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Stony Brook University’s 64th Commencement Ceremony Features a Full House

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Stony Brook University’s 64th annual Main Commencement Ceremony took place Friday, May 17, attended by the largest number of graduates ever. Photo by Isabel Epstein.

More than 7,700 Degrees and Certificates Conferred

Stony Brook University’s Class of 2024 celebrated in front of an enthusiastic crowd full of family and friends at the 64th annual Commencement Ceremony May 17 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Four years ago, many of the undergraduate students had their high school graduation exercises minimized or canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which also affected the start of their college years. So for many of the students receiving their degrees, this was the first time they could be recognized for their academic achievements in front of the people who helped and supported them along the way.

And support them they did — the largest-ever main commencement ceremony crowd filled the seats at LaValle Stadium surrounding the candidates gathered on the field. An overflow area in Frey Hall was provided to allow guests the option to watch the festivities via livestream.

In all, students in this year’s graduating class were awarded a combined 7,785 degrees and certificate completions. Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis, Provost Carl Lejuez, and university deans conferred the degrees to the university students.

As is tradition, the Grand Marshal, University Senate President Richard Larson, led the procession and opened the ceremony. The National Anthem was performed by Heidi Schneider, graduating with a degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice Performance, accompanied by the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band.

President McInnis challenged this year’s graduating class: “Be a changemaker in the world. This is what it means to carry the spirit of Stony Brook with you.”

McInnis also paid tribute to the late former Stony Brook Department of Mathematics chair and university benefactor Jim Simons, who she said had “a shared belief in the world-changing potential within each and every Stony Brook student” that led Simons and his wife Marilyn Simons, a Stony Brook alum, to make a $500 million dollar endowment gift to Stony Brook from the Simons Foundation in 2023.

“I am certain Jim would be so proud of you today, and I can’t think of a better tribute to his legacy than each of you leveraging your Stony Brook education in service of today’s greatest challenges,” McInnis said.

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The crowd of family and friends of the Class of 2024 was the biggest to ever attend a commencement ceremony at LaValle Stadium. Photo by John Griffin.

McInnis then introduced guest speaker and Stony Brook alum Carl Heastie ’90, Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Heastie was an active campus leader as a student and continues to support Stony Brook, supporting public education and helping it remain excellent and affordable.

“If you have friends that are graduating from other schools, that cost a lot more money and they think are more prestigious, I want you to tell them this,” Heastie told the graduating class. “I want you to tell them that you are smarter than all your friends that graduated from Columbia or Princeton and all of that. But let me give you the biggest reason why — all of you were smart enough to get an Ivy League education at a fraction of the cost. So that’s why you will always win that argument.”

He also encouraged the students to pay it forward. “Sometimes it could just be a letter of reference, a job opportunity,” he said. “Just do something for somebody because people did something for you.”

Provost Carl Lejuez acknowledged the Stony Brook faculty and encouraged the graduates to stay in contact with their mentors. “I have kept in touch with many students I advised and who worked with me on my research, many years after they graduated,” he said. “I’m always happy to hear from them and excited to learn what they’re doing. I’m confident our faculty feel exactly the same.”

Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Government Vice President of Student Life Isaiah Daniel presented the Class Legacy Gift. “Overseeing, planning, and contributing to almost all major SBU traditions and Student Life has been my undergraduate calling,” Daniel said. “Your smiles, laughs, and cheers are my motivation to wake up every day. So thank you so much for being so amazing.”

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Tim Giorlando, a double major in political science and mass communication, was the student speaker at the Main Commencement. Photo by John Griffin.

More than 600 students donated to the gift, which totaled more than $26,000. The class legacy gift allows Seawolves an opportunity to give back and show their support for Stony Brook. The Stony Brook Alumni Association also provided matching dollars for this gift.

Tim Giorlando, a double major in political science and mass communication, was the student speaker and talked about the 1.362 days he’s spent at Stony Brook, how he has grown over that time, and everyone who contributed to his journey.

Now more than ever, we must fight for ourselves and for a tomorrow that everyone can prosper in,” he said. “And let me tell you, this generation right here is a generation of leaders. But even if you’re unsure of what lies ahead after today, carry those moments of bliss with you. Cherish them, keep them warm, and share them with others. Continue to do the things you love, people will notice. Continue to keep doing what you love, I promise you it’s worth it.”

Leonard J. Moss, Vice President of Engagement Strategy for the Stony Brook University Alumni Association, welcomed the graduates as the university’s newest alumni, the ranks of almost 220,000 Seawolves worldwide. “Regardless of where you came from, where you are now, or where you go, as a graduate of Stony Brook University, we will always share a common identity.”

After the Stony Brook Vocalists sang the university’s alma mater, “Sandy Shore,” Celia Marshik, dean of the Graduate School, began the formal presentation of candidates, followed by Lejuez, who presented the undergraduate honors candidates. University deans then presented the candidates in each of the following colleges and schools: School of Nursing, School of Social Welfare, School of Health Professions, School of Professional Development, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, School of Communication and Journalism, College of Business, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis takes a selfie at the confetti-filled conclusion of the main commencement ceremony. Photo by John Griffin.

McInnis concluded the ceremony by inviting the graduates to turn their tassels from one side of their cap to the other to signify the earning of their degrees, followed by the traditional tossing of the caps, an explosion of confetti and celebratory music.

Degrees were bestowed in the following categories:

  • 4,905 Bachelor’s Degrees
  • 2,075 Master’s Degrees
  • 580 Doctoral and Professional Degrees
  • 225 Certificates

The Class of 2024 includes students from 65 countries and 45 states, and ranges in age from 19 to 77 years.

Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian-American biochemist Katalin Karikó was bestowed with an honorary degree of Doctor of Science at the university’s earlier doctoral hooding ceremony on May 14, celebrating her efforts that helped pave the way for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines that helped stem the spread of the pandemic.

View videos shown at the main commencement ceremony at the commencement website.

View a gallery of photos taken by John Griffin and Isabel Epstein:

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  • Wow! Wow! Wow! Stony Brook University an amazing Graduation Celebration. Congratulations to All!

    Mary Seymour
    Master of Arts graduate Africana Studies Proud Class 2024

  • Congratulations to this exceptional class of graduates with my daughter included!
    You made it through the worst of the pandemic, with no graduation ceremony in 2020, and the most depressing freshman year of college. God bless you all and let the sun always shine on you all!

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