Stony Brook University graduated 7,100 Seawolves in a virtual degree conferral ceremony May 22, sharing spirit and hope in an event marked by the coronavirus crisis.
The Class of 2020 joins the ranks of 200,000 Seawolves worldwide, united by the drive to overcome challenges and ensure a bold new future.
In a recorded speech, Interim President Michael A. Bernstein spoke to the Class of 2020 of a “bittersweet milestone in the best of circumstances, with a pivotal life-chapter ending and an uncertain journey beginning.”
“You are about to become graduates of one of the most prestigious public universities in the world,” Bernstein said. “You are confronting challenges today that are neither easy nor fair. Everything will depend on your resilience. From hardship and even grief, strive to learn, grow, and flourish.”
Degrees conferred this spring include 4,500 Bachelor’s, 1,925 Master’s, 375 Doctorates, 230 Certificates, 125 MDs, and 35 DDS degrees. Forty states and 65 countries were represented among the graduates, who ranged in age from 18 to 71. Many colleges and departments also presented virtual convocations to honor their graduates individually.
The ceremony included remarks by Eric Wertheimer, Dean of the Graduate School, who delivered an acknowledgement of doctoral and advanced degrees, and Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine and Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, who congratulated graduates in the medical fields.
Also acknowledging graduates within their schools and programs were Minghua Zhang, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; Annette Wysocki, Dean of the School of Nursing; Jacqueline B. Mondros, Dean of the School of Social Welfare; Mary Truhlar, Dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Stacy Gropack, Dean of the School of Health Technology and Management; Patricia Malone, Associate Vice President for Professional Education; Paul Shepson, Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; Laura Lindenfeld, Dean of the School of Journalism; Manuel London, Dean of the College of Business; Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Nicole Sampson, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Student speaker Julianna Casella, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology, congratulated the Class of 2020 for its resilience in challenging times.
Introduced by Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Richard Gatteau, Casella has been part of Stony Brook’s highly regarded Women in Science and Engineering Program and was also External Vice President for Project Sunshine, where she helped to provide free programming to children in the hospital facing medical challenges. In the fall, she will be attending the University at Buffalo, pursuing a PhD in School and Counseling Psychology.
“At the end of the day, two feelings prevail: hope and gratitude. … Gratitude for the past and hope the future,” Casella said. “I will always be thankful for the memories and opportunities Stony Brook has given me. And, if our response to this pandemic has been proof enough, I think we should all be hopeful for what the future holds.”
In a virtual commencement address to all SUNY graduates, SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson acknowledged the “chaos” created by the pandemic but advised that “this moment will pass, and you will have the opportunity to step into a future that only you can control.”
“You, your family, friends, and all the people who invested in your success should be very proud,” Chancellor Johnson said. “Your presence at this virtual commencement today is a victory. All of us eagerly await your emergence as the leaders you are destined to be.”
Senior Class Senator Yusra Abdurrop and President of the Undergraduate Student Government, Shaheer Khan, presented the Senior Class Legacy gift which was generated from 230 senior donations totaling $9,490. While most students made unrestricted gifts, more than half chose to give to important initiatives on campus including the Stony Brook Fund for Excellence, Health Crisis Fund and Student Emergency Fund. In addition, the Undergraduate Student Government contributed $10,000 with that money specifically going to the Student Emergency Hardship Emergency Fund.
Remarks were also delivered by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who promised that “society will overcome this pandemic and so will you.”
“When the worst is over we’ll need your help to rebuild our country even stronger than it was before,” Sen. Schumer said.