STONY BROOK, N.Y., May 19, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Words of encouragement, wisdom and sage advice prevailed from all who addressed the class of 2017 during the 57th Commencement Ceremony at Stony Brook University today, including honorary degree recipients Michael J. Fox and Jonathan Oringer, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and student speaker, Danielle Jean.
"Every single one of you has the power within you to impact the world, if you choose to act," said Fox, who received the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts. "You represent a world of endless possibilities," he told the Class of 2017. "Among you may be the first human to walk on Mars, the engineer who will revolutionize the world's energy technology, the next great investigative journalist who exposes corruption, or the groundbreaking scientist who discovers the cure for Parkinson's."
Oringer, introduced by President Stanley as one who personifies technological innovation and whom Business Insider named 'the coolest person in all of New York technology', received his undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Mathematics in 1996 from Stony Brook University, and today received an honorary Doctor of Science.
"Today, I want to share three lessons I learned here at Stony Brook, which have served me well throughout my entrepreneurial journey. They are: Stay curious, take calculated risks, and embrace diversity. Stay curious, ask questions and make sure you get the answers; don't be afraid to take calculated risks, but at the same time make sure you understand both the upside and the downside; and embrace diversity: only together can we truly make the world the best it can be. The most successful countries will be the ones that have immigration policies that attract, retain and truly embrace the smartest people on the planet, while at the same time serving those people most in need, wherever they may come from," Oringer said. "Stony Brook is, and always has been, very diverse and welcoming - and I know it's one of the values that the university strives for," he added.
Oringer also recognized Stony Brook faculty for their commitment which he said helped mold his business.
"For the curious like me, the one thing I always loved about Stony Brook was how accessible professors were. We have modeled Shutterstock in that same way - there are no office hours and people are free to find me (almost) anytime."
During his commencement address, President Stanley reminded the class of 2017 that a Stony Brook degree helps them on their way to success. He cited the recent study from Stanford which indicates that their new alma mater is ranked number three in the country among all colleges and universities and number one in the Northeast for its ability to transform students who may come from a lower income household and after graduation are empowered to move into the top 20% of the income earning potential.
President Stanley went on to highlight three personal stories about Stony Brook University student achievers:
Jonathan Conyers, who graduated today with a 3.5 GPA, a Bachelor's degree in Respiratory Care and a Minor in Biology, plans to work in respiratory therapy as he pursues his dream of becoming a doctor. Jonathan entered Stony Brook University during the 2013 EOP/AIM Summer Academy and immediately became a leader amongst his peers. He is an ambassador for Stony Brook, representing Stony Brook in the EOP High School Initiative where he goes to multiple high schools in New York City and speaks about what it takes to be an EOP student and his story of success and has been prominently featured in Stony Brook University's Far Beyond campaign.
Antonio Xu Liu graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering Science, and a minor in business management, and has accepted a full time position with National Grid, USA. Antonio originally came from Venezuela in 2004 with his family who were seeking political asylum in the United States. While their original quest was not successful, in 2012 Antonio's life changed when he received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status, and became able to drive, work, and lose the daily fear of deportation. As a freshman, Antonio was selected to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow for the Undergraduate College of Arts, Culture and Humanities. He was a resident assistant in his sophomore and junior year of college, and while working to raise awareness about mental health issues on campus, he helped form the Reach Out and Reconnect (ROAR) Committee, a group of student leaders who work to destigmatize mental health issues on campus. As an Engineering Major he worked successfully to reinstate the student chapter of the National Society of Professional Engineers and became its president. He was also vice president of the student chapter of the Long Island Water Environment Association (LIWEA) for the past two years, which is an organization that brings together students who have a passion for preserving the natural environment of Long Island.
Lora Webster graduated today with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology. She is a proud mother of three living in Point Lookout, NY, an elite athlete, a cancer survivor, and a Seawolf. Lora is a paralympic sitting volleyball player who has attended the Paralympic Games four times: 2016 (where she won Gold), 2012 (Silver) , 2008 (Silver) and 2004 (Bronze). She and her team also won gold in the 2010 Parapan American Championship. At age 11, Lora was diagnosed with bone cancer in her left tibia. She underwent a procedure known as rotationplasty to remove the cancerous bone, which included the knee. As part of the procedure, her lower leg was rotated 180 degrees and connected to the remnants of the femur. This gave her full range of movement, allowing her to play sports. In 1998, she was fitted with prosthesis; she played four years of high school volleyball, ran track for a year and also was on the diving team and in 2004, her high school volleyball team won the state title.
Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education and Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Charles Taber, announced this year's recipients of the Ward Melville Valedictorian Award, the University's most distinguished undergraduate honor which goes to the graduating senior or seniors who have attained the most outstanding academic record during their four years at Stony Brook. This year's recipients are Taylor Brant, Megan Cooney, Melissa Gartner, Ingy Ghobashy, Joel Kovoor, Anita Lee, Naveen Mallangada, Hannah Mieczkowski, Ankit Patel, Janki Patel, Rebecca Shum and Andrew Sullivan.
Taber also announced Jason Kay and Natalia Dutra Rodefeld as recipients of the H. Lee Dennison Valedictorian Award, named in honor of Suffolk County's first chief executive, and presented to the graduating senior or seniors who entered Stony Brook as a transfer student, completed at least 60 credits of letter-grade work at Stony Brook and attained the most outstanding academic record in that work.
The student speaker, Danielle Jean, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, was selected by a committee of staff and faculty from a pool of submitted speeches provided through the annual senior speaker competition, shared her thoughts about her four years as a Seawolf.
"We're ready," Jean said. "We are ready because we know that our degree isn't just proving to others that we've mastered a lot of content; our degree is proving to us that we have all of the tools that we need to face and overcome the next set of challenges."
Finally, on behalf of the Class of 2017, Senior Class Representative Jonathan Rodriguez presented President Stanley with the Senior Class Gift of $15,000 which will support Stony Brook Children's, student scholarship, student life, and Stony Brook Athletics, among other University initiatives. This gift adds to the nearly $250,000 Stony Brook students have raised the past 10 years to support a variety of areas that touched their lives including their individual departments, colleges or to one of a variety of other University priorities including Student Scholarships.
Stony Brook University's 57th commencement ceremony was held at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, where 6,991 graduates, joined more than 160,000 alumni around the globe whose lives and work personify what Stony Brook embraces -- the relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to make a real difference. The graduates span 71 countries, 42 states and range in age from 19 to 65.
For more information about the 57th Commencement ceremony visit http://bit.ly/1mqbSLb.
GRADUATION 2017 FAST FACTS (as of 5/19/2017)*
Editor's Note: Useful Links: Infographic - Graduation By the Numbers
About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today's public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 25,700 students, 2,500 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region's economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.
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