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SUNY Canton graduates more than 900 students

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CANTON — Moderating his 21st and final commencement ceremony Saturday — the college’s 104th — SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy described his annual “final assignment” to outgoing students.

“I make it a point to shake hands and make eye contact with every single student who crosses this stage,” Mr. Kennedy told a jam-packed and emotional crowd within the year-old Convocation Athletic and Recreation Center, nicknamed Roos House. “And this year, I was successful except for one failure.”

One man, Mr. Kennedy said, did not have time to look him in the eye.

“Because he was saluting his gathering of fans up there,” Mr. Kennedy said, pointing toward a rambunctious group of well-wishers shouting encouragement from the Roos House bleachers.

Approximately 920 students had degrees conferred, including almost 200 bachelor’s degrees, more than 520 associate degrees and more than 220 certificates from the college’s School of Business and Liberal Arts, Canino School of Engineering Technology and School of Science, Health and Criminal Justice.

The top five bachelor’s degrees awarded, in order of popularity, were management, criminal investigation, health care management, legal studies and graphic and multimedia design. The most popular associate degrees were nursing, liberal arts, criminal justice, veterinary science technology and business administration.

“I’m very proud of today’s graduates and I’m honored to spend the day with them and their families,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I look forward to further growth and development in the college’s academic programs, with the end result of seeing even more students enroll, graduate and launch successful careers in the future.”

Mr. Kennedy is scheduled to retire Aug. 31.

College Council Chairman Ronald M. O’Neill, a 1963 SUNY Canton graduate, welcomed all in attendance to the special day.

“Much like weddings, graduations never get old,” Mr. O’Neill said, adding that happiness, hope and inspiration were the impetus behind bringing everyone together. “Today marks a new chapter in the book of life.”

The senior class address was given by a tearful Daynelle N. Richards, president of the Student Government Association and a graduate of the School of Business and Liberal Arts in health care management.

Quoting comedian, actress and talk show host Ellen Degeneres, Ms. Richards said, “Sometimes you can’t see yourself until you look through the eyes of others.”

Describing herself as shy when she came to SUNY Canton as a freshman from Ozone Park, Ms. Richards said over the course of her time here, she had faced her fears and made sacrifices to become part of “the family here at Canton.”

“SUNY Canton’s name is known around New York state. This is SUNY Canton and we count,” she said, announcing that together with faculty and staff, the Class of 2012 had established an $80,000 endowment fund for students with extraordinary needs in the name of Mr. Kennedy and his wife, Normadine “Dine.”

“This is where we gained our skills — a place we can always call home,” said the recipient of the 2012 David R. Maynard Student Activities Award.

Vice President of Advancement David M. Gerlach presented state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, with an Honorary Alumna Award for her continual support of and dedication to the college in public and official capacities.

“She has resolutely stood behind SUNY Canton, when necessary, even challenging the party line to help both the college and the community,” Mr. Gerlach said.

Mrs. Ritchie was credited with helping avoid the merging of the SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam chancellors’ offices, and for her assistance in developing the college’s newest four-year program, the much-anticipated bachelor of science in applied psychology for the School of Business and Liberal Arts.

“I was shocked when I heard that SUNY Canton was naming me an honorary alumna. As you know, I’m still serving my first term in the Senate, so it’s a bit unusual for a freshman to be honored as an alum,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “I want to thank President Kennedy and College Council President Ron O’Neill, as well as everyone else responsible for making this award possible.”

Noting her upbringing in the north country and her two decades of service in local government, Mrs. Ritchie said she has seen firsthand how SUNY Canton has grown into an even more important regional institution.

“This year, we all had a chance to stand up for SUNY Canton. We had a chance to tell your story. We had a chance to share our vision for its future,” she said. “SUNY Canton is important to St. Lawrence County and Northern New York. SUNY Canton is important to the entire SUNY system.

“Some people seemed to have forgotten that,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “So we stood together and defended SUNY Canton, protected its independence and preserved its future.”

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