250 Students, Two Dogs Graduate as Hartwick College's Class of 2023

Under a packed tent with a standing-room-only crowd, the Hartwick College Class of 2023 crossed the commencement stage on Saturday, May 20, to the cheers of family, friends, teachers and mentors.

“What a crowd we have here today!” President Darren Reisberg proclaimed as he rang the bell at the podium, calling his first commencement ceremony to order. “Class of 2023, you have stepped into Hartwick’s extraordinary river of time and changed the course of the college forever. You are Hartwick College. The company of scholars is assembled. Let the ceremonies begin!”

President Darren Reisberg poses with graduate upon presenting him with his degree during Hartwick College's 91st Commencement ceremony

Chisomaga Emeh ’23 was presented with the Abraham L. Kellogg Oratorical Prize for his speech, “The Power of Name,” which he delivered at Honors Convocation. Laurel Bongiorno, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, presented the Margaret B. Bunn Award for Excellence in Teaching to Professor of Economics Karl Seeley.

“I think that Margaret Bunn would heartily agree that Karl Seeley, who models best practices for future teachers, is deserving of this award named in her honor.”

Retaking the podium, Reisberg introduced Francesca Zambello, recipient of the honorary degree.

An internationally renowned opera and theater director and Artistic and General Director Emerita of The Glimmerglass Festival and Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera, Zambello focused on commissioning youth operas, created a young artists program and residency, and brought diverse voices to the stage both as performers and librettists.

“In your 12 years at its helm, you transformed the Glimmerglass Opera, as it was called when you arrived, into the Glimmerglass Festival, focusing on a brand of theater that has served as a bridge to a diverse community.”

In reading the honorary degree citation, Reisberg noted: “Long before the current discussions about race-conscious casting in opera and theater, you went out of your way to ensure diverse voices were heard – literally and figuratively,” he said. “And under your leadership, ensured that the Glimmerglass Festival consistently explored the dimensions of this complex issue.

In addressing the Class of 2023, Zambello spoke on the need for hearing unheard stories.

“In the last four years, I know you have taken in a lot of information, and that information supports your practice,” she said. “But empathy, I would argue, is the most important thing to take from your college education. Not as a body of facts but as a habit of mind as you go forward. Whether your future is as an artist, a CEO, a politician, a parent – you will need to be able to see things from another person’s perspective.”

Student Conductor Tristan Bachorik ’23 and the Hartwick College Wind Ensemble treated the audience to Katahj Copley’s “Halcyon Hearts.” Reisberg then introduced speaker Josh Rawich, president of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, joking, “Josh, take us out to the ball game.”

In overseeing the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Rawitch manages the daily operation of the non-profit educational institution, whose mission is to preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations. He previously spent ten seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he served as senior vice president of content and communications.

Before that, Rawitch was with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 15 seasons, initially in the marketing department before moving to public relations and spending two years working for Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

He related the story of how he got his first job with the Dodgers and, later, with the Diamondbacks, crediting persistence, luck and, at times, a leap of faith. “You can’t always control the timing of what happens to you,” he said. “But if you work your tail off and open yourself up to new opportunities, they will often find you.”

He also stressed that graduates should not let the way others live dictate their lives. “The only thing that matters at any given time is if you are happy with who you are and if you are contributing to making the world around you a better place,” he said. “If you’re not, it’s time to make some changes in your life. But do it because it fulfills you and impacts others in a positive way – not because it looks good on Instagram or TikTok.”

Then, the moment everyone was waiting for – when Bongiorno introduced the Class of 2023 to the crowd. Each student crossed the stage to receive their hood, a handshake from Reisberg, and their degree.

Among the graduates were Imus and Stitch, two Guiding Eyes for the Blind dogs. Imus was trained by Emily Elizabeth Kliment ’23 and Stitch by Serinah Palafox ’23.

“Without Guiding Eyes for the Blind, I wouldn’t have had as great a Hartwick experience as I did,” said Palafox, a public health major. “I raised three puppies, and they kept me grounded, gave me a routine, and allowed me to meet people as I walked them around campus.”

Once each student was recognized, Hartwick College Alumni Association Board of Directors President Michelle Brown ’87 welcomed the new alumni. “Being an alum means you will always have a home here on Oyaron Hill,” she said. “The memories and relationships you created as a student will deepen, as they did for me and my friends.”

The Alumni Association presented each graduate with a replica of the Hartwick Bell as a memento of their time here. In unison, the Class of 2023 rang their bells joyously as part of the ceremony’s closing.

“We were the class that got sent home for COVID, so there were times I thought I wasn’t going to make it to this day,” said Katie Doliver ’23, a psychology major. “There were a lot of challenges, but it really paid off.”

“When I looked in the mirror this morning, I couldn’t believe it was finally happening,” said Paul “King” Konye ’23, a business administration major. “But then I stop, and it’s all so real.”


View Complete Ceremony Recording

Prior to the Commencement ceremony, the Nursing Class of 2023 Pinning Ceremony was held in Lambros Area on Friday, May 19.

View Pinning Ceremony Recording

May 22, 2023

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