Nearly 4,000 people crowded the Meadow Terrace outside SUNY College at Old Westbury's Campus Center yesterday to celebrate as more than 900 graduates, the largest graduating class in College history, participated in the 46th Commencement Ceremony.
President Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III presided over a ceremony highlighted by a performance by 12-time GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY winner Paquito D'Rivera, who received an honorary Doctor of Music degree during the ceremony.
President Butts adorns Mr. D'Rivera with the academic hood
symbolizing his honorary degree.
Upon accepting his degree, the renowned clarinetist celebrated with the graduates by playing a jazz interpretation of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Following his performance, Mr. D'Rivera told the graduates of the day his father brought to their home in Cuba a recording of The Benny Goodman Orchestra at Carnegie Hall: "I was so fascinated with that marvelous music and the fantastic improvisations of Benny, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa, that ever since all I wanted was to become a working musician in the magic city of New York. What I never dreamed was that one May 20, the anniversary of Cuban independence from Spain, a prestigious American university was going to honor the vision and sacrifices of that humble Cuban saxophonist who was my Dad."
Included among the graduates was Lisa Valente, winner of the College's highest student honor - the Old Westbury President's Medal for Scholarship. Valente earned a B.A. in Politics, Economics and Law with a 3.98 grade-point-average. The ceremony also included the presentation of degrees to the College's inaugural class of graduates from its Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling degree program.
In closing the ceremonies, President Butts told the graduates: "Remember that today marks only the completion of one stage of your preparation. I know that Old Westbury has prepared you to think critically about the world around you and to take into account all those who live with and around us. It is up to each of you from this moment forward to go out and put your talents and learning into practice - improving life for yourself, your families, your friends and your community as you do."
Congratulations to the Class of 2012!