Commencement Address: Valedictorian Nicholas Piaquadio (May 19, 2019)

Nicholas Piaquadio ’19 gives the Student Address at the Sunday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, May 19, 2019

Thank you, President Christian, faculty and staff,, and the many family and friends gathered here to celebrate today’s graduates. Thanks, especially, to the Division of Engineering Programs, the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Honors Program, all of whom have made multiple scheduling accommodations so that I could graduate on time. And a special thanks to Dr. Reena Dahle and Dr. Richard Halpern, both of whom have devoted countless hours to stop me from hurting myself with their research equipment.

One thing I noticed about SUNY New Paltz is that I almost never encounter a person who’s doing just one thing.

Going into college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to major in electrical engineering or physics, so I decided to try both. I talked about it with representatives from many universities, and got responses ranging from, “That doesn’t really make sense,” to “I don’t think that’s a great idea.” My personal favorite was, “Even thinking that you could do both is an insult to the discipline of engineering.”

Things were different here. When I arrived and brought up a double major to my advisor he said, “So you want to do more work? That’s a great idea!” The department took me in immediately and reinforced my decision.

But enough about me. The point is that New Paltz offers a great deal of flexibility and a chance to walk a unique path in pursuit of your passion. I’ve yet to meet a student who isn’t doing something cool and interesting in their spare time.

This is a place where the energy of life is so strong it’s palpable. To say there are hundreds of opportunities would be an understatement, and the best part is that they’re all open and available to anyone. All you need to do is ask. I can’t know for sure, but I think I speak for most of my fellow graduates when I say that New Paltz is a place I’ll always carry close to my heart.

When we leave the College today, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Some of us may be heading off to graduate school; others may be getting ready for their first job; and some may still be finding their way.

I don’t know what challenges life will bring, but I can say with certainty that our experiences here have prepared us well to meet them.

I’m by no means qualified to give life advice to anyone here, but my hope is that we never forget the individuality that New Paltz helped build. To be true to oneself is to live authentically, and a person with integrity gains an intrinsic moral compass to guide them along the tumultuous path we call life.

I hope for us to make the very most of ourselves and our freedom, and to express all our thoughts, ideas, and feelings without fear of what others will say in return. At the same time, I hope we view the world with scientific minds, and always seek new ideas, especially the ones that make our stomachs lurch. We should do this so that we might build a better understanding of the world and the people in it.

Thank you for your time, and congratulations to the Class of 2019!