Pomp and Circumstance, caps, gowns and academic hoods were in masses in the village of Fredonia Saturday. SUNY Fredonia hosted its annual commencement ceremonies. During two separate ceremonies, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., over 1,200 undergraduate and 200 graduate students received degrees.
SUNY President Dennis Hefner presided over his final commencement ceremony prior to his retirement in July. This is Hefner's 16th year presiding over commencement and has awarded degrees to 18,449 graduates.
Since this is Hefner's final commencement ceremony, he asked if it was OK with graduating seniors if he could consider himself an honorary member of the Class of 2012.
Top: SUNY Fredonia graduates show their excitement as they begin their processional march through campus and into Steele Hall Arena for Saturday’s Commencement ceremony. Below: SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner shakes the hand of former Student Association President Michael Baker at the conclusion of Commencement Saturday. Baker is a member of the Class of 2012 and the 18,449th — and final — graduate to be congratulated by President Hefner during his 16-year tenure.
"With my impending retirement, in a real sense, today represents my graduation from serving as SUNY Fredonia's 12th president. So with your permission, I'd like to consider myself an honorary member of the graduating Class of 2012," Hefner said.
The Class of 2012 surely agreed and welcomed Hefner with applause.
"I am truly proud to be a member of the graduating Class of 2012," Hefner said.
Hefner then presented President-elect Dr. Virginia Horvath with a key to the campus. Hefner proudly proclaims there is 5,406 doors on campus and "how those doors are always open to Fredonia students." The key was presented to Horvath to assist her in keeping all those doors open, Hefner said.
Horvath then presented Hefner with a commemorative scroll that says "the final handshake. President Hefner's last commencement." Each graduating senior was presented this scroll and Hefner being an honorary member was handed the first scroll.
College Council Chair Frank Pagano also offered remarks to the graduates saying this was a "solemn and joyous time" especially since this is Hefner's last ceremony.
"(It's) solemn because it's the symbolic transitioning of students who have been in our care and are about to leave our nest. It's joyous because we are watching (students) begin the next phase in their life," Pagano said.
Pagano said the Class of 2012 will always have a special place in Fredonia's history due to Hefner's last commencement.
"You are and always will be a Fredonian," Pagano said.
The student speaker was Maggie C. Oliver, senior class president, who graduated with a bachelor's of science in communication specializing in audio and radio production. She reflected on the time spent on campus and urged students to say "thank you" to all those who have supported them.
"Most of us have grown up here at Fredonia," Oliver said. "One thing I've learned is the sky is the limit if you're dedicated."
Oliver spoke of the community Fredonia offers and the experience graduates will now have coming with a degree from Fredonia. She urged students to not forget about Fredonia, since it is always a part of them.
"For a small town, Fredonia keeps it real," Oliver said.
She spoke of the memories the Class of 2012 will have including the last graduating class to see Maytum Hall prior to renovations.
"We're the last (class) to see Maytum Hall. We may be the last class of graduating seniors before the end of the world and we're the last graduating class under the leadership of President Hefner," Oliver said.
Oliver presented Hefner with the class gift, two stained glass windows which hang on the second floor of University Commons. Under the windows is a quote by Aaron Rose, "In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary."
Keynote speaker was Dale A. Cooter, class of 1970, addressed the students speaking of three main points: Hefner, the American heroes and the university itself.
"I've known all the presidents of this university since I was here. ... I've known some better than others but I've known Dennis the best," Cooter, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, said.
Cooter spoke of his relationship with Hefner and spoke of his accomplishments including increasing student enrollment and money for the college. He also spoke of the love Fredonia shares for Hefner and his wife, Jan.
"I've never heard so much love expressed for two people in one community," he said.
Cooter urged those in attendance to stand and applaud for Hefner. He also urged the graduates to stand and applaud their families who have been supportive and "American heroes."
"In 2008, when most of the undergraduates started here ... the financial system was in a complete meltdown. ... Millions of people lost their jobs. ... It was the toughest four years since the Great Depression. It all happened when your families were asked to make real sacrifices to get you where you are," he told the graduates. "To the families, you have every right to be proud."
Cooter told the graduates to have courage in life, without that courage failure is possible and graduates of Fredonia are the "real deal."
"Graduates of this institution are the real deal, the whole package. ... When you start your journey ... you have the tools to successfully compete against anybody based on the education you got here at SUNY Fredonia," he said.
He also told students in order to be successful in life, they need to receive help from others as well as giving help out. It will make someone else's life better as well as your own, Cooter said.