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Stadium Complex to Host Historic Commencement


This weekend, SUNY Cortland will celebrate the largest commencement in its nearly 150-year history with two undergraduate ceremonies in the College Stadium Complex.

An estimated 1,477 seniors will receive bachelor’s degrees during the ceremonies, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 17. It is the first time that undergraduate commencement has been held outdoors in the stadium complex, and the largest crowd of family and friends ever admitted to the events is anticipated.  An estimated 2,080 undergraduate students will receive SUNY Cortland diplomas this year, the most in recent memory.

“This is truly an extraordinary class of students and I am thrilled to help them begin the next phase of their lives with a truly extraordinary event,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum, who will preside over Commencement exercises. “The record number of commencement participants testifies to their hard work, determination and engagement with the College.”

Twice as many guests as usual — an estimated 11,000 people — are anticipated top fill the stands Saturday; rain or shine. Guest passes, which typically allow one visitor access, will allow two guests entrance Saturday.

The SUNY Cortland Commencement ceremony for students earning master’s degrees and certificates of advanced study, meanwhile, will be held indoors as it has in the past. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, May 16, in Bessie L. Park Class of 1901 Physical Education and Recreation Center Alumni Arena.

The College will award 234 master’s degrees and 19 Certificates of advanced study. After the ceremony, a reception for the graduates and their guests will take place in the Corey Gymnasium.

The record number of students who will march at undergraduate commencement Saturday illustrates both SUNY Cortland’s popularity and its growing retention and graduation rates – measurements of student success that reflect how many of a college’s students return after their first year and complete their degrees.  SUNY Cortland’s nearly 70 percent, six-year graduation rate is the highest of any comprehensive college in the 64-campus SUNY system.

Commencement 2013 - indoors
In 2013, 1,204 undergraduates received their diplomas during this one of two indoor Commencement ceremonies.

 On Saturday, A total of 161 students are scheduled to graduate summa cum laude — the highest academic honor — with grade point averages of at least 3.75 on a scale of 4.00.

The largest number of majors set to graduate in each of the three schools are: 141 physical education majors in the School of Professional Studies, 192 childhood education majors in the School of Education, and 123 business economics majors in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Barbara J. Ryan ’74, secretariat director of the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations in Geneva, Switzerland, will address the graduates during the morning ceremony. Wang Gongxin, an internationally respected artist who introduced modern computer-aided video art to China and as a visiting student at SUNY Cortland in 1987 and 1988 helped inspire the creation of the College’s new media design major, will address the graduates during the afternoon ceremony. Ryan and Gongxin both will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the State University of New York during the ceremony.

 Peter Kanakaris ’70, president of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association Board of Directors, will welcome these newest graduates into the ranks of the College’s alumni, who live in all 50 U.S. states and more than 40 countries. In its 146-year history, SUNY Cortland has graduated more than 72,000 alumni.

Since Saturday’s two ceremonies will be outdoors, all participants and guests should be aware of weather forecasts and dress appropriately. For guests who would find outdoor bleacher seating difficult, there will be an indoor option inside the Park Center Alumni Ice Arena where the ceremony will be shown live on a large video screen.

Students must participate in the ceremony they have already selected. If a student is signed up for the afternoon ceremony, that is still the ceremony he or she must attend. 

Additional information is available on the Commencement website.