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Stony Brook University 2022 Graduates: A Child Of 9/11; A Mother-Daughter Duo; And Advocates For The LGBTQ+ Community

Commencement photo for feature

STONY BROOK, NY— It’s time to cross the graduation stage once again! While this major milestone is the culmination of hard work, sacrifice (of both students and families!), setbacks and wins for all students, for others, it has been a little bit harder to get to this pivotal moment. Overcoming unusual challenges, these students have an even larger reason to celebrate this year

Graduating senior Amanda Stuart has a story about finishing one’s dream. Amanda’s father, Walwyn Wellington Stuart, attended Stony Brook University from 1991-1993. Sadly, the heroic NY/NJ Port Authority police officer perished in the September 11th attacks prior to her first birthday — and prior to earning his degree. 

Choosing Stony Brook as a way to keep her father’s memory alive, Stuart will cross the graduation stage on Friday, completing her father’s legacy. Receiving her degree with honors in Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (with minors in English and History), Stuart has thrived as a Seawolf. She is a mentor for the Academic Community Engagement (ACE) program, a member of the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, Undergraduate Colleges Undergraduate Fellow, a Multicultural Affairs intern, a member of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, and the Alpha Nu Zeta English Honor Society. She is also an assistant coordinator and member of the Student African American Sisterhood, and a teaching assistant.

While it may seem like something out of the movie “Life of the Party,” and not real life, sometimes life does imitate art. To that, mother-daughter duo Annarese Marcano and Ryann Brown will be graduating in tandem from the College of Business with MBA Degrees.

“It was not planned that we would attend Stony Brook at the same time,” said Brown. “I spoke to my advisor about entry into the MBA program after undergrad and my mother was preparing for her final attempt to get into law school. However, I suggested that she meet with Joyce to explore an MBA rather than accumulating the debt of law school, since business is where it all began for her.” 

What makes this day especially meaningful for this scholastic dynamic duo is that they will be able to celebrate graduating together after overcoming a deeply personal family tragedy. 

“Graduating with my daughter is triumphant because we have overcome so much sorrow, and lived with so much pain for the past eight years,” said Marcano. “[God] made it possible for us to look at adversity and see the chance for success, growth and achievement. This is why graduation day is such a special blessing for us.” 

Zarya Shaikh is a University Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa member and aspiring surgeon with a dual major in Biochemistry and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Shaikh has worked on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Student Advisory Council, and founded the “Queer Diagnosis: The LGBTQ+ Health Podcast” which is “dedicated to making sure that LGBTQ+ folx from all walks of life are represented, doing our best to meet with patients, medical students and healthcare providers,” Shaikh said. She also created an internship for undergraduate students to work on the podcast as well. 

As a first-generation Latinx student, Anthony Machuca is the first Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) student to graduate with a triple major and double minor, earning degrees in Health Science, Psychology, and Sociology with minors in Health, Medicine, & Society and Health & Wellness. 

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Machuca understands the importance and value of a college education and wants to help increase the representation of underrepresented groups in all facets of higher education. Machuca completed the Diversity Professional Leadership Network Externship through Stony Brook’s Career Center and has been awarded the first “Above and Beyond Award” for his efforts.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To set up interviews with these students prior to or during Commencement Day, please contact Emily Cappiello at or Joan Behan-Duncan at By setting up an appointment, you can ensure your coverage can be secured, avoiding unnecessary time at, prior to or after the ceremony. 


About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University, a flagship of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. With nearly 27,000 students, 2,800 faculty members, more than 200,000 alumni, a premier academic medical center and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, Stony Brook is a research-intensive distinguished center of innovation dedicated to addressing the world’s biggest challenges. The university embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate and professional education of the highest quality, and has been ranked 23rd among top public universities by Forbes and 38th among public universities in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges listing. Fostering a commitment to academic research and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places it among the top 66 research institutions in North America. The university’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Stony Brook has the responsibility of co-managing Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy — one of only eight universities with a role in running a national laboratory. Providing economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the university totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow us on Facebook ( ) and Twitter(@stonybrooku).

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