Cloudy, but comfortably cool temperatures in the low 60s greeted the 2,671 members of the Class of 2022, and their families and supporters at CSI’s 73rd Commencement on the morning of May 26. The ceremony marked the first in-person Commencement since 2019.
View and download the event program
In his first Commencement remarks as Interim President, Dr. Timothy G. Lynch, himself a CUNY alumnus, touched on a number of topics, including his impressions of the College and its community. “In my short time here, I have seen many amazing things. Whether touring our incredible facilities, speaking with our world-class faculty, or meeting with our inspiring students, I was struck by the dedication, resilience, and passion of those who call CSI ‘home’. These traits were echoed by the team chair during our recent–and successful—Middle States reaccreditation visit, who commended our school for its focus as an access institution, and one that provided ample support to students as they pursue their dreams.” Dr. Lynch acknowledged his predecessor, Dr. William J. Fritz, for helping to make reaccreditation possible.
Dr. Lynch also noted the challenges posed to students, faculty, and staff by the pandemic and its attendant remote learning, teaching, and work arrangements. He also took some time to remember those members of the College community who were lost to COVID-19.
After thanking CSI Student Government for its leadership and financial support, he turned his focus to the graduates. “Today, we honor over 2,670 students, who are earning degrees in 102 fields offered by 28 departments. Many of you are graduating with honors or distinction, and with special recognition from your program of study. You should all take pride in what you have collectively and individually accomplished.” In discussing that pride, Dr. Lynch listed the many difficulties that this graduating class has faced during the pandemic, noting “You were able to overcome any and all obstacles, and today you will receive your reward…and your degrees.”
In conclusion, Dr. Lynch provided some advice to the new grads: “As you leave the College of Staten Island, and as you continue to demonstrate the grit and determination that brought you to this point (and which is a hallmark of our City, our University, and our Borough), commit to the same level of empathy, of support, of pride, and of love for one another that I have seen on this campus every day for the last six months. Hold doors for people, check in on each other, and include each other in activities so that no one is left out. And remember that just as others made this day possible for you, you now have an imperative to assist others to achieve their dream, to realize their potential. Pay it forward, always and without reservation.”
In her comments, 2022 Salutatorian Cheyenne Watson discussed the challenges that this year’s students faced, underscoring the importance of the resilience and adaptability. She offered an approach to life called radical acceptance, which she said is “the act of…well…accepting life as it comes, as it is. To admit that it rains some days, and let that be the final point of the matter. In other words, it allows us to be imperfect, and heal if we need to. Easier said than done, but a habit worth starting all the same.” She added, “My fellow graduates, we are stronger than adversity, and the only things stronger than us, are our ambitions. But again, strength is not everything. Be gentle with yourself. You’ll be surprised by how much farther that takes you.”
This year’s valedictorian was Maxwell Velikodny. He also addressed life’s challenges: those that he faced growing up in an immigrant family, as well as those of the pandemic, when he served as Student Government President, striving to provide assistance to students who were facing academic and financial hardships. He concluded by telling the graduates, “as you all know, life is not always fair. It challenges us with an onslaught of obstacles that are often exceedingly overwhelming. Even so, I know that by fighting every day for a better future, it will come, and the value of perseverance and hard work is immeasurable. As such, every struggle and ordeal, no matter how terrible or grueling, offers a lesson to be learned.”
Also on hand to honor the College’s newest alumni and extend their support were Dr. Simone Wegge, who addressed the graduates on behalf of the faculty; the Honorable Michael Arvanites, who brought greetings from the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York; CUNY Board of Trustees Member Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey; CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for Institutional Affairs, Strategic Advancement, and Special Counsel Glenda Grace; CUNY Vice Chancellor for University Advancement James Galloand; and U.S. Congressperson Nicole Malliotakis, among others.
The ceremony also included the awarding of three posthumous degrees to students who passed: Vincent Marino, Asiael Rizado, and Brittany McCarthy.
In the afternoon, the tradition of honoring exceptional CSI faculty, staff, and students continued for the first time in three years with the Dolphin Awards ceremony.
Interim President Lynch thanked the Award winners, as well as the entire College community for their continuing efforts to serve our students and our institution. He also highlighted the hard work and dedication expended during the pandemic, and remembered those we’ve lost. “Our efforts to transition to remote, to hybrid, and back again to largely in-person learning and instruction, are a true testament to our focus and resolve, and to a commitment we have to our students, and to one another. Of course, we can’t forget the incredible and painful losses we sustained in the wake of the pandemic – members of our community, loved ones, dear friends and colleagues – people who have celebrated this day with us who are no longer here. May we use this time here today, and the many opportunities we have together to heal, and reinvigorate our passion and strength to serve our students and each other to the best of our abilities.
The event’s emcee, CSI Writer/Editor Terry Mares from the Office of Communications and Marketing, followed Dr. Lynch, reading the biographies of those who were honored at the ceremony.
View the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery
This year’s honorees included:
– Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Simone Wegge
– Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Anat Niv-Solomon
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Gerry Milligan
– Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Louis Rotondo
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Veronica DiMeglio
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialists Title: Andrew Colbeck
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-time Non-Instructional Staff in Clerical: Donna Gildea
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security: Frank Salzill0
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time, Non-Teaching Staff: Andrey Parkhomenko
– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student: Maxwell Velikodny
There were two additional awards, this year:
Agent of Change toward Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, and Social Justice by a Member of the College Community: The Reverend Dr. Kathleen Cumiskey [a new category] and
Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in the HEO Title: Jennifer Straniere [awarded posthumously in recognition of Jennifer’s longstanding service and dedication to the Department of Performing and Creative Arts, as well as the College as a whole].