Empowered to build a bold new future, 6,570 students celebrated their graduation at the University’s 56th Commencement ceremony May 20 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
They became Stony Brook’s newest alumni, joining more than 160,000 of their forerunners around the globe whose lives and work advance the mission and spirit of Stony Brook.
“We are committed to excellence, committed to seeing this young University achieve greatness,” said President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD in his address to the Class of 2016.
“I hope your journey at Stony Brook University has empowered you to make a real difference as you go out to make an impact on our world,” Stanley said.
In keeping with President Stanley’s remarks on excellence and achievement, two prominent leaders in their respective fields accepted honorary degrees and addressed the crowd.
Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, received a Doctor of Law, and award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien received a Doctor of Letters.
Holder, the 82nd Attorney General of the United States of America, served under the leadership of President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015. During his six years as Attorney General, Holder led the U.S. Department of Justice longer than all but three previous attorneys general. In that role, he was widely praised for his determination to thwart terrorism, to fight violent crime, to safeguard the environment, to protect vulnerable populations, to ensure civil rights and to maintain national security.
“Find the way to improve our country and the lot of your fellow citizens,” Holder advised graduates in his remarks. “Many before us have met the challenge of their time. Now it is our time. Your time.”
“Wherever you go after being superbly trained at this great institution, you have the obligation, and the power, to insure that we, and our nation, keep faith with our revolutionary beginnings and our moral responsibility,” Holder said.
Soledad O’Brien, raised in St. James, New York, is a broadcast journalist, news anchor, documentarian, executive producer and philanthropist who has become a fixture in global news. In 2011, O’Brien won her first Emmy Award for Crisis in Haiti. She was also a member of the teams that earned CNN a George Foster Peabody award for coverage of the British oil petroleum spill and of Katrina. She has also received accolades for her recent noteworthy documentaries, including Black in America: The New Promised Land; Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11; and Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door.
To the assembled graduates O’Brien counseled: “You have power to make change that impacts real people, and it is not a responsibility to take lightly.”
“You must stand for what America stands for, which is equal opportunity for everyone,” she said. “You have been positioned to do great things. Do them in service of others.”
Also addressing the crowd was student speaker Danielle Meyers, who entered Stony Brook via the Foster Care system and is now graduating with a BSW. She will enter the graduate program in Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare with advanced standing in the fall. President Stanley praised Meyers’ academic achievements and commitment to EOP/AIM and other Stony Brook programs devoted to social mobility.
A talented spoken word artist, Meyers spoke to the Class of 2016 in verse, asking them to “reflect on their freshman state of mind” and consider how far they have come, and have yet to go.
“A dream means nothing if you don’t have the right education,” she said. “Experience is the only professor that gives you the test before the lesson.” (See Danielle’s remarks on video.)
Of this year’s 6,570 graduates, 3,948 received bachelor’s degrees, 1,919 received master’s degrees and 470 eceived doctorates. Also awarded during two days of commencement events than spanned the campus were 125 MDs, 40 DDS degrees and 184 certificates. Exemplifying Stony Brook’s global reach, graduates represent 41 states and 67 countries.