Sunny and breezy conditions with temperatures in the upper 50s provided a comfortable backdrop for the College of Staten Island’s 74th Commencement on the morning of May 25. The ceremony was a celebration of the 2,181 students who worked diligently through the COVID lockdown to receive degrees.

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View and download the event program

Interim President Dr. Timothy G. Lynch addresses the graduates.

In his remarks, Interim President, Dr. Timothy G. Lynch, himself a CUNY alumnus, began by noting that although the pandemic isn’t completely over, our world is moving on, taking stock of how COVID affected the campus community and beyond. Speaking of the past three years, Dr.  Lynch said, “It will be a time that future generations will read about in history books and all of us will look back and remember what it was like at the College of Staten Island during that time. And you will all be able to say–despite it all–you persisted, and persevered. You were able to overcome all obstacles, and you made it to Graduation and earned your degree.”

After thanking CSI Student Government for providing the leadership and financial support to make Commencement possible, Dr. Lynch reminded the grads to be grateful for those family members, friends and loved ones, and mentors who helped them to get to this day.

As he neared the end of his remarks, Dr. Lynch said that Commencement is not an ending, but a beginning, and he offered three bits of advice. “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 this past year. 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. Finally, I implore you to take chances: interview for the job you find unattainable, apply for those grad school fellowships. The reward is always greater than the risk.”

Valedictorian David Checchi addresses the Class of 2023.

In her comments, 2023 Salutatorian Sayuri Sayakkara discussed the reasons why she left her native Sri Lanka for the United States, noting that the move presented expanded academic and professional opportunities for her and her sister. As a result, Sayakkara said that CSI and the mentors she had gave her the chance to strive to be a healthcare professional while also learning languages, which she hopes to employ in her future career. She ended with some advice to the Class of 2023, “When you leave here today, I want you to remember that this is not the end of something, this is the beginning of a whole new journey, and it might be scary and you might be terrified of starting something new but always remember and I quote, ‘You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great’.”

David Checchi, this year’s Valedictorian, recalled the difficult time that he had in high school, and how his time in the U.S. Army helped turn him around. After his service, he came to CSI where he discovered his love of philosophy. “Unlike many of the other classes I explored during that first year, the emphasis of a philosophy class is on asking questions, rather than on finding answers. And for someone who had not been in a classroom in several years, this change in focus helped to spark a passion for learning, a passion that has only blossomed during my time here. I will forever be grateful for the privilege of having been a student at the College of Staten Island, an experience which was more rewarding than I could possibly have imagined,” he explained.

Also on hand to celebrate the Class of 2023 and extend their support were Dr. Jane Marcus-Delgado, 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 John Verzani; New York State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton; and CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College President, Anthony Munroe; among others.

In the afternoon, the tradition of honoring exceptional CSI faculty, staff, and students continued with the Dolphin Awards ceremony.

Read the bios and view the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery (Coming Soon)

This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty (includes, teaching, library, and student services faculty).  Li Ge

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty (includes only teaching faculty).  Sarah Zelikovitz

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty.  Dan McCloskey

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty (includes only teaching faculty).  Filippo Fabbricatore

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in the HEO Title.  Ann Booth

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in Specialist Titles (CLT, OIT, Finance, etc.). Amila Goonawardena

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of a Full-Time Non-Instructional Staff in Clerical Functions.  Terry DeMeo

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security.  Jon Mahoney

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time Non-Teaching Staff.  Lavinia Solano

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student. Michael Ivany

-Agent of Change toward Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, and Social Justice by Members of the College Community (faculty, staff, students, groups, offices, teams, etc.). Nora Santiago

By Terry Mares