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(NOTE: Alumni of Merit Winners are listed by year in the Alumni section)

In 1948, the college graduated classes in June, September and December. In 1949, there were four commencements: March, June, September and December. Thereafter, the college graduated one class each year.

1948 – 2:30 p.m., June 29: 32 graduates. (Document and pen used by Governor Dewey presented during ceremonies). September: 31 graduates, December: 8 graduates. Total: 71 (all retail business management) Among those attending were Dr. Lawrence Jarvie, assistant commissioner of education, Louis Wilson, assistant commissioner of education, and Dr. Francis C. Spaulding, commissioner of education. A document and the pen used by Governor Dewey to sign legislation on April 4, 1946 setting up the school, was presented to the institute by Lewis A. Wilson, deputy commissioner of the State Education Department. Vernon R. Evans, secretary of the board of trustees, accepted. Graduate John Bradley, 2652 Glenwood Road, gave the valedictory address. The group on the speaker’s platform included Dr. Thomas B. Rudd, president of Hamilton College; Dean Ralph Strebel of Utica College; Dean Robert Dawes of Mohawk College; Mayor Golder, Senator Robert Groben and Assemblyman Richard R. Griffith. A noon luncheon for the guests, which included representatives of the other four Institutes, preceded the graduation. Graduates and their families were honored at a reception in the library after the exercises. Graduates concluded the day’s program with a dinner dance at Twin Ponds Country Club. Starting salaries for graduates were reported at $180-$325 per month.
During his graduation address, Dr. Francis T. Spaulding, state commissioner of education, told the 24 men and eight women at Utica Tech that the eyes of both the educational and business world ‘are upon you.’ He explained that the development of technology and ‘our economic system’ has created need for a new type retail business executive. The executive, he added, must be skillful ‘in modern merchandising methods,’ must know advertising, accounting and personnel management. The commissioner said that the institutes also offer ‘a kind of education designed to prepare people who will be leaders in their professional fields, to be leaders as citizens also.’ Among local students in the first graduating class:
CAZENOVIA- George Carr
CLARK MILLS – Paul Besig, Robert Bramley
CLINTON- Frederick Doyle, James Underwood, Gordon Wagner
ILION- Edward Donald, Margaret Morris
MUNNSVILLE- Warren Woods
NEW HARTFORD- Roger Harrison, John Worden
REMSEN-Thelma DeLong
ROME- Marion Wellman
UTICA- Joseph Arcuri, 1772 St. Vincent; Robert Benton, 216 Higby; Vito Bevivino, 1206 Leeds; John Bradley, 2652 Glenwood; Joseph Foresti, 1006 Mary; Joan Heider, 1103 Lenox; Raymond Honeyford, 2612 Sunset; Lawrence Krohn, 148 Proctor Blvd; Rosemary O’Mahoney, 2236 Douglas Crescent; Frank Potter, 1678 Brinckerhoff; Edward Sherry, 50 Parkside Court; Bennett Yetra, 127 Pleasant
VERNON- Dexter Moore
Non-local graduates included:
Ruth Mead, Arkville, NY; Jeanne McCarthy, 112 W. Lincoln, Ithaca; Kenneth Moles, Spring Valley, NY; Evelyn Nordahl, Ithaca; and Kenneth Winans, Catskill.

Student John Bradley spoke at the graduation. He was a 26 year old military veteran.

Second graduation: September 29, 1948. The speaker was Imre Kovacs, Hungarian lecturer, who discussed the “Challenge of Being an American.” Graduates:
Robert M. McNally, Utica
Jules B. Abelman, Brooklyn
Elizabeth Alexander, Schodack Landing
Helen M. Beaudry, Watertown
Stanley S. Bergman, East Hampton
John J. Byrnes, Kingston
Angeloa S. Carona, Frankfort
Dexter R. Carr, Syracuse
Richard T. Cobb, Syracuse
William J. Condon, Albany
Daryl H. Cramphin, New Hartford
Carmen F. Cristallo, Utica
Cosmo F. Curri, Utica
Frank J. Custodero, Utica
Eugene F. Doe, Ithaca
Joseph L. Essel, Utica
Harry J. P. Gabiger, Utica
Elizabeth Jane Ferris Gibbons, Albany
George M. Kempf, Little Falls
Francis E. Lapointe, Watertown
Maurice C. McGee, Warsaw
Ernest E. Marcantonio, Utica
Joseph A. Markiewicz, Schenectady
John F. Palladino, Utica
Chester E. Phillips, Amenia
John E. Schivane, Elmira
James O. Sullivan, Oswego
Leona M. Sweeney, Little Falls
Nanette E. Tiffany, Dewitt
Francis G. Unger, Kenmore
Stephen S. Wasielewski, Utica
Edward S. Wisniewski, Syracuse

The December 22nd graduation was the first for students in mechanical technology; there were eight graduates. The speaker was Vincent R. Carrou, director of the Industrial Development Division of the Utica Chamber of Commerce. The Utica Free Academy string trio provided music. Donato A. Commiso was valedictorian, and spoke during the ceremony.

1949 – March: 10 graduates in textile technology, 38 graduates in retail business management. June*: 13 graduates in textile technology, 90 graduates in retail business management, 62 graduates in mechanical technology. September 23rd: 12 graduates in electrical technology, 51 graduates in retail business management. December: 12 graduates in electrical technology. TOTAL: 276.

March 23, 1949 – Fourth Commencement, speaker: John Vanderveer Deuel, “Youth Faces the Future” He was described in the NYSIAAS NEWS as Captain Deuel, noted author, scientist and explorer, and native of Waterville. “The individual gifted with a sense of perfect timing has success within his grasp,” Deuel said. “To become successful a man should have confidence in God and cherish his sense of timing.”…. According to the Utica Newspapers, “The students spent a few anxious moments when it became known that the diplomas had not arrived, as expected. But any anxiety was dispelled when the official sheepskins arrived by special delivery mail after the program had begun.” A guest at the ceremony was Dr. Susan Brandeis, a regent of the University of New York State, daughter of the late Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis.

(March 24, 1949, Utica Newspapers) – “Utican Writes Institute Song – Robert Metzger… is the author and composer of the Alma Mater for the New York State Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences. He directed its first official rendition yesterday at commencement exercises in the institute auditorium. He is a fifth quarter student in the retail business management of the school.
The words:
Alma Mater! Alma Mater!
The Ivy rising on the walls,
Symbolic of our standings,
Our strength of will within
Thy halls,
We give at thy demanding.

Oh Tech, we raise our voices
And ring out loud and clear,
For thou are worthy of praises,
We stand for you and cheer,
Today and throughout the

September 1949? The speaker was Gay H. Brown, prominent Utica lawyer, churchman and Mason, addressed 51 graduates on the topic “The Possible You.” He was a former justice of the supreme court and chief counsel of the public service commission, and a former NYS lieutenant governor. Frederic W. Roedel, head of the board of trustees, presided, Area students included Robert Ferguson, Glenfield; Clarence Fey, Boonville; Francis Koronowski, Marcy; Thomas McCracken, Whitesboro; Leo Manion, Waterville; James Pearse, Sauquoit; Richard Remington, Clinton; John Renwick, Sherrill, and Thelma Tanoury, Yorkville.
June 24, 1949 graduation – Speaker was Alvin C. Eurich, President. State University of New York. He said that atomic energy, when as, and if it arrives as a practical factor in our industrial life, will put a new demand on educators to train technicians. He saw in atomic energy the next ‘spurt’ in a long-time trend during which the world’s work had been moving from the shoulders of the unskilled to the hands and brains of the skilled.
(*Printed invitation)

The Board of Trustees, the Director and the Faculty
The New York State Institute of
Applied Arts and Sciences at Utica
Request the pleasure of your company
at the fifth Commencement Exercises
on Friday afternoon, the twenty-fourth of June
nineteen hundred and forty-nine
at two-thirty o’clock
in the Auditorium
in the New Hartford Building

December 1949 – Speaker at the seventh commencement was Gordon M. Ridenour, educator, journalist and lecturer. His topic was “The Marks of An Educated Person.” He was a well known New York State educator, having served as teacher, principal and superintendent for 20 years. He also had wide experience as a journalist. He was co-cuthor of “Racial Minorities and Nationalities.” The graduates were Philip G. Blank, Edward P. O’Connell and Edward W. Zalocha, Utica; James T. Redmond Jr., and Donald R. Redmond, Whitesboro; Richard P. D’Arcangelis, Fort Plain; Edward Mike, Yorkville; John C. O’Day, Mohawk; Samuel G. Peake, Oneida; Victor W. Devecis, Ashburnham, Mass.; Leo A. Gressell, Albany, and Carol H. Traberg, Penn Yan. The exercises were followed by a reception in the cafeteria, with Miss Lois E. Holstein of the social division in charge. She was assisted by Mary K. Hubbard, Nellie Hubbell, Jean Lyon and Janice Schutt.

1950 – 17 graduates in textile technology, 16 graduates in electrical technology, 81 graduates in retail business management, 24 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL: 138. (One male graduate was hired as a buyer at J.B.Wells & Son Dept Store, in charge of six departments. Another was hired by Chicago Pneumatic Tool Corporation and sent to an orientation at their Detroit Chemical Laboratory. The Mohawk Carpet Company of Amsterdam hired two female graduates as textile technicians.)
The speaker at graduation ceremonies on June 28, 1950, was Dr. Ray Freeman Jenney, Chicago, author, lecturer and pastor of Bryn Mawr Community Church.

1951 – (June 27) 18 graduates in textile technology, 27 graduates in electrical technology, 131 graduates in retail business management, 28 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL: 204. This was the first graduation at which Associate degrees were awarded. The speaker was Canadian newsman John C. Fisher, who told the graduates that “adaptability is one of the greatest assets of a university education.” He characterized the world into which the graduates would go as “always cold and cruel, but a world which you can face if you form your honest convictions in the crucible of your own mind.” His topic was “Green Light.” “Green light,” he said, “is a conscience light. We sometimes become lost in society, and the average person tends to shun responsibility. In democracy, it is an easy way out, but it is very dangerous to democracy to quit. It is the little contributions of each person that makes our form of government function.”

1952 – 11 graduates in textile technology, 19 graduates in electrical technology, 93 graduates in retail business management, 23 graduates in mechanical technology.
June 22nd ceremony (10th Commencement): The speaker was Frederick F. Greenman, SUNY Trustee, Chairman, Committee on Community Colleges., “What Of The Morrow?”

In the souvenir program for the Senior Banquet, June 19th, Twin Ponds Country Club – these lyrics for the “alma mater” were published:

“Oh, we are proud to be here,
To raise our voices high,
To sign our Alma Mater
Lift our praises to the sky.
All the friends that we have made here,
We’ll cherish all our years,
With a toast to days of laughter,
And a toast to hours of tears.

Oh, Tech, within thy walls,
We’ve met life’s surging calls,
And worked and striven for thy glory.
Our hearts will always love the days within
these halls,
And part of us will always remain.

When the dusk of age enfolds us,
The mem’ry will linger bright,
And, as in days behind us,
You will be our guiding light!

(Words by Betty Lou Blakeslee)

1953 – 7 graduates in textile technology, 21 graduates in electrical technology, 92 graduates in retail business management, 22 graduates in mechanical technology.
June 28th ceremony (11th Commencement): The speaker was Dr. W.R.G. Baker, Vice President of General Electric Company, General Manager, Electronics Division. His speech was entitled “Obey That Impulse.” He said that “electricity furnishes the average American housewife with the equivalent of 34 servants… it is estimated that by 1970 the number of electrical servants in the average household will have been raised to at least 100.” He said one man could produce work equivalent to that of 67 kilowatt hours each year and about 2,200 kilowatt hours a year were now available to the average household. He told the graduates that opportunity lies ‘in the direction of enabling men to do more work with less physical effort, of adding to their comfort and convenience, of providing them with better means of entertainment and recreation at less cost… Dr. Baker named four rules he said he would define as the best way to use creative ability. These are he said, ‘Maintain your curiosity about all things, broaden your knowledge, never become satisfied that you have found the best or the only solution to a problem, and finally, profit by your losses. If you obey that creative impulse, it can lead you to a full and satisfying life, for you are entering the sort of business world where a good idea, properly developed, can bring not only personal satisfaction, but recognition. Just make sure that you do not choke off that creative impulse.”

1954 – 6 graduates in textile technology, 27 graduates in electrical technology, 70 graduates in retail business management, 32 graduates in mechanical technology.
(June 28, 1954 – Daily Press) – “At 12th Commencement Exercise- Carry On Dignity of Work 24 Hrs. a Day, Executive Dean Tells Graduates at MVTI – The thing to remember which sometimes is forgotten – is that the dignity of work must be carried 24 hours a day. To those who work at their jobs ‘in this world of confused ideas’ also lies the responsibility of working at the development of good ideas.
So said Dr. Lawrence L. Jarvie, Albany, executive dean of the State University of New York, who was principal speaker at the 12th commencement exercises of Mohawk Valley Technical Institute, yesterday in Proctor High School auditorium.
Dr. Jarvie, addressing the 41 Utica area graduates, stressed the important of extending their ideas beyond their jobs. He said that is where the value of the community, two-year institute comes in.
‘Some people say that learning that is geared to occupation is not an education,’ he said, adding that he would submit a contrary opinion. ‘You people have come through a post-high school course in which you have been exposed to the dignity of work,’ he told the graduates.
He said, ‘In this world of confused ideas, therefore, don’t be afraid to work in the field of ideas; keep the integrity, courage and intestinal fortitude to stick to your ideas when the going is rough. Work at the development of your own emotional and spiritual structure; it’s work to fight for this finding of yourself and your uniqueness as a spiritual being. You will not have to worry if you work at your ideas in the areas of spiritual development and moral structure. You will if you become lazy, and leave ideas to someone else.’ ”

1955 – (No graduates in textile technology – program no longer available) 28 graduates in electrical technology,

1956 – (May 20) 23 graduates in electrical technology, 35 graduates in retail business management, 37 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL 95 The ceremony took place at Proctor High School. The speaker was Dr. William S. Carlson, president of the State University of New York. He said that “too many young people are going directly from high school into offices and plants rather than to college.” He said he deplored placement of hundreds of thousands of able, though unskilled, young people straight from high school into offices and plants. “They are tempted from their true course of enriched opportunities by the siren cries of the personnel recruiter. And I say to you that we, as a nation, call ill afford to sacrifice the talent and ability of these hundreds of thousands of young men and women. As well as they may be serving these short-term employers whose demands are so light, their place today is in a college or an institute preparing themselves for real service tomorrow as technologists, as teachers, engineers, nurses, doctors or any one of dozens of professions and skilled occupations. Better that an office go shorthanded than a nurse not be on hand when the emergency bell rings. Better that a stock clerk go unhired that a potential physicist is kept from the laboratory forever.

1957 – 17 graduates in advertising design and production (first class), 9 graduates in banking, insurance & real estate (first class), 36 graduates in electrical technology, 58 graduates in retail business management, 42 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL 162. The speaker at an August 2nd graduation, held at Proctor High School, was Dr. Robert Ward McEwen, president of Hamilton College.

1958 – 23 graduates in advertising design & production, 17 graduates in banking, insurance & real estate, 60 graduates in electrical technology, 63 graduates in retail business management, 50 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL 213.

1959 – 32 graduates in advertising design & production, 22 graduates in banking, insurance & real estate, 44 graduates in electrical technology, 42 graduates in retail business management, 41 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL: 181.
At the August 1959 ceremony, the featured speaker was Dr. Marvin A. Rapp, associate executive dean of the State University and chairman of the St. Lawrence Seaway Committee of the University. He said, “In a very real sense, you graduates, the class of 1959, represent the first space age class….” He pointed out that three generations “have spanned the entire history of the United States from the American revolution to the present. Now man is preparing to launch himself into outer space, “he said. “The grandchildren of some now living will not be born on earth.” In a speech entitled “The Space Age,” he said, “Often today, only the better science fiction writers have sufficient imagination to keep ahead of man’s actual achievement. The fancy of yesterday so often and so quickly becomes the fact of today. Technological revolutions compounded of technological revolutions mark our astounding age. Swirling in, on and about the world for more than a century and a half, growing yearly in magnitude and intensity, the industrial and scientific revolutions have reached deeply into, and affected essentially, almost every aspect of modern living. Change feeding on change, daily increasing at an every increasing rate, has become, paradoxically, the seeming constant of life.” Tracing the past history of space technology and its projected future, Dr. Rapp outlined several timetables of space flight projects. He also suggested many of the possible use of the information and devices of space flight, from mail delivery to weather prediction. “In fact many of the technologies which you have learned at this school will within the next decade be applied in the field of space technology. It will affect you not only in the way in which you earn your living, but in the way in which you live your life..: Dr. Rapp was a transportation economist and historian who had written extensively about the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.

1960- 36 graduates in advertising design & production, 23 graduates in banking, insurance & real estate, 63 graduates in electrical technology, 49 graduates in retail business management, 68 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL: 239
The speaker was Elbert K. Fretwell, Jr., assistant commissioner for higher education in the New York State Education Department. Fretwell, who predicted that the community college “has a great future,” listed the following six factors as leading to the growth of two-year community colleges: Closeness to home, programs geared to meet local needs, high quality of instruction, rapidity of establishing new community colleges, low tuition, and acceptance by the citizens. Fretwell said that he saw two mile posts in the development of Mohawk Valley Technical Institute. These were: The decision to build a new $4 ½ million campus and the accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He charged the trustees, administration and alumni of the college to be on guard because community colleges are often called upon to do things that older institutions have not been able to do successfully. He listed four items necessary for future expansion … The importance of establishing worthwhile goals, the need to constantly evaluate programs, teachers and student personnel services, the necessity for the administrations of colleges to devote more time to instruction and programs, and the need for student and alumni evaluations of programs.

1961 –(The college’s 19th graduation, July 30) 47 graduates in advertising design & production, 29 graduates in banking, insurance & real estate, 53 graduates in electrical technology, 45 graduates in retail business management, 54 graduates in mechanical technology. TOTAL: 228 The speaker was Robert E. Peach, president of Mohawk Airlines. His topic was “Earning Your Future.” According to an article in the Utica Newspapers (date uncertain), “The graduates were urged to think of their community with pride, to look for opportunities rather than for security. ‘You graduates,’ said Peach, ‘know that you haven’t paid the full cost of your college education. It has been paid for by the State and by the county as well. You are face today with how you will pay back.’ This, he said, could be done by building something in the community. The contribution, he added, whether it be physical or mental, would give the graduates great satisfaction. Peach said that the community lacked just one thing – pride. …Sift fact from fancy, he said, citing as good things to be included: Utica as the gateway to the Adirondacks; Utica as a city concerned with urban renewal; and Utica as a city that ‘hasn’t lost a major industry.’ Peach asked the graduates to give attention to two fears that troubled him – the fear that the nation might weaken its position because of lack of decision; and the inability to cope with the problem of using leisure time profitably. Peach slapped at security lovers in his conclusion. ‘When you go looking for a job,’ he said, ‘don’t ask about the company’s pension plan, its social security plan, its retirement plan. If you’re looking for security, you won’t find it. Go in looking for opportunities. You’ll find hundreds available here.’ ”

The speaker at a July 26th senior banquet at Trinkaus Manor was Rome Mayor Charles Lanigan. According to a July 27th article in the Observer-Dispatch, he “questioned what he called the ‘terrible trio’ of assumptions that that are tossed at today’s young people. He enumerated them as (1) All anyone needs for success is a college diploma; (2) things aren’t what they used to be; (3) politics is a crooked field. The Rome Mayor declared that college was only a base and that development must proceed over an entire lifetime. Opportunities, he said, were as good as ever, or better than ever, with only individual incentive flagging. ‘The attitude of unconcern, of being satisfied coming in second or third, is discouraging. I suggest you do not learn the hard way. It’s up to you to end the era of the goof-off and the half-done job.”

Textile technology: 82 (end of program in 1954). Advertising design & production: 155. Banking, insurance & real estate: 100. Electrical technology: 429. Retail business management: 1,043. Mechanical technology: 521. GRAND TOTAL: 2,330.


(August 20, 1962, Utica Observer-Dispatch) – “Prestige Overdone, MVTI Speaker Warns – ‘Frequently parents are more concerned with prestige than with the mental development of their children,’ Dr. Carroll V. Newsom told MVTI graduates yesterday.
‘Consequently, drop-outs and other results of student frustration are on the increase,’ Dr. Newsom declared.
Dr. Newsom, who left his post as head of the largest private university in the nation this year to become senior vice president of Prentice-Hall publishing house, spoke at the 20th commencement of Mohawk Valley Technical Institute….
Dr. Newsom, who in the 1950’s was associate commissioner of higher and professional education in New York, devoted his talk to two principles he said are creating a ‘new day in education.’
These two principles, he said, are the genealogical differences in man requiring different educational environments; and, an ecological approach to learning, which would require knowledge to be studied as a whole or synthesis or related fields, rather than as a relationship of cause and effect.
‘For too long,’ Dr. Newsom said, ‘our society has given an exaggerated emphasis to one type of intelligence. One may well question the present selective admission tests employed by colleges. There may be little connection between a person’s capacity to satisfy the academic requirements of a particular college and his future achievement.’
He said that many students have been placed in education environments that have little relevance to their intellectual needs.
Speaking on the second educational modifier of today, the concern with knowledge and its use, Dr. Newsom said he believed the ecology, the study of the mutual relations between organisms and their environment, was rapidly becoming the universal science….” (273 graduates)


(Utica Newspapers, date uncertain) – “James J. Warren, a trustee of the State University of New York, yesterday told members of the 1963 Mohawk Valley Community College graduating class at Utica Memorial Auditorium that community colleges may institute two-year liberal arts programs.
But, he cautioned, ‘Let me urge you, however, not to allow this to be accomplished at the expense of or to the detriment of the technical programs.’
Warren took note of MVCC’s growth and development and said Boyd Golder, former Utica mayor, present at the ceremonies as an honored guest, had contributed greatly to the two-year college movement in New York State.
Warren also urged graduates who were considering continuing their education to do so. Those who do not, he said, will in all probability be the little money earners 10 years from now.’
He urged the graduates to set goals for themselves and then determine to be top quality, whether they went right to work or continued their formal education. ‘If you do this,’ he said, ‘you will be successful. You will be getting out of life what you put into it.’ ”


(August 10, 1964, Utica Observer-Dispatch) – “Graduates Warned of ‘Empty Earth’ At MVCC Rites – If today’s graduates fail to control tomorrow’s world, ‘the 21st Century may dawn on an empty earth,’ Dr. Carter Davidson, president of Union College, told the Mohawk Valley Community College graduates yesterday.
Speaking at MVCC’s 22nd commencement, Dr. Davidson told the 311 graduates their generation must devise the ‘new world society, a United Nations which really works.’
He said scientists have progressed to the point where they are ‘on the frontier of synthesizing lift itself,’ but warned:
‘Can we design perfect man and women, devoid of hatreds and prejudices and viciousness and ignorance, or will our Pygmalion become a Frankenstein and destroy us all?’
Dr. Davidson, who recently was named president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Colleges, said American education must strive ‘to cultivate Renaissance minds, the minds of explorers, discoverers, inventors and creators of the future.’ ”

1966 – The speaker was Ewald B. Nyquist, New York State’s deputy commissioner of education. His topic was “Clay Should Be Choosey of Its Potters.” He said ‘Two years of college education will soon become a common experience for many high school graduates…
You are the clay, and the potters are the fine faculty gathered here. They feel that they have something to give you, something which will help in shaping your mind.’ He told the graduates that they are ‘an alert Pepsi generation,’ making it difficult for a speaker ‘who represents a passing generation’ to pick a subject for his speech.
Reminding the graduates that they are in a world of change, Nyquist emphasized the need for excellence ‘not as something thrust upon each other’ but something you achieve.
Referring to the parable of Matthew, Nyquist had this to say about talent and its relationship to ability:
‘A talent was originally a measure of weight. Later the word came to denote a fixed amount of gold, roughly equivalent to a thousand dollars. The modern use of the word, meaning ‘ability,’ is derived from this parable.’
Nyquist drew several inferences from the parable and its meaning of ability in the modern sense.
‘One must not confuse equal opportunity with equal status and competence. The American value system … is based on a dual set of basic and opposite principles: equality and unequal status and talent,’ he said.
Summing up the two principles, Nyquist said that ‘democracy stands for giving an equal opportunity to individuals for developing their unequal capacities, and true education makes for inequality.’
The second point discussed in relation to the parable concerned ‘excellence,’ which Nyquist suggested ‘is everywhere if each person responds to his duty to himself and to his society.’ …
In another inference drawn from the parable, Nyquist said that ‘talents, wherever they are, are given to be used. God expects this of us.’
‘Our abilities, if not used to their fullest, are figuratively taken away from us, just as in the parable, the one-talent man lost what little he had simply because he was afraid to venture even that in a useful cause.’
His fourth truth extracted from the parable assured the graduates that ‘with any degree of talent goes an equal amount of responsibility. ‘As college-education men and women, you have a tremendous advantage in facing up to the modern problems of today.’
In Nyquists’ last point dealing with the parable, he said ‘courage is required for the untried road, the new departure, the innovation, the experimental project and this goes for colleges, faculty and administrators as mush as it does for students.’ He added that it is more worthy to try and fail than to set second-rate goals and succeed.
Nyquist said that leadership in a changing world places a premium on manpower in mechanical and vocational occupations.
‘Two-year community colleges can do a superb job with individual students. They provide a democracy of opportunity for a democracy of talent,’ he said, adding that ‘excellence is where you want to find it.’
In his concluding remarks, Nyquist praised MVCC for having attained a broad educational program and for producing excellent local talent.
‘The days of snobbish four-year colleges are over,’ he told the graduates, and ‘now the two-year colleges can provide fine leadership, too.’
Two degrees were given for the first time. Vincent Sarafino was the first to receive the Associate in Science degree. Kathryn Eden of Utica was the only graduate receiving the Associate in Arts degree.” (370 graduates)

1967 (August) – the speaker was John W. Graham, Jr., president of Clarkson College of Technology. His topic was “What Price Education?”

1968 – The featured speaker was Dr. Dale Corson, provost of Cornell University. He told the graduates that demonstrations by college students can be a powerful force for change, but he warned against “increasingly forcible demonstrations demanding instant reactions.” 470 graduates took part, earning degrees in 11 programs. Acting President Dr. Robert Larsson presided. Trustee chairman Thomas S. Kernan announced that the new $3.6 million library and academic building under construction would be named Payne Hall in honor of Dr. Albert Payne, who had retired as college president in January.

1969 – 427 graduates in 11 programs, including 199 in August. The speaker was Dr. James E. Perdue, president of SUNY Oswego. Dr Perdue told the graduates to “make a plan and make it today… an unplanned life is like a garbage can in that the tight lid keeps out the light and keeps in the smell.” He also said that “appreciation” for the deeds of others “is the cement of our society.’ And he offered this advice: “See beyond youself. Don’t be self-centered. Try to get to know pe better. Try to avoid confrontation. Show that you care about other people. Be cheerful. It’s easy to like people who are cheerful. Have hope. A life without hope is hardly a life work living. “ Dr. Perdue said he tries to follow this plan every day.

1970 – 516 graduates, including 235 in August. The speaker was John J. Riccardo, president of Chrysler Corporation. A native of Little Falls, NY, Riccardo had been elected to Chrysler’s top executive position in January 1970. He had served the Detroit-based company in many executive capacities since joining the firm in 1959. He became a member of the corporation’s board of directors in January 1967. In his address he said the term “generation gap” should be changed to a “wall” between the generations. “After all, you can shout across a gap – if it isn’t too wide – with some hope of being heard and maybe even understood. But it’s hard to communicate through a wall. And people on both sides of the wall that now exists between generations know just how hard it is to make themselves heard – let alone be understood- by those on the other side of the wall. “ Riccardo said he disagreed with those who say “not to worry” about the wall between generations. Riccardo said that the “way for business to communicate with the younger generation… is to tell them we know the present system is imperfect, and to ask their help to make it better.” Riccardo said it is up to the communications media ‘”to supply the country with the facts, suggestions and criticism that will keep us headed in the right direction. As the country attacks complex problems like pollution and poverty we look to the news media to encourage debate on our priorities. We look to it to help us understand the nature of our complex problems, identify the most realistic, practical solutions and mobilize the country in protecting the environment and advancing social progress.” Riccardo said that “too many people…are used to instant coffee and instant breakfast food, and they want instant social reform.”

1971 (May 30)– 711 graduates, including 332 in August. Attorney Hugh R. Jones, of Utica, a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees, was the featured speaker. Jones was a partner in the law firm of Evans, Burdick, Severn and Hones. He was also a Trustee of Hamilton College, his alma mater. He was president-elect of the NYS Bar Association. Jones described the 309,000 student – 69 campus SUNY operation as the world’s largest university. He said that varied programs, facilities, faculty and students are housed beneath the SUNY roof. Jones prescribed guidelines for a full accessibility policy. “There is currently under consideration the adoption of an open admissions policy by the University trustees.” He cited the SUNY motto, “Let each become all he is capable of being,” and, said that the motto in 1971 is an imperative guideline. “Priorities for progress must be established,” said Jones, “starting with considerations for present high school graduates still in the college age bracket. But, education beyond high school is not a requisite for all. For many, a high school diploma represents a significant achievement. For those who desire post-secondary education, we must provide full accessibility,” said Jones. He outlined the possible development of programs and varied learning and teaching methods. Jones cited justification for the inclusion of “a college without walls” under the sponsorship wing of SUNY. Room for horizontal, vertical and time mobility are important factors of consideration, according to Jones. He said that students must be able to move to other schools and programs, have the freedom to continue from a two to four-year education and be encouraged “to flow in and out of the educational structure throughout their lives.” Jones predicted a reduction of resident students at community colleges. He said, “With increased commuter enrollment, these colleges will be providing a more regional service.”

1972 – (May 28) Dr. Paul A. Miller, president of Rochester Institute of Technology. He had also served as president of West Virginia University, and had been on the faculty at Michigan State University, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University. (742 candidates for graduation, including 267 graduating in August in a ceremony at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, first graduates in accounting program)

Excerpts from a Utica Daily Press article, May 29, on the graduation speech: “A revolution has overtaken higher education, Dr. Paul Miller, president of Rochester Institute of Technology, told the graduates of Mohawk Valley Community College yesterday in Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Dr. Miller said that the community college – the merger of college and community – is the leading innovation in American higher education.
‘The word education no longer describes the actual goal in the field of learning,’ he said. ‘Human development comes closer, forcing an old truth into the open that learning is not along in the province of the school and college, and nothing short of arrogance will allow the educators to claim otherwise.’
‘In the long and short of it, education can no longer be viewed as the property alone of the institutions which function in its name.’ Dr. Miller said.
‘To explain the growing merger between college and community one must begin with the vast technological absorption of colleges and universities, like other institutions, into the society as a whole,’ Dr. Miller said. It also means that no institution nor any individual can be isolated from the whipsaw of forces in the whole society.’
‘A community-centered college, beyond its service to the community, will profit the whole of education in relation to the society,’ he said.
‘If Mohawk Valley is that kind of college, then the class of 1972 , those who go on to school, those who go onto the job, will have learned that the difference between the technician and the technologist is that the latter has learned to weave his work into the fabric of the community and that, regardless of vocation, they must dedicate some portion of it to stopping the erosion of family and community life so characteristic of American society.’ ”

1973 – Dr. James Smoot, Vice Chancellor of the State University of New York for University-Wide Services and Special Programs (including admissions, educational opportunity programs, security, student affairs, cultural programming). Topic: “The Rediscovery of the Preposition.” According to the Observer-Dispatch, his topic “led him over a wide variety of topics, from the Watergate scandals to grammatical niceties. He said that prepositions, words like ‘to, at, on, in and for’ are ‘handicapped’ because they are ‘little words,’ and ‘in this country we have an aversion to littleness. We want bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger shopping centers…” Smoot said he had spent a number of years teaching composition, and had, himself, largely ignored the preposition. But lately, he added, he had come to realize the importance of the preposition in ‘some old favorite phrases – and, I used to add, respected.’ He asked, ‘What is a government OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people?... Does it mean the people form the government and when they see fit reform the government?’ Saying governmental news releases often reflect the slant of prepositions, Smoot remarked, ‘think of Watergate. The first news releases on that told us no facts had been hidden. Later we were told facts had been hidden but only because they had to be … is that acting FOR the people?’ He continued, ‘Consider the preposition ‘out’ as in ‘our boys are now OUT of Vietnam.’ Does that mean that we are free of worry about Indochina? What does it mean when we drop bombs ON Cambodia?’ he added. He told students that at graduation they were ‘in a kind of preposition, or pre-position.’ Smoot said he agreed with Vice President Spiro Agnew , who last week told a group of graduating seniors “We’ve made such a mess of the world that we have no real credentials for giving advice.’ And he warned members of the MVCC class of 1973 that in the future ‘we’re in for more pressure to ‘groupthink.’ The pressure will be higher for you because you chose college.” (500 May graduates, 300 August graduates)

1974 – Kirkland College President Dr. Samuel F. Babbitt. Kirkland College was a small liberal arts college located adjacent to and affiliated with Hamilton College, then a men’s school. Dr. Babbitt had become president of Kirkland College in 1966, after serving as Assistant Dean at Yale Graduate School.

1975 – New MVCC President George H. Robertson spoke at graduation about the choice between vocational and liberal studies. He said that the choice of vocational versus liberal studies faces every individual and institution. He said colleges must supply students with employable skills but that they must also assure graduates they are qualified for life. Remarking that the institution of college has not been fundamentally altered through the years, Robertson said that other countries are looking favorably upon the community colleges and plan to adopt the concept. Dr. Rudolph A. Schatzel, trustee emeritus and past president of the MVCC Foundation, and David R. Evans, trustee emeritus and president of the MVCC Foundation, presented presidential robes to Robertson.

1976 – Professor Emeritus Willard Sauter, who had recently retired after 30 years with the College. He was a member of the original faculty on opening day in 1946.

1977 – May 29. Samuel J. Talarico, Sr., International Secretary-Treasurer of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen of North America, AFL-CIO. He said that current educational programs are not meeting the needs of the people. “The paradox of our times is the emphasis on conservation of so-called natural resources and our scandalous failure to develop the most crucial of our resources- quality education for all ages, and all walks of life, and in all communities throughout this county.,” He said the community college system has been effective in providing developmental and occupational education for all persons. But, he said, educational resources need to be expanded to help meet society’s problems. Trade union support of public education was traced back to 1829 by Talerico, the date that a committee of trade union officials in Philadelphia demanded a free public school system. The unions still support public education and want more government support, Talerico said, citing a 1976 speech by George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, that condemned government’s “callous disregard of the education needs of the people.” Approximately 1,100 candidates for graduation.

1978 – Charles R. Getty, vice president of Revere Copper & Brass, Rome. He warned the graduates that government over-regulation “tends to strangle creativity, invention, productivity” in the free enterprise system. He told them “do not be secure – fight against security.” Getty had been employed by Revere since 1951, serving as an accountant and as corporate controller before becoming vice president. Getty praised Paul Revere, the man for whom his corporation is named, as an example of how the free enterprise systems works. At 65, he said, Revere founded the nation’s copper industry and built it into ‘a thriving and prosperous concern by the time he died at the age of 84.’
‘Even today,’ he said, ‘with the tremendous handicaps imposed on the system, opportunity still exists for individuals to start new businesses, or to participate in a going business and reap the rewards – or experience the failures inherent in our free enterprise system.’
The keys to the success of the system, he said, are competition, initiative and innovation, factors which are missing from communist systems.
‘However,’ he said, ‘the free enterprise system is being seriously threatened by over-regulation by government - over-regulation which tends to strangle creativity, invention and productivity.’
‘In the 1960’s,’ he said, ‘the generation of your age tore down the conventional institutions, deploring the insensitivity of many of our forms of society to the social and economic problems of our times. Many people deplored the turmoil and the violence. But no one will argue that the protest movements were a force which brought about change – much of it for the good.’
‘Many people today fail to recognize that the risk of insecurity developed this nation to the extent of its present material society,’ he said. ‘We need leaders in the fight against security. It is to you we look to develop the methods necessary to best utilize our economic system and continue the benefits we have.’
Today, he said, ‘our most important resources must be our people – and particularly our youth – who must understand that our natural resources are still important but they are no good without the faith and dedication of all of us and particularly of your generation, displaying the same intensity of spirit as the protect generation of the sixties, tempering the needs for change…with the practical needs of continuing our system.’

1979 – Rosemary S. Pooler, executive director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board. . A Syracuse resident.

1980 – The featured speaker was Oneida County Executive Sherwood Boehlert. He focused on what he said were his accomplishments in office and offered them as good reasons the graduates should seek jobs in Oneida County. …While the area has been plagued by problems like unemployment, an eroding tax base, an exodus of young people and a lack of industrial base, Boehlert said the pendulum was beginning to swing back in the right direction. He said one of the area’s fastest growing industries, Empire Airlines, is now being firmly established at the county airport and said he has spent part of each of his days in office talking to business people to encourage expansion and new businesses in the area. He also said the $8 million resource recovery program with Griffiss Air Force Base, after many years of talk, is finally getting off the ground.

1981 – The featured speaker was President Emeritus Albert V. Payne. He said “…I think it is possible that you and people like you in other parts of the world are facing problems that are much more difficult and more worldwide in their impact than those that earlier generations ever faced.” He called the gap between rich and poor nations, along with increasing malnutrition and starvation, problems as dangerous as the threat of nuclear war. He said those problems, and inflation from arms spending, can lead to social unrest and instability in countries economically and strategically important to the United States. “There was a time when, if we wished to, we could ignore all this but we cannot do so anymore. The world has changed in too many ways to make it possible.”

1982 - June 6. Ceremonies were initially shifted from the Utica Memorial Auditorium to campus because the Auditorium had been closed by the City in a cost-cutting measure. Two on-campus ceremonies would have been needed. However, after a variety of inquiries with the city by parents, and others, the Auditorium was temporarily reopened for several graduations, including MVCC’s and the SUNY College of Technology. The speaker was Dr. Dale Parnell, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Community & Junior Colleges. He said Americans tend to undervalue the work done by technicians in our society. He said that every time he flies in a plane, he hoped that the mechanics who served the plane had been well trained. He said many of those technicians were graduates of community and junior colleges and that may lives depended on them. The graduates, he said, represented the “human resources” which are just as important as capital resources. There were two unplanned events: one was the firing of a Roman candle near the end of the program, which led to an investigation. The other was an impromptu speech by Math Professor Larry Trivieri, who received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, who called on any trustees who represented political power brokers to resign. Trustee Angela Elefante, daughter of East Utica Democratic Leader Rufus Elefante complained, and asked that the Board of Trustees summon Prof . Trivieri to a Board meeting to explain his accusations of political interference at the College. Board Chair Eugene Madden declined to do so. (NOTE: This followed the Enders appointment controversy – see section on “Controversies.”)

(June 8, 1982, Rome Daily Sentinel) – “Fireworks mar MVCC graduation, president launches investigation) – The president of Mohawk Valley Community College has begun an investigation into an incident at Sunday’s commencement exercises in which a Roman candle fired inside the Utica Memorial Auditorium bounced off the ceiling, hit an elderly man and exploded near his face.
‘I have initiated an inquiry with the College Senate and Student Association to assess how much support their might be for the imposition of some additional disciplinary and security measures,’ said Dr. George H. Robertson of future commencements.
About 10 minutes before the end of the program Sunday, the firework missile was launched from the rear of the auditorium, bouncing off the roof and striking the man, who was reportedly sitting with his wife watching the ceremony.
‘I saw the missile strike the man,’ said Robertson, who was at the podium. ‘That’s why I was so horrified at the possibility of serious injury to someone. It exploded very close to his face.’
The man’s identity could not be learned this morning. Robertson didn’t know and Chief of Campus Security Al Maunz could not be reached for comment.
MVCC trustee David Mathis, at graduation too, said the missile ‘grazed’ the spectator’s ear but the man remained to watch the rest of the program. Mathis did not believe the man was hospitalized.
But the trustee said:
‘It got close enough so that it burned him. It was close enough to frighten the hell out of his,’
Mathis called for a bolstering of security also.
‘Hopefully in the future we’ll have better security and keep a better watch on them,’ Mathis said. He pointed out that ‘you’re not going to search everybody going in, and it is difficult to keep someone from sneaking firecrackers into a graduation.
But Mathis was disturbed about the Roman candle, the blowing off of several firecrackers just before the missile was launched, and by seeing other students with a bottle of champagne inside the auditorium.
Mathis noted that there are always a few students who get a little rowdier or expressive than the others at graduation, explaining that some wore cowboy hats and baseball jackets instead of the traditional cap and gown.
‘But I think when it gets to the point where alcohol and firecrackers are brought in it’s demeaning to the ceremonies,’ he said….”

(June 11, 1982, Observer-Dispatch editorial) – “Trivieri Was Right To Raise Warning – Angela Elefante, a trustee at Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC), is upset with remarks made by Professor Lawrence Trivieri during the college’s recent graduation.
Trivieri, who received a state award for teaching excellence, used the occasion to warn against mixing politics and education. He charged that partisan motivations have started to creep into decision-making on the board of trustees.
Elefante, daughter of city Democratic power broker Rufus Elefante, fired a salvo in return. She said it was in ‘bad taste’ and ‘a low class remark” for Trivieri to say such things at commencement.
Trivieri should appear before the board and substantiate his charges, Elefante said.
Some might say the lady doth protest too much. She and some of her colleagues were accused of partisan politics in their handling of a teaching appointment a few months ago.
At that time, students, faculty members and alumni joined others in the community in charging the board had made a political decision in denying an appointment to Richard Enders, former Oneida County district attorney.
The board protested then, too, but it never presented a convincing argument why such an obviously qualified teacher, who had served part-time at the college for years, should be denied a full-time post in MVCC’s criminal justice division.
Critics said Enders had made political enemies during his years as prosecutor, and that is why he did not get the job. The allegation was disturbing then; it remains so.
There is nothing ‘low class’ or in ‘bad taste’ about using a graduation ceremony to warn of what could be a serious danger to MVCC’s record of excellence.
Politics has no place in an institution of learning. Educational decisions are far too important to be made for anything other than academic reasons.
If Trivieri’s remarks in front of the commencement assemblage were considered an embarrassment by Elefante and some of the other trustees, they might better view with alarm their own actions and attitudes which prompted an award-winning professor to speak out.
Trivieri was raising a caution flag, and based on the applause his remarks drew from students and faculty, his concerns are shared.”


The speaker was R. Gordon Hoxie, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency. Among his remarks: “Today there is more concern for finding work and less concern for public policy. We are now in a time characterized by computers. I hasten to say that I am not opposed to computers. What I am concerned about, however, is the impersonal character which the computer and the robot symbolize. The computer is no substitute for eternal verities. In exchange for a highly technical civilization, we have lost our neighborly concerns in solving problems together. We have become polarized in our views and disinterested or self-interested. Working with neighbors is harder today. In a more complex civilization we have made ourselves dependent on the media and technology. We have come to form opinions on complex issues, such as a nuclear freeze, by an occasional minute and a half on the evening news. Many persons despair regarding the effectiveness of our political institutions, especially as they view the Congress and the presidency. But the enemy is not the system. Making the system work means an educated citizenry desirous of making it work….” He was former chancellor of Long Island University, and former president of C.W. Post College. He had written extensively on the U.S. Presidency, including these books: “Command Decision and the Presidency,” “The Coattailless Landslide,” “Power and the Presidency,” “Organizing and Staffing the Presidency,” “The Presidency and Information Policy,” “Popular Images of American Presidents,” “The White House: Organization and Operations,: and “The Presidency of the 1970’s.” He was editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly, and served as a consultant to the US Department of State and The Presidency of the 1970’s. He was also a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

1984 U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-NY. Approximately 1,000 graduates. His address focused on U.S.-Soviet relations. He suggested that “we would be wiser to be a little less obsessed with the…Soviet Union… because the Soviet Union is a failed idea.” He observed that refugees were not fleeing into the Soviet Union, that people are not defecting to the Soviet Union, and that no major economy in the world was trying to be like the Soviet Union….(following excerpted from an Observer-Dispatch article on the graduation:)”The United States would be wiser to be less obsessed with the Soviet Union….Do you see people fleeing to the Soviet Union or defecting there or even trying to model themselves after the Soviet Union? … We would be better off to wait out the Soviet Union. The Soviet system has spent its energies. No one believes in the doctrines of the Soviet Union anymore. The Soviet system just doesn’t work.” Moynihan said the Soviet Union is a “fearful, corrupt system” that has so little confidence in itself it would rather let Andrei Sakharov die than to allow his wife, Yelana Bonner, to come to the United States for medical treatment. “An act like this brings nothing but contempt and revulsion for their system from around the world. The Soviets believe that by letting one man defy their system, it is a sign of weakness.” Sakharov, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, began a hunger strike May 2 to convince Soviet officials to allow his wife to go to the West for medical treatment… Moynihan based his remarks on statements made earlier this week by Soviet defense minister, Dmitri Ustinov, that the Russians have deployed nuclear submarines off the U.S. coast. The missiles aboard those submarines are capable of striking their targets – including Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome – within 10 minutes. “How could our relationship have gotten to the point where we’re talking about nuclear war as if it is coming?” Moynihan said. “The defense minister is threatening the U.S. with nuclear war. We shouldn’t be intimidated by that, but at the same time, we have to ask how we have gotten to this point.” Moynihan said that in recent years, the United States has strayed from three of its long-standing principles. He said the U.S. has abandoned its idea that all nations conduct themselves according to world law, citing the Reagan administration’s announcement that the World Court did not have the jurisdiction to tell the U.S. it could not mine Nicaraguan waters. In addition, Moynihan said the U.S. has wavered from its original stance of deploying missiles as a means for defending itself. “In the past, we deployed our missiles in such a way that we put ourselves in the position to strike second, not first,” Moynihan said. “Now we’re talking about putting MX missiles in silos that were at one time supposed to be so vulnerable. By using these silos, we are telling the Russians that we are in a ‘strike first’ situation.” The third principle the U.S. has wavered from, Moynihan said, is arms control. At one time, the U.S. promoted a regime of arms control with the entire world, but that has suddenly changed, he said. “We are suddenly on the verge of piercing the missile limits we negotiated during SALT II and other arms treaties. “If we showed more calm with regard to world affairs, we might be able to show a little more success in dealing with them.”

1985 U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato, Long Island Republican elected to Senate in 1980. He spoke about illegal drug use in the United States calling it an “epidemic sweeping across the country,” the greatest problem facing the nation, more severe than pollution or controlling the federal deficit. He said drug abuse is “tearing away the moral fiber of American families” and said 50 per cent of all crime committed in the country at drug-related. He called for stiffer penalties for drug dealers. He also said economic sanctions should be imposed against countries whose citizens are involved in heavy drug trafficking in the United States. He said cocaine was becoming the recreational drug of the upper middle class and said the peer pressure was enormous on youths who do not take drugs. He said if the problem is not addressed, the country will drive itself to ruins.

1986 Barbara E. Watson, English teacher, Holland Patent High School. She had been named 1986 New York State Teacher of the Year by the State Board of Regents. She had been associated with Holland Patent High School for 24 years, including 17 years as an English teacher, and seven years as a librarian. She had taken courses at MVCC as early as 1949 and as recently as 1984. She had helped design Holland Patent High School’s library and selected 8,000 acquisitions for it. She also started the school’s affiliation with the Mid-York Library System. She challenged graduates to continue their quest for learning, and urged them to avoid lethargy, mediocrity and materialism. Mrs. Watson, acknowledging the setbacks sometimes associated with the pursuit of knowledge, said that fellow teacher Christa McAuliffe risked and lost her life seeking knowledge when she was killed in the Challenger space shuttle accident the previous January. “Do not become like Arthur Miller’s Willie Loman – selling (your) souls to the highest bidder,” she said. After graduating from Little Falls High School, Watson attended the University of Rochester, but pneumonia caused her to leave school during her first year. She married and the young housewife and mother later decided to return to college. Ten years after her sickness, Watson earned a degree from Utica College with magna cum laude distinction. Watson confessed to her audience that she has a love affair with teaching. And although that affair is sometimes marred with occasional synicism and unhappiness, the rewards of helping students expand their horizons far overcomes any temporary setbacks, she said.

1987 – Dr. Clyde McCulley, Director, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute School of Art (MWPAI), which conducted a fine arts degree program jointly with MVCC. His topic was the importance of the arts and humanities in daily life. His speech:
“President Schafer, Dean Brown, Chairman Mathis, Faculty and students of the 1987 graduating class. I appreciate your invitation to be here today.
Did you know that you can stand on 5th Avenue in New York City and look up at the sky for a few seconds and soon a thousand people will join you in trying to see what you’re seeing?
I want to talk to you about seeing in your life, about seeing beauty, seeing color and aesthetics in general and how these things affect our lives.
Quiz! Name five great bankers in history. Now five great lawyers. Five great doctors. The seven original astronauts. Five great musicians – Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Bach. Now, name five – no, ten great visual artists! You who are sitting here right now, even without a formal course in art history or art appreciation would be able to name at least five or 10 great artists! Why? Why do you know the names of artists or musicians when you don’t know much about people in other professions?
Is it because of their colorful lives? Van Gogh was a little nuts! Cut off part of his ear and sent it to his girlfriend – later shot himself attempting to commit suicide. Monet lost his eyesight in his later life. Goya went deaf- Cezanne married his piano teacher – Gauguin died of syphilis, Rembrandt died financially broken – and on and on. Why have these people touched our lives? Yes, through the work they produced, but why?
We all enjoy beautiful things – beautiful people, beautiful paintings, beautiful flowers. Just the other day I read that young babies tend to like attractive people over unattractive people. Who taught these young children what is beautiful and what is not?
Today we have sitting before us our future accountants, scientists, artists, technicians, teachers, business people, engineers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, secretaries. Each has an idea of what beauty or aesthetics is about – some more finely tuned perhaps than others in this respect. I admit that we each have different responses, yet we all respond to beauty in some way. What I still to this day cannot understand is why people like ourselves, human beings, go out and buy paintings of Elvis on velvet! Nothing wrong with Elvis – perhaps it’s the velvet! I would much rather see a person frame a front page of the ‘National Enquirer’ and put it on their wall than an Elvis on velvet painting they bought for $5.99 including a frame worth $4.99! I realize we can’t all go out and buy a Van Gogh painting for $40,000,000! A painting is not worth $40,000,000! $40,000,000 is not worth $40,000,000.
Great achievements in the arts are the hallmarks of civilization. Generating conditions to encourage their achievements is essential business for any society.
We respond to the arts because we appreciate or don’t appreciate according to our understanding of the symbols used in the work. For instance, we may use paintings to decorate our homes, listen to music as background sound (musak) – our selection of these paintings and music relate to our background. But – should the arts be more than just decoration and background noise? Of the animal kingdom, it is only man who uses symbols to communicate – alphabet, numbers, art work, etc.
As knowledge has increased especially in our electronic age, we see more fragmentation of humans and spirit. Specialization – even in the arts – it is difficult to get art majors to go to wood wind concerts or to the orchestra, or to foreign films! I see people walk around with Walk-mans – further removing themselves from active society. Art is man’s most universal language – it is not just for hanging in museums to be revered, it is a necessary part of our lives – of our communication with others. We need the humanities – art, music, dance, theater, poetry – we need them for the spirit of mankind!
John Kennedy stated that ‘Art establishes the basic human truths which nust serve as the touchstones of our judgment,’ and another quote, from Louis Mumford, a critic – “A community whose life is not irrigated by art and science, by religion and philosophy, day upon day, is a community that exists half alive.’
What makes this arts business so special? I have had people look at abstract works of art and tell me that a monkey could do that! I have worked with some ‘monkeys’ over the years and tend to agree. The question really is whether the monkey can repeat the ‘abstract work’ or whether it was an ‘accident’ that the monkey produced. I would say – if you had to make a choice between a painting by a monkey and an Elvis on velvet – take the monkey!
If one continues to listen to good music, to watch ballet and to visit museums, one will start to find these arts more enjoyable and more understandable. But one must try – one must visit. When I came to Utica five years ago for my interview for my job as director of the school, the taxi driver bringing me from the airport asked me why I was visiting Utica. When I told him, he said, ‘Oh, we are so proud of the Institute, it is a cultural light in the Mohawk Valley – they have wonderful works of art there, and we are very proud.’ I then asked him how often his visited the Institute, and he said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve never been there, but we’re awful proud of it!’ Who do people not visit museums? In Massachusetts, I had kids in my college classes from New York City. I would take them on museum trips to New York, and for the first time in their lives they would see the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney – oh, they all had been to the Metropolitan on a field trip in the sixth grade. I remember my first museum trip, etc. – I think many are afraid they won’t know what they’re looking at. Afraid they will feel uncomfortable. The best way to break this fear is by going again and again. We start to develop our sensibilities by doing so. Herbert Read wrote that ‘The sensibilities are the sources of our consciousness. Learning to see and hear are therefore the avenues through which our awareness is raised.’ Our senses yield sensation and from sensation we ascend to the aesthetic and the aesthetic gives rise to feeling. Art functions by re-establishing the connection between the mind and the senses. The arts are not only important because of what they represent, but they are important because they engage and develop the human intellectual ability.
When one considers the importance of the study of the arts and one compares the small amount of the arts that we have all received in our pre-college schooling, it makes us wonder why? Many of you had some art in grade school, or in high school. Some of you sitting here have gone on to by art majors in our MVCC-Munstitute fine arts program. Mr. Steven Mocko is to be commended for his fine work as coordinator of the program. Some of you have not been fine arts majors, but have come to the Institute and taken elective art classes. This is good. No matter what your major, what certificate or degree you are receiving today, you should consider becoming more involved in the arts. Many of you will continue your education after MVCC. Take advantage of the university theater, the art museums, the musical concerts – continue this habit after you are in the work force. See that your kids, later on, are able to take dance, or music, or art classes – read them poetry, classical stories – expand their minds. Gosh, I’ve already gotten you into child-rearing! But you see my point! Bob Dylan, the well-known singer of the sixties once said ‘The highest purpose of art is to inspire.’ I hope you, the great graduating class of 1987, will find yourself inspired through the arts, through the humanities – you are worth it – do it!”

1988- Joe Kelly, Observer-Dispatch columnist, who spoke about his wife’s experiences as a returning adult student at MVCC. He had been at the Observer-Dispatch since 1975, covering government, education and general assignment stories before devoting full-time to his column. He had also served as an aide to Utica Mayor Michael Caruso, and State Senatoe James Donovan, and as a reporter for the Phoenix, Arizona, Gazette. He told the story of a woman who put off pursuing her education and having a career to marry and raise a family. When the two children were older, she approached her family with her desire and dream to go to college. The women enrolled in MVCC and even competed on the college’s cross-county team. Kelly said that although the women was about 20 years older than her teammates, she learned from them and they from her. The woman graduated from MVCC and went on to study computer science at SUNY College of Technology. She then graduated from SUNY. Kelly said this woman is his wife Kathy. “She’s an example. Don’t ever let someone tell you you’re too old or dumb to do something,’ Kelly told the graduates. ‘And she shows that dreams are achievable. If you can dream it, you can do it.”

1989- Olympic medalist Jeff Blatnick, champion in the heavyweight division in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, two years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. He was a resident of Niskayuna, NY, near Schenectady. He was a graduate of Springfield College, Massachusetts, with a BS in physical education. … Excerpts from Observer-Dispatch story on May 27th: “Part of his message was that inspiration isn’t enough. ‘Inspiration was temporary,’ he said, and didn’t mean much if not put into action…. He refused… to let other people’s perceptions determine how someone with cancer should act. The very word, he said, has a ‘stigma’ and evokes fear. ‘I didn’t feel sick, so I didn’t act sick. Don’t let other people’s perceptions drag you down.’ That was something Blatnick never let happen. Called little ‘round man,’ and ‘blob’ as a child, he pursued sports. When he was relegated to the bench on his high school football team, he tried out for cross country. ‘The coach thought I was crazy,’ Blatnick said. At a major regional meet, he came in last, but he got a standing ovation – a recognition of his effort. When he started wrestling, he said, he was pinned in his first two matches, and ended the season with a 7-17 record. But two of those victories were against a wrestler who had beaten him in an earlier meet and against someone of national rank. ‘I learned to deal with losing before I ever had the experience of winning….”

The featured speaker at the May 25th graduation was Colonel Raymond A. Shulstad, commander of the Rome Air Development Center (RADC). As commander of RADC, part of the Air Force Systems Command, Col. Shulstad oversaw the Air Force’s center of excellence for research and development of technologies for command, control, communications and intelligence systems. Excerpts from Observer-Dispatch article, May 26, 1990: “Col. Raymond A. Shulstad, who this week relinquished command of the Rome Air Development Center at Griffiss Air Force Base, said huge federal investments in military research and technology have helped keep peace in Europe and helped the United States win an economic victory against the Soviets.
Spinoffs from defense research have been numerous, he said: private business and industry have benefited from compact disks, latex paint, fiber optics and other products.
The secret of success is ‘constancy of purpose,’ he said, and since the end of World War II, ‘we have stared communism in the face in Eastern Europe, and the United States no longer leads the world in graduating engineers.
That distinction now belongs to the Soviets and the Japanese.
‘The need has never been greater in this country for engineers,’ he said, ‘But there is also a need for professionals in all occupations, and to be a winner, you don’t stop. Good things begin at MVCC, they don’t end here. Professional development is a life-long process.’
RADC and the college, he said, have had a long standing relationship, getting their start at MVCC. RADC staff also teach at the school…. Shulstad will be returning to the Pentagon with the rank of general after serving as RADC commander since 1988.
The 24-year Air Force veteran is the author of ‘Peace Is My Profession,’ a book dealing with the moral dimension of the U.S. nuclear defense policy….”

December 19th: First mid-year graduation.

1991 – The featured speaker was Utica Senior Academy* Principal Martin V. Sweeney. He had been Outstanding Principal in New York State in 1989, and had been part of the Utica School District since 1965 when he was hired as a history teacher. In 1972, he moved into administration, including principal at Conkling School, assistant principal at Proctor, principal at Martin Luther King and Roosevelt Schools, and John F. Kennedy High School. (*previously and later Proctor High School)

1992 – Oneida County Executive Raymond Meier was the main speaker. From Observer-Dispatch article: “Oneida County Executive Raymond Meier told the 1,000-plus graduates at Utica Memorial Auditorium that he has figured out ‘why commencement speakers and speeches are often forgettable.’ He said his search for an appropriate topic took him to newspaper accounts of other commencement speeches, where, ‘For the most part, I found important, learned or unique people discussing pretty heady stuff.’ Meier said topics included ‘the changing world, the fall of communism… the struggle for social justice or the fragility of civilization. We live in a time when the magnitude and complexity of events cause many of us to wonder, ‘What does all that have to do with me… and how could I possibly make a difference?’ he said. ‘And nothing is more forgettable than the irrelevant,’ he said. ‘So my message… is this. You can make a difference…(and) you can use what you have learned to accomplish great things.’ He challenged the graduates to believe in and support their community, to ‘be an entrepreneur, a risk taker.’ And, he added, be honest. ‘Nothing you will ever achieve , own or become will affect the way others judge you as much as whether you can be relied upon to keep your word.’ Almost as important as honesty is a sense of humor, Meier said. ‘People who can’t laugh should not be trusted with any important work, whether it’s the presidency of the United States or raising children.’ To test his audience, he suggested, ‘If you ever get to be a college president, when it comes time to plan a graduation, remember these two words: air conditioning.’ Utica City Court Judge Anthony Garramone, chairman of the MVCC board of trustees, noted in opening remarks that six of the graduates majored in air conditioning. ‘I wish you were working today,’ he said. The graduates and guests needed no reminder of the lack of a cooling system in the auditorium as temperatures inside pushed the 80-degree mark….”

1993- MVCC President Michael I. Schafer, who was observing his 10th anniversary as president of the College.

1994 - The featured speaker was Proctor Senior High School Principal Irving C. Jones, Sr. He had been appointed Principal in 1993, coming to Utica from the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where he had been an English teacher and athletic coach before holding several principal positions. He spoke about the importance of community, education, facing challenges and change, helping others and having faith in yourself. “I challenge you, class of 1994, to pave the road for the future. Today, commit yourself to lifelong learning. The competition is too great, we are competing with Japan and other countries for a market that was created right here in America. With some much more in life to focus attention on, people often do themselves injustice by using wealth as a measure of their success and forgetting along the way what really matters. A big bank account does not mean one is successful. More self-gratifying is how productive one is in helping others. Success is not measured by wealth. It is measured by caring for yourself and others. If you do that you will find yourself more successful beyond your wildest dreams…. Don’t look for shortcuts, do it right. Take pride in what you do… I want you to remember that success is not a journey, but a destination… the only way to have true friends is to be truly friendly.”

1995 – The featured speaker was Dr. Betty Duvall, community college liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, Washington. Before joining the federal education agency, she headed the Rock Creek campus of Portland Community College, Oregon. She went to Portland from St. Louis Community College, where she was dean of instruction at the Florissant Valley campus for 15 years. She told the graduates “There’s no better cure for the world’s or society’s ills than education.” She said those earning degrees, both young and old, should learn to “celebrate their differences instead of being afraid of them,” and continue to strive for their best. “Be inclusive rather than exclusive. There are too many lessons that need to be learned from one another.”

1996 – The speaker was Dr. Lenworth Gunther, Ph.D., an historian, educator, author, and consultant in ethnic studies, human relations and diversity. He operated Edmedia Associates of Maplewood, NJ, and educational and motivational consulting corporation serving businesses, schools, public agencies and community organizations. He also produced and hosted “Impact,” a public affairs cable tv program in New Jersey. He was author of “Black Image” and “Flaming Tongue: The Rise of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.” He had been a Woodrow Wilson and Ford Foundation Doctoral fellow, and earned four degrees at Columbia University: a B.A., M.A., Master of Philosophy, and Ph.D. in American history.

1997 – The featured speaker was James Malinchak, author of “From College to the Real World … Hot to Land Any Job You Desire Right Out of College!” Malinchak, 27 at the time, was also a stock broker in Beverly Hills, California, handling accounts of celebrities and professional athletes.

1998 – The featured speaker was New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who would later run unsuccessfully for governor. McCall had also served as president of the New York City Board of Education, served three terms as a state senator representing upper Manhattan, as ambassador to the United Nations, as a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and as commissioner of the NYS Division of Human Rights, as well as a vice president of Citicorp/Citibank.

1999 – The featured speaker was Artur Pyrda, president of Control Experts, Inc., of Utica. Pyrda emigrated with his family from Poland to Utica, where he learned English and graduated from MVCC in 1986 in Engineering Science. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo. He founded Control Experts., Inc. in 1990. The company made, installed and serviced robotics and automation machinery.

2000 – The featured speaker was native Utican Richard Benedetto, national political correspondent and columnist for USA Today and political columnist for Gannett News Service. Benedetto had been with USA Today since its founding in 1982. Involved in covering the Presidential campaign in 2000, he has also covered Presidential campaigns in 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996. He has been named White House correspondent in 1989. He had been a reporter and columnist for the Utica Observer-Dispatch and the former Daily Press from 1971 to 1976. From 1976 until the founding of USA Today in 1982, he was state legislative correspondent in Albany for Gannett News Service. He held a BA degree from Utica College, and an MA degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

(From Observer-Dispatch coverage of the graduation) “What is truly important is not learned in school, but from family, USA Today and Gannett News Service national political correspondent and columnist Richard Benedetto told Mohawk Valley Community College graduates Friday. ‘(If you) earn lots of money, that’s a bonus, not an end….’ Benedetto said he learned the important things in life – including how to be a good citizen and friend – from his relatives. From his Italian immigrant father, the Utica native said he learned the importance of putting family first and having respect for politicians. As a journalist covering politics extensively, from covering city government for the Observer-Dispatch from 1971 to 1976, to now covering the 2000 presidential campaign, Benedetto said he tries to follow his father’s advice. For instance, while he may criticize the White House or president, he tries to do it with respect for the office and person, he said. From his mother, Benedetto said he learned to treat others with respect, to be a real friend and a gracious host. From his four daughters and grandson, he learned ‘nothing is more important than your children.’…”

2001 – The featured speaker was Donna M. Donovan, president and publisher of the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

2002 – The featured speaker was U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, former First Lady. She had been elected to the NY Senate seat in 2000.

2003 – The featured speaker was Dr. Daniel Larson, new Vice President for Instruction. According to the Utica Observer Dispatch report on May 24th, “Age was a topic in the address of commencement speaker Daniel P. Larson, MVCC’s vice president for instruction. He talked about the vitality of an 87-year-old woman who touched lives as a student at another college. It’s never too late to be all that you possibly can be,” Larson said.

2004 – The featured speaker was State University of New York Chancellor Robert L. King. He had been chancellor since 1999, and before that, beginning in 1998, was budget director for New York State. He had also served as Monroe County Executive, and was a member of the State Assembly from 1987 to 1991, representing the Rochester area. As an attorney, he had been a prosecutor in California and New York.

2005 – The featured speaker was U.S. Congressman Sherwood L. Boehlert, R-24, on Friday, May 27th. He was chairman of the House Science Committee, and had served in Congress since 1983. (He would announce his retirement in March 2006). He also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Homeland Security Committee. He served as Oneida County Executive (1979-83), was chief of staff to Congressman Alexander Pirnie (1964-72) and Congressman Donald Mitchell (1973-79).

2006 – The featured speaker was Donna Adamo, news anchor at WTVH- TV (Ch 5), Syracuse, an MVCC Human Services graduate (1980).