At its 93rd annual commencement Saturday, May 14, The College of Saint Rose celebrated its enduring mission, while graduates were urged to embrace global understanding.
“The first sisters had only the city for their world. You have the world for your city,” said Sister Katherine Hanley, CSJ, who earned an honorary doctorate and delivered the commencement address. “Change it, heal it bless it. I know you will, because you already are.”
More than 1,500 bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and certificates of advanced study were awarded from the College’s four schools, in a ceremony that filled the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. President Carolyn J. Stefanco, who asked the alumni in the audience to stand, noted that Saint Rose now has 42,000 graduates hailing from 37 countries and all 50 states. She encouraged the newest graduates to think globally.
“When we take the time to get to know people from other countries, whose religion is one we have not encountered; whose ethnicity, culture or nationality is one that we are not familiar with – every time this happens, boundaries are broken down and minds are opened,” she said. “That is what defines education.”
The 11th Saint Rose president, the first person in her family to go to college, said that it was not until finishing graduate school that she appreciated the role so many individuals played in moving her from community college to college professor.
“The only way to honor them was to help others to succeed. So I ask you to seek opportunities to mentor young people, and help them see higher education as the transformative opportunity it has been for you,” Stefanco said. “Be a guide for other students and lift them up.”
Sister Katherine, a Saint Rose alumna, lifelong educator and spiritual director, said Saint Rose students are, in fact, continuing the legacy of service embodied by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, who founded the College almost 100 years ago. This is especially evident during Reach Out Saint Rose, the annual day of service.
“(There are) hundreds and hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff, alums, looking about and going wherever there were needs, serving what we still call the dear neighbor,” said Sister Katherine, who has been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 50 years and is a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. “For many of you it was not a one-time activity; you have continued to make a difference in those venues.”
Exiting the commencement with his daughter, Ashley, Ben Flock said Sister Katherine’s remarked had resonated. “She gave the history of the college and I really liked it,” said Flock, whose daughter graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business. “She gave a good perspective.”
Tracey Pacelle, who earned a master’s in education and a certificate of advanced study, spent commencement with her daughter, Serene, 7. Mother and daughter walked hand-in-hand in the academic processional, sat together and exited the ceremony together, though Serene did not accompany her mother across the stage to receive her diploma, her second master’s degree.
“I wanted her to set the bar high and show her what she could achieve,” explained Pacelle, a sixth grade special education teacher in the Bronx, as her daughter looked on.
Members of the class of 2016 exhibited a larger than usual number of personalized mortarboards. The parade of creative, and often highly elaborate, caps reflected an academic area, a piece of inspiration or bit of whimsy, along with a profusion of floral designs. Among these was “Get Meowta Here” decorated with a cat, “Next Step: Everywhere” decorated with a globe, ”To Teach is to Touch a Life Forever” and “Future CPA.”
On her mortarboard, Jazzmyn Tuthill wrote “I Teach. What’s your Super Power?” She said her Saint Rose education had given her not just strong academics, but also experience teaching refugees, children with autism and local children in an after-school program near campus.
For her mother, Sheree, the most meaningful moment of the ceremony was one of the last, when Barbara R. Schirmer, the interim provost, described the power of helping the world one person at a time. To illustrate, Schirmer told the story of the small boy who came upon a beach full of stranded star fish and threw as many as he could back into the ocean, one by one.
“That is my daughter! She once rescued a turtle,” said Sheree Tuthill, who lives in Saranac Lake. “She worked at Pine Hills Elementary and Eagle Point Elementary, and she said if she could make a difference in one child’s life it would all be worth it.”
After receiving her second Saint Rose diploma, a master’s in special education, Carmelina Puopolo took a few minutes to pose with the trophy from the
2011 NCAA Division II National Soccer Championship. It was an honor the decorated player, an intrepid forward, was instrumental in winning. And she was the last remaining Saint Rose student from that championship squad.
Now, she reflected a bit as she hoisted the heavy trophy and her family snapped photos.
“I think I grew up here,” said Puopolo, who is from Toronto and plans to return there to pursue a teaching career. “I was so homesick at the beginning. Now I have new memories, friends and became so busy with soccer. Now, I will always come back here and know this is my second home.”