For Immediate Release — Saturday, May 13, 2006

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SUNY Geneseo graduates 1,200 students at today's commencement

Rochester, N.Y. mayor Robert Duffy encourages students to live and invest in the city; "create a legacy that will last a lifetime"

GENESEO, N.Y. — With the rain that was predicted for the morning nowhere in sight, more than one thousand graduates received their diplomas today at the State University of New York at Geneseo's 140th commencement ceremony.

Approximately 1,200 individuals received bachelor's degrees during the exercises, and approximately 30 graduate students received master's degrees. The ceremony was attended by about 9,000 people, including the graduates and their families and friends. The ceremony was broadcast live on the World Wide Web.

Robert Duffy, mayor of the city of Rochester, N.Y., delivered the commencement address. Rochester's popular police chief for seven years, Duffy was elected mayor of the city in November 2005, winning 72 percent of the vote in a four-way race. Since taking office, he has forged alliances with Monroe County government, state politicians, business leaders and members of community organizations, to win more state aid for Rochester and improve the city's economy.

"You are about to graduate from a college known as the 'Harvard of upstate New York,' Duffy said. "And Rochester was once the jewel of upstate New York. We've taken some hits over the years, but we are going to change Rochester—change our image, change our expectations for the city. But to do that we need to have the partnership, participation and effort from people like yourselves.

"Today I'd like to issue the ultimate challenge. We're a city on the move. We are a city that is going to change. I would like to offer you an opportunity to come to Rochester, and, whatever field you are in, I will accept resumes, I will accept any suggestions you have about finding a job here. I would like to have you involved and stay here and commit yourself to this community.

"You have an opportunity, 35 minutes from Geneseo, to create a legacy that will last a lifetime. I will offer you a house for a very low price—we have over 3,000 properties that we can offer—and offer grants and all kinds of opportunities to fix that home up, begin to build equity—because on our streets, throughout our neighborhoods, there are properties that need to be repaired, properties that need to be taken over; some are vacant, some need to be torn down, but many can be repaired. But I'll take any street in our city and I'll guarantee you, if six or seven graduates of SUNY Geneseo moved to that street, it would change tomorrow. It would make a difference—and those are the things I challenge you to do. Look for ways to come to our community and make a difference. Take this great education that you have and put it to work. Apply it to something that makes a difference. Our children need you; our community needs you. If you think you can't make a difference, I'll challenge you on that. We can change the world.

"We come from a city where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass began a great legacy a long time ago; this transferred into the George Eastmans, the Bob Wegmans, the Tom Golisanos and others. And in this audience today I would venture that there are many future Eastmans, Golisanos, Douglasses, and AnthonysÉyou are out there; you might not know that just yet, but you are. If you believe it, it will happen.

"Don't follow the money, don't follow the prestige—follow your heart, follow your passion, make a difference, leave a legacy, and your life be well lived and well served and, I assure you, when you look back, you will never regret it."

Duffy offered the graduates additional advice. "Lead by example," he said. "You represent Geneseo, you represent your family, and you represent your community. It's not what you say, but what you do. Have a passion—may you have a fire inside you for what you do and you will never work another day in your life. Find something that drives you. Everyone of us here, inside of us, there's a fire burning. Sometimes it's a little bit harder to find, but when you do find it, it will drive your future. And I can tell you, that fire will be about helping others. Live a life that will be a point of light for others. The most important thing is to look back and say that you made a difference."

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also shared remarks with the students and their friends and families. "You have just received diplomas not only from one of the finest institutions of higher learning in New York, but from one of the finest institutions of higher learning in America," he said. "Congratulations!

"Today is a turning point in all your lives," he continued. "The excitement in your life is just beginning; the great adventures of your life are ahead of you, and they are coming at an amazing time. It's a time that rewards knowledge, great education, and young people like never before. And if there was ever a time to aspire to your dream, to reach deep down inside of you and see what you're made of, the time is right now."

The ceremony also included a tribute to Isom Fearn, who served the college for 32 years as its director of access opportunity programs. Patricia E. Stevens, a member of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, noted that Fearn was one of the university's most beloved citizens. "He was not only a devoted and loyal administrator, but was much more," she said. "He was a good man; a man of integrity, of deep sincerity. He administered programs that ensure that academically qualified but financially disadvantaged students could attend, prosper and graduate from Geneseo. Isom touched the lives of many students with only one goal in mind: to move them to success. He truly embraced the State University adage of 'let each become all s/he is capable of being.' If there was anyone more dedicated and more accomplished than Isom in helping students exceed beyond limited expectations—whether it be their own expectations or those that others had carelessly placed upon them—I never met that person."

Other highlights of the ceremony included remarks by senior orator Lindsay Sperling, a chemistry major from Churchville, N.Y., and SUNY Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl.

During her address, Sperling spoke to her fellow graduates about what they have learned during the past four years.

"The true goal of college is to find our own delicate balance that exists between school and those other things most of us call our lives. Our ability to grow and learn has truly been tested through our social activities, leadership roles, internships, tutoring opportunities, jobs, and relationships with friends, family and professors. It is only when we each find our own balance that the real learning takes place. We have learned to think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our own education and be in control of our own lives," she said.

"I urge you to take this day to look back and remember what you have come through, but do not dwell in the past. Use the great potential that this education has given you and find your niche in the world. Following your dreams may seem daunting and impossible, but do not become disheartened. Push through the challenges; there will always be a reward waiting on the other end. Facing these challenges is what our education at Geneseo has really provided us. We have learned to forge on with our heads held high. We have been given the tools to conquer anything we can put our minds to. We are the future of this worldÉa future that has great potential to challenge ideas, seek new routes, and explore fresh beginnings."

Also during commencement, the Richard Roark Award was presented to Anne Sheehan of Ransomville, N.Y., for her excellence in academics and service to the community.

In addition, several awards were presented to students during the New Alumni Convocation on Friday. The Student Association President's Cup was presented to Jennifer Maietta of West Islip, N.Y., for her exemplary service, dedication and leadership to the Student Association and its organizations. The Alumni Student Leadership Award was presented to Janet Leathers of Ada, Mich., for her exemplary leadership in college activities directed at advancing the quality of student life at Geneseo and promoting greater awareness for lifelong associations with the college. The Edward '73 and Elaine '73 Pettinella Senior Leadership Awards were presented to Anna Fuksman of Honeoye Falls, N.Y., Michaela Alissandrello of Skaneateles, N.Y., and Kris Frederes, of Geneseo, N.Y. Alissandrello and Frederes, students in the Jones School of Business, will receive $2,500 apiece. Fuksman, a student in the Shear School of Education, will receive $5,000.

Also during the convocation, seniors Jennifer Whitmore of Lockport, N.Y., and Kimberly Kavanah of Washingtonville, N.Y., presented the college with a senior class gift of $10,000, a portion of which will fund five $200 student scholarships, as well as a portion of a 54-foot pendulum that will stand in the atrium of the new Integrated Science Center.

The scholarships were awarded to: senior Janet Leathers, junior Kari George, sophomore Stephen Allen and first-year student Laura Infrati. In addition, an incoming first-year student will also receive one of the scholarships.

The Geneseo Brass Ensemble provided music at commencement.

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