Although the skies were cloudy last Thursday, the mood at the College of Staten Island’s 34th Commencement was warm and sunny, as President Dr. Tomás Morales told 2,272 students that, thanks to their own achievements and the world-class quality of the College’s faculty, they “have a degree that is second to none.”

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The student speaker was Michael Young, who graduated magna cum laude from the Macaulay Honors College at CSI with a Baccalaureate degree in American Studies with minors in Studio Art and Spanish. He is also a past recipient of the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, a program in which he completed internships over three consecutive summers. During his time at CSI, he also brought smiles to the faces of members of the College coummunity as the founder and editor-in-chief of Operation Three-Legged Dolphin magazine.

In his humor-laden speech, Young looked to the future. “Today we are leaving the College of Staten Island, where we have had positive reinforcement, set class schedules, and tight-knit groups of peers. From here on we won’t be running into the same faces every day. But that might be a good thing. We can be self-starters and build new structures to keep us going. We are empowered to take control of our own learning. And the friendships we will hold onto are the ones we will work to keep.”

President Morales, in his comments, championed the vast achievements of the members of the graduating class, noting that many of them are going on to graduate programs at prestigious schools, such as Cornell, UCLA, SUNY Downstate Medical School, and Tufts. The President also stressed that these student “accomplishments are…a testament to CSI’s exceptional faculty,” recognizing the 43 new faculty members who came to CSI last fall and highlighting the strengths of the entire faculty. In addition, Dr. Morales underscored the fact that the College continues to move forward with a Macaulay Honors COllege program that doubled in size last year, our thriving Verrazano School, the awarding of full-tuition scholarships to seven valedictorians and salutatorians last year, and an ever-expanding list of programs with sister institutions around the world.

In addition to the presentation of the degrees to CSI students, Dr. Morales and Dr. William Fritz, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters on CSI alumna and President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Dr. Muriel Howard, who received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Elementary Education from Richmond College.

The day’s festivities concluded in the afternoon in the CSI Library with the annual Dolphin Awards ceremony that honored outstanding contributions to the College by faculty, staff, and students. This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Marianne Jeffreys.

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: David Falk.

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Thomas Mormino.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Stephen Stearns.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Manuel Gonzalez.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialist Titles: Valeria Belmonti.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Clerical Function: Florinda Mattia.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security, Service, and Support Function: Vincent Bono.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Currently Enrolled Student: Dennis Gaffigan.

After emcee Michael Daniels, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, recognized the honorees, as well as the presence of Professor Emeritus Stamos Zades, President Morales thanked the faculty and staff of the College for their hard work and dedication to CSI. The President also called Professor Sandi Cooper up to the lectern to thank her for her commitment to the College and to introduce her as the new President of the University Faculty Senate.