies]

The Graduate Commencement Ceremony for all academic units will take place on Friday, May 19, at 6 p.m. in the Athletic and Wellness Center.

This year, nearly 2,000 undergraduate and nearly 600 graduate degrees will be conferred, as New Paltz recognizes graduates of the August 2016, December 2016 and January 2017 terms, and candidates for the May 2017 and August 2017 terms.

SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian will preside over each ceremony, and all members of the campus community are invited to join in the celebration.

Undergraduate Commencement Speakers

Commencement Addresses will be given at both the Saturday and Sunday ceremonies. New Paltz alumna and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Jessica Faieta ’85 (Economics/Business Administration) will speak on Saturday, and New Paltz Foundation Board Chair and banking executive Michael Keegan will speak on Sunday.

Faieta was appointed UN assistant secretary-general for Latin American and the Caribbean in 2014. She also serves as the regional director for the UN Development Programme, leading the effort to bring sustainable development to communities afflicted by poverty and inequality.

During a busy and productive career spanning more than 25 years, Faieta has lived in 10 countries and witnessed first-hand the effects of extreme poverty, natural disasters and conflict, as well as the profound potential of humanitarian and development efforts to help societies grow.

Keegan has enjoyed a successful career of more than 20 years with M&T Bank, where his current title is senior vice president. He functions as area executive for Upstate New York and New England.

He joined the board of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation in 2003. As chair, he has worked tirelessly to fill the board with members representing diverse backgrounds and interests, and to organize their efforts around a shared commitment to creating new opportunities for students and expanding engagement between the College, its alumni and the broader community.

Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Student Speakers

SUNY New Paltz named Kerry Clingain ’16 (English, Art History) of Staten Island, N.Y. as valedictorian. Clingain is no longer living locally and is unable to attend the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.

Salutatorian Jonathan Baez ’17 (Communication Disorders) of Monroe, N.Y. will address his fellow Liberal Arts & Sciences graduates as student speaker at the Saturday Commencement Ceremony.

Baez transferred to New Paltz and quickly found a home in the Communication Disorders Program, where he worked closely with professors and took advantage of the unique clinical facilities the program opens up to students. He’ll draw heavily on these experiences as he advances to graduate study toward his Au.D. at Montclair State University this fall.

“When I decided to change schools I thought New Paltz was a place where I could find a field in which I could establish a career, and find something I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life,” Baez said. “Not many undergrad programs offer the opportunity to participate in an audiology clinic, and so I was excited to have that experience here.”

The student speaker at the Sunday Commencement Ceremony will be Jessica Weeks ’17 (Biology), of Danbury, Conn. A SUNY Chancellor’s Award recipient, Weeks has distinguished herself in and out of the classroom at SUNY New Paltz, excelling in the Biology Department as a pre-med student and working and volunteering on- and off-campus for the benefit of the broader community.

“I’ve been an RA at Lenape Hall for three years, and I’ve loved that,” Weeks said. “I’ve also been tutoring at the Highland Residential Center, and I’ve gotten into some other volunteering opportunities with Erica Wagner at the Career Resource Center. I don’t know if I’ll have time for these kinds of things at medical school, so it will be a big transition away from that, but I’m glad I did them while I was here.”

Weeks will attend medical school at the University of Connecticut beginning this fall.

Faculty Grand Marshals

Faculty and staff processions at both Undergraduate Ceremonies and the Graduate Ceremonies will be led by mace-bearing Faculty Grand Marshals, in the rich tradition of prior years’ SUNY New Paltz Commencements.

Anne Balant, associate professor of communication disorders and presiding officer of the faculty, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer at the Friday, May 19, Graduate Ceremony.

Balant joined the communication disorders program in 1994 and teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses, drawing on her expertise in speech and hearing sciences. Salutatorian Jonathan Baez is one of many students who have advanced their academic interests through independent research projects with her.

Balant’s service to the College includes a tenure on the Graduate Council, membership on the Academic Senate, and most recently, her election in 2016 as presiding officer of the faculty, a role she has approached with a clear sense of purpose toward enhancing faculty governance.

Susan Lewis, associate professor of history, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer at the Saturday, May 20, Undergraduate Ceremony.

Lewis, a 2017 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, is a historian with an expertise in women’s history. She has earned frequent recognition from peers and high praise from students for her creative, balanced approach in the classroom, where diverse viewpoints are welcome and healthy debate is common.

Kevin Caskey, professor of business, will serve as Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer at the Sunday, May 21, Undergraduate Ceremony. He is a 2015 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service.

Caskey led the School of Business’s course in entrepreneurship for many years, in which role he organized and supported students through the School’s annual Business Plan Contest. He has served the broader campus community in a number of faculty service roles since joining the College in 2001, including work on curriculum and assessment committees, and has been elected by his peers to serve as Faculty Senator and as Campus Ombudsman.


SUNY New Paltz’s Commencement ceremonies will be webcast online at

More information about SUNY New Paltz’s 2017 Commencement Ceremonies is available online.