A very warm and sunny day greeted the College of Staten Island’s 2,345 graduates and their families, friends, and supporters from the College community and beyond last Thursday at CSI’s 37th Annual Commencement.
After acknowledging the dedicated efforts of the CSI community in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz listed some of the characteristics that make CSI unique, like its 204-acre campus and the fact that it is the only public institution of higher learning in the Borough. He also mentioned some of the College’s recent achievements, such as the construction of the new student residence halls, the creation of new professional schools in business and education, and the forthcoming Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center.
In closing, he shared his philosophy regarding the connection between alumni and their alma maters, “There are those who view colleges and universities metaphorically as living entities with the alumni forming the soul of the institution. I subscribe to this notion as well. As alumni, your achievements become our achievements. Your prominence builds upon our prominence and prestige. Your philanthropy and humanity become our contribution in kind to a better, more compassionate, and caring world.”
Download the Commencement Program [PDF].
This year, the College was honored to have two valedictorians, Christopher Bitetto and Evelyn Okeke, both graduates of The Verrazano School Honors Program.
In his speech, Bitetto reflected on his time at CSI “What I am most proud of as I get set to graduate is that I was a member of the CSI family. Even under the worst circumstances, like Hurricane Sandy, members of the Staten Island community came together to volunteer their time and donate their food and clothes because we all come from the same place. That’s what makes the College of Staten Island student body so special. We have arrived at a point where we see the value in giving back to others. We all have overcome obstacles, and as a group, we demonstrate that nothing shall keep us from succeeding as long as we work for it.”
Okeke, who is originally from the former East Germany, emphasized the role of The Verrazano School in her academic and personal path. “Being a part of the Verrazano School also fostered my college career by providing me with a family of students and caring mentors who assisted me throughout every step of my college years. When I was a scared freshman, they welcomed me to my new country and helped me adjust to the many cultural differences. Through The Verrazano School, I volunteered my time and engaged in making my community a better place to live.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony and offering their support to the graduates were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer; CUNY Vice for Facilities Planning, Construction, and Management Iris Weinshall; and CUNY Trustee Rita DiMartino.
The Commencement ceremony also bestowed honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees upon Elizabeth A. Dubovsky, Executive Director at The Staten Island Foundation, and Distinguished Professor Toyin Falola. In addition, Dr. Fritz recognized the latest recipients of the President’s Medal, Robert S. Cutrona, Sr., President of Project-One Services, Inc. and a founding Director of Victory State Bank; Norma D’Arrigo, a community leader on Staten Island; and Dr. Alfred Levine, Professor of Engineering Science and Physics and the Director of the Center for Environmental Science at the College of Staten Island.
Later in the day, the CSI Library hosted the annual Dolphin Awards ceremony, which honors outstanding contributions to the College by faculty, staff, and students.
Read the honorees bios and view the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery.
This year’s honorees included:
-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Christina Tortora
-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Probal Banerjee
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Alan Zimmerman
-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Edward Hack
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Carol Brower
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialists Title: Victor Magnani
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff: Debbie Britton
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security: John Santorelli
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time, Non-Teaching Staff: Debra Lane
-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student: Elizabeth Che
Dr. Fritz opened the Dolphin Awards ceremony by noting that “At Commencement this morning, I stated unequivocally to our graduates that the College of Staten Island was, is, and always will be a place where you can pursue all of your ambitions and achieve all of your dreams—and that with a degree from CSI, you can accomplish anything. I truly believe this. But I also know that it is the hard work, dedication, and excellence of our faculty, staff, and students, as exemplified by the Dolphin Award winners we honor here today, that turns this belief into reality for our graduates.”
College Writer/Editor Terry Mares followed Dr. Fritz, reading short biographies of each of the honorees, underscoring their contributions to the College.