By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Two speakers at the State University College at Oneonta asked audiences to push the “pause button’’ on their lives Saturday.
Sal Paolantonio, national correspondent for ESPN and a 1977 SUNY Oneonta alumnus, told graduates he had a post-graduation road map to help them achieve greatness, similar to the honorary doctor of letters degree awarded to him Saturday. But before revealing the map, he asked graduates to pause and consider their “current space” in humanity, the hit the “play” button and share their observations with the world.
More than 1,000 students were expected to participate in Saturday’s ceremonies for the class of 2013, college officials said, and about 1,620 students were expected to be awarded bachelor’s or master’s degrees or certificates of advanced study.
Hundreds of seniors, their friends and families sat in Alumni Field House on Saturday for ceremonies that included music, processions, applause and cheers.
With the Internet and smart-phone technology, millions of consumers are tuning in to seek information, Paolantonio said, and now is no better time to be graduating and have opportunities to “look for new things,” supply information, plus perspective.
“Write it, draw it, sing it, preach it,” said Paolantonio, an English and history major. Receving an honorary degree from the State University is a “spectacular thing,” he said, though, as “a guy who talks about sports on TV” he wasn’t sure he deserved such a prestigious award.
“I ain’t givin’ it back,” he said, prompting laughter from the audience.
He acknowledged the eagerness of graduates considering life ahead, then revealed the paper that held the anticipated road map.
“It’s blank,” he said. “It’s up to you to fill it every single day — fill it with an observation, an idea, a lyric, a line of poetry. …
“Money is good. But if you set out to make money, that’s all you’ll make. But if you set out to make a little history, you’ll make both.”
After all-college general commencement programs at 10 a.m. and noon Saturday, graduates, wearing traditional black robes and mortarboards, processed to other campus buildings for divisional ceremonies. Skies were fair, and temperatures were in the high 60-degree range.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for four years,’’ said James Patrick Dewey, 22, of Horseheads, a biology major. Dewey said he will begin studies in January at Albany University to become a physician assistant.
“I’m very excited to be graduating,” he said.
The opportunities to work with “such great professors” and the academics were the best parts of attending SUNY Oneonta, he said before ceremonies for the division of science and social science.
Susan Bernardin, a professor in the English department and chairwoman of the women’s and gender studies department, asked graduates to set aside fears and other feelings tied to the end of college years and to “failing,” to not finding a job or “the right job.” She encouraged students to take a “leap of faith” about the future, keeping in mind the positive contributions they made during their college years.
“I encourage you to find your own words to live by,” Bernardin said. “Pause to mark this moment of endings and beginnings — you’ll continue to make your mark.”
Peter Furman of Wappingers Falls said seeing his daughter graduate was “very nice.” Michelle Furman, 21, an honors student, studied computer art.
“It seems just yesterday we dropped her off,” he said.