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Tompkins Cortland Celebrates 44th Annual Commencement

May 23, 2013

Cherish the friends you have made, pay back the faith that has been shown in you, and celebrate your accomplishment. Those were some of the messages delivered to the class of 2013 during commencement ceremonies at Tompkins Cortland Community College Thursday. The College celebrated its 44th commencement in front of a packed crowd of more than 2,000 people in the College's gymnasium.

The class of 2013 includes 725 graduates, including student trustee Jacqueline Matza, who offered the student address. The broadcast journalism major talked about the friendships she has made during her time at the College. “Whether it’s getting close to your advisor, roommate, or that kid that sits next to you in psych, the bonds that we’ve all made here will never be broken," she said. "When we look back at our lives, Tompkins Cortland will be a tiny little bridge that helped us in so many ways. We grew, both in education and in maturity, and that’s something to be proud of."

The main address came from Dr. Randol Contreras, a 1994 graduate of the College, who is now a faculty member in sociology at California State University-Fullerton. He told the students about his youth, surrounded by drugs while growing up in New York City. He talked about how going to school wasn’t the first option for people in his neighborhood, and leaving his neighborhood for Central New York wasn’t an easy decision. “Eventually I was convinced,” he said. “It was perhaps the best decision of my life.” When he came to Tompkins Cortland, he wasn’t sure what to expect. “What I found was unbelievable support of students,” said Contreras, noting Professor Scott Ochs in particular. “He showed that he believed in me. He told me he expected great things from me. And he suggested a career in academia. At the time, I didn’t know what the word meant, but I knew it was good. It was the first time I thought I could be something.”

Contreras, ended his remarks by urging the graduates to appreciate the value of their public education. “When I think about all my accomplishments, it all was possible due to public institutions, and it all started at this great public institution,” he said. And in a symbolic coming of full circle, Contreras told the graduates he believed in them, just as Professor Ochs had told him the same thing years ago. “I have faith in you. I have faith that you now have the intellectual tools to make it happen. Congratulations.”

College President Carl Haynes was the last speaker. "You have achieved this wonderful milestone in your education and life, and you have done it at a college that doesn’t just trumpet excellence, we hold you to the toughest standards in the state," said Haynes, who talked about the higher academic requirements Tompkins Cortland established while this class was at the College. "You’ve met that challenge. You’ve lived up to and in many cases exceed the standards of excellence our faculty and administration have set for you. You achieved. You succeeded. You are in rare company. And for this, you are to be congratulated."

President Haynes also praised the graduates for their well-rounded education. "You have sharpened your skills in the classroom,” he said. “You have developed leadership skills, through student activities and by participating in athletics and community service. You have worked in collaboration with your peers and your faculty, on study abroad trips to other countries, on projects presented to national science boards, on issues of sustainability, equality, diversity, and governance here on campus. You have engaged as a member of the community, supporting local food drives, volunteering in local shelters, raising money to fight cancer. You have done more than fulfill the requirements of a degree – you have earned an education.”