For Cayuga Community College graduate and Commencement speaker Brian Knapp ’13, this day almost never came.
On August 4, 2008, nine days before his 21st birthday, he was driving his Marine commander through the country side of Afghanistan when they vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and struggled to remember simple words like “gate.”
But on Sunday, Knapp, a 2013 SUNY Chancellor’s Award Recipient, graduated with honors with an associate’s degree in geographic information systems, and with the knowledge that he has helped transform Cayuga into a military-friendly campus.
“Between the Veterans Working Group and the two organizations, we have been able to bring fundamental change on our campus,” Knapp said. “We have established in-state tuition for all veterans and a book deferral program, changed the deployment policy, established a Veteran Specific Orientation, and we are about to introduce a laptop loan program. I cannot express how much gratitude I have to the faculty, staff, administrators, and students who have supported me and our student veterans.”
Knapp was one of 630 graduates, including 33 graduating military veterans, recognized during the College’s 59th Annual Commencement ceremony in Spartan Hall, Auburn Campus.
During his remarks, College President Daniel P. Larson gave some fast facts about the graduating Class of 2013, including:
· 65% female and 35% male
· range in age from 17 to 63 years, with 58% under age 25
· 44% are residents of Cayuga County, 37% residents of Oswego County, 8% residents of Onondaga County, and 11% residents elsewhere, mostly New York State, and including California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona, Florida, and Canada.
“We know that you have grown and matured here,” Larson said. “You are more motivated and self-directed, and you have met enormous challenges. We are pleased to have been part of that journey.”
Faith Fanning ’13, 2013 SUNY Chancellor’s Award recipient and graduate, opened her Commencement address to her peers with the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” explaining to them: “Our time at CCC is coming to a close; it is the end of a season in our lives,” Fanning said. “Today each of us will leave this place having made an accomplishment, prepared to move on to the next seasons in our lives.”
Other speakers included College Board of Trustees Chairman John Camardo ’84, Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Michael Chapman, and Alumni Association President Edward “Ted” Herrling ’72.
Leading the academic procession was Mace Bearer and Grand Marshal Judith G. Miladin, director of financial aid; College Marshals William Lovell, Fulton Campus accounting professor and division chair, and Susan Wolstenholme, Auburn Campus English professor, led the faculty and staff; and the Class of 2013 Class Marshals were Philip F. DeCicca of Auburn, Phi Theta Kappa graduate in studio art and design, and Dawn A. Varney of Altmar, a Phi Theta Kappa graduate in business administration.
The Syracuse Scottish Pipe Band opened the procession.
During the ceremony, the college recognized the following three employees with SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for:
· Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities – Daniel F. Schultz, Social Sciences Professor
· Excellence in Classified Service – Robert Szczepanski ’77, Custodial Service Staff
· Excellence in Teaching – Shannon Lavey Reohr, Math Professor
Alumni Michael R. Frame ’99, director of federal relations for SUNY and Binghamton University, and Patricia M. Callahan ’87, a Literacy Volunteer and college donor, received the Alumni Association Award for their outstanding contributions.