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More than 600 students receive degrees during Clarkson commencement

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POTSDAM — In a ceremony that had the bleacher and floor seats filled inside Cheel Arena, more than 600 students received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Clarkson University’s 119th commencement Saturday.

It was a day of celebration not only for the students who came from 22 states, 26 countries and 57 New York state counties, but also for families who were lined up two hours before the start of the mid-afternoon ceremony to ensure they had the best seats.

President Anthony G. Collins said they had a lot to celebrate, not just in academics, but also in other areas.

For instance, he said four seniors who would walk across the stage had maintained not only their grade-point averages, but also participated in the NCAA volleyball tournament for three consecutive years.

Another student was a collegiate national champion in downhill mountain biking, according to Mr. Collins, while other students had led the school to first place in a “clean snowmobile challenge.”

“Each of you graduates today has strong technical skills, but you’ve also stretched yourself beyond the norm,” he said.

Kristin E. Lear, the senior class president for the Class of 2012, reflected on what they had achieved during their college careers.

“We each have unforgettable moments we will look back — moments of achievement, of excitement, of friends and, of course, moments we never could have imagined,” Ms. Lear said. “There are many things about Clarkson that we will not soon forget.”

For instance, she said, they would no doubt remember the jitters they faced on move-in day, the day they had their first big test and, as they head out into the world, job interviews.

“We have worked hard for many of these memories. We have made it through grueling tryouts and twice-a-day practices for the opportunity to wear our colors on game day,” Ms. Lear said.

“Or we made it through those six crazy weeks, sealing a bond with our sisters and brothers that will be carried with us throughout life, wherever we may go,” she said.

Ms. Lear commended the students for their efforts in shaping Clarkson University during their stay.

“This class is full of leaders, thinkers and problem solvers, who have changed this campus and the people on it. We have defied convention and in turn become a force. We are the future,” she said. “We will go further, work harder and soon we will shape the world around us.”

She presented Mr. Collins with a check for $2,377, the result of 154 seniors’ contributions to their senior gift. This year, Ms. Lear said, they decided to donate to the Clarkson Fund, “a gift that will directly impact the future of many students who attend Clarkson University.”

Mr. Collins acknowledged 17 graduates who had been commissioned as Army and Air Force officers during an ROTC commission exercise Friday, and he recognized two graduates who maintained perfect 4.0 grade-point averages to earn the highest awards from the university faculty for scholarship “and the promise of outstanding professional achievement.”

Matthew R. Gammariello received the 2012 Levinus Clarkson Award, while James C. Davis was selected to receive the Frederica Clarkson Award.

The Clarkson president also awarded three honorary degrees to Dr. David G. Nathan, president emeritus of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, physician-in-chief emeritus at Children’s Hospital in Boston and Robert A. Stranahan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Radovan Stanislav Pejovnik, rector and professor of materials science at the University of Ljubljana in Ljubljana, Slovenia; and George C. Schatz, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry and of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University.

For those in the graduating class, it was time to move on with their lives, whether it’s continuing their education or entering the job market.

St. Regis Falls native Sara A. Artus, who received a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology, will attend physician’s assistant school in Portland, Maine.

She was on the school’s volleyball team that participated in the NCAA tournament for three years.

“I’ve had a great four years here, a lot of great memories,” she said, noting she chose Clarkson over other universities specifically for the volleyball program. “I felt like I fit in with the team better here and I knew it was a good school.”

James R. Brink, who hails from Silver Creek in Western New York, completed five years at Clarkson when he received his MBA on Saturday — sort of. As part of his MBA requirement, he’ll travel to France for three weeks on June 1.

“The MBA requires some sort of international experience,” he said.

His grades will be transferred back when he finishes in France and he’ll receive his diploma in the mail. He received a bachelor of science degree last year.

“I’m a glutton for punishment,” he said.

John E. Gibson, Queensbury, spent two years at Clarkson after transferring from Adirondack Community College. His degree is in computer science.

“I always wanted to do this since high school,” he said.

His next step may take him back to Queensbury.

“I’m talking to Tribune Media Services,” where he would work as an API engineer, he said.

Erin H. Bachand said she wanted to put her new degree in psychology and interdisciplinary liberal studies to work at a counseling firm. She said the firm would pay for a certain number of college credits, allowing her to work on her master’s degree.

“I’ve always had an affinity with helping people. It’s one of my passions,” she said.

A special guest at the commencement had planned to address the graduates but opted not to after his arrival at the ceremony’s conclusion.

“Graduates, congratulations. I have this nice speech that I wrote,” said U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, ripping the speech into two pieces and letting the post-commencement festivities begin.



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