CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz is joined by members of Charlotte Montalbano's family: Marie Montalbano Supina, sister; Charles Eldred, son; Vincent Montalbano, brother; and Ester Montalbano, Vincent’s wife. Ms Montalbano was the student speaker at the College's first commencement in 1958.

Traditionally, Convocations at the College of Staten Island are a celebration of the achievements of the students, faculty, and staff over the past year—an accumulation of recent highlights—as well as a look toward the future. This year, however, in the College’s Center for the Arts Williamson Theatre, College President Dr. William J. Fritz focused on what he calls “our very proud but, at times, forgotten CSI legacy,” which encompasses the proud history of CSI’s predecessor institutions, Staten Island Community College (SICC) and Richmond College, which united in 1976 to form the College of Staten Island.

View the Convocation 2014 Years of Service Event Program and the annual A Celebration of Accomplishments on the President’s Office digital bookshelf>

After opening remarks from College Provost/Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Naider, President Fritz walked on stage as a video of the Grateful Dead’s “Attics in My Life” played. After explaining the unique theme of this year’s event, Dr. Fritz underscored the importance of looking back. “The College of Staten Island, like all longstanding institutions, is a continuum. Consider that a continuum is a trilogy consisting not only of a present and a future, but also a past. Without our past, without our legacy, there would have been no foundation to build upon—there would be no today, there would be no tomorrow. This afternoon, we embrace our legacy as we celebrate our continuum.”

Attendees then enjoyed a video that brought to life not only the vast achievements, but especially the people who learned, taught, and worked at all three institutions for the last 58 years, dating back to the establishment of SICC in 1956. The video also gave viewers a chance to hear portions of the student speech at the very-first SICC Commencement, which was held in 1958.

Charlotte Montalbano Eldred, Class of 1958.

Dr. Fritz discussed the speaker, Charlotte Montalbano, who later became Charlotte Eldred, and her extraordinary and impactful life. After receiving a Master’s degree from Teachers College of Columbia University, “Charlotte taught Spanish, English, and Creative Writing at Maine-Endwell Junior and Senior High School in Endwell, NY, where she inspired students for over 20 years before retiring in the 1990s. In 1985, she received a Teacher of Excellence Award from the NY State English Council. In addition, Charlotte was a poet and a writer, who published her own poetry collection called Black Dress, and a book of stories about her family’s immigration from Sicily to America entitled, The Rising Village of Their Ancestors was Always in Their Hearts.”

Dr. Fritz noted that “she was indeed the perfect representative for a group of true pioneers—the first graduating class of the first public institution of higher education on Staten Island.”  Sadly, Charlotte passed away in 2013. The members of her family who were in the audience joined the College community in hearing her remarks for the first time in decades.

In his remarks, Dr. Fritz also announced the creation of “a living archive project, which will involve recording interviews with faculty, staff, and alumni to preserve their stories forever” and called for volunteers. He also appealed for old yearbooks and photos to fill the gaps in the College’s historical archives.

There was a brief moment during this year’s Convocation when the focus shifted to the future. Near the end of the legacy video, the audience saw, for the first time, a 3D artist’s rendition of the new Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center. This state-of-the-art facility, which is scheduled for a 2017 groundbreaking, will be the first new academic space on the Willowbrook campus since it opened in 1993.

Commencement ended, as usual, with a lighthearted ceremony, emceed by Vice President for Enrollment Management Mary Beth Reilly, to celebrate the hard work and dedication of  members of the faculty and staff who were celebrating service anniversaries in increments of five years.

View the CSI Today Convocation 2014 Photo Gallery>

A reception followed the event where guests were treated to a collection of classic candies to celebrate the past, as well as other delicious offerings.