News Commencement 2022: A Celebration of Multiple Milestones

May 21, 2022

Hartwick College’s 2022 Commencement Exercises marked a number of important events in its 225-year history.

Today’s ceremony recognized graduates of the College’s first master’s degree program. It served as the final Hartwick College Commencement under President Margaret L. Drugovich P’12, who is retiring after 14 years at the helm. And for the first time in three years, the Hartwick Community was able to gather under a gala tent on Elmore Field to celebrate a class’s transition from students to alumni.

Hundreds braved near 90-degree heat to convene high above the City of Oneonta and celebrate the students’ accomplishments, watch them receive their degrees, and take part in the momentous occasion.

After the Broome County Celtic Pipes and Drums led the celebratory march of graduates, faculty, and staff into the flag-festooned tent, the celebration began like all such Hartwick gatherings. President Drugovich held aloft the Hartwick Bell and declared with an enthusiastic ring, “The company of scholars is assembled, let the ceremonies begin!”

Following a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Hartwick College Commencement Choir, Student Government Association President Pauller Awino Musyoke ’23 and David Long ’83, H’14, chair of the Hartwick Board of Trustees, extended their congratulations to the graduates.

“As a rising senior, I am in awe of everything you’ve accomplished, and I applaud all of you,” Musyoke said. “Hold on to this feeling, hug it for as long as you can, because you made it and deserve to be proud.”

In recalling his own long journey from Liverpool, England to Oyaron Hill, Long praised the newest graduates for their resilience. “You have navigated unprecedented disruptions over these past two years,” he said. “Rites of passage – for all ages – have been upended. You have had to move along your journey of learning, and life, with a unique determination. But here we are, together. You found your way. Well done.”

Hartwick Faculty Chair and Professor of Economics Dr. Karl Seeley presented Vandia Williams ’23 with the Abraham L. Kellogg Oratorical Prize. Faculty deemed Williams the best orator among those seniors who gave speeches during Honors Convocation.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Laurel Bongiorno took the podium next to announce the Margaret B. Bunn Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“This is a day for honoring those students who have completed their courses of study on Oyaron Hill,” she said. “It is also a day to honor their professors.”

The annual award is presented to a faculty member judged by students who graduated five years earlier to have been the most outstanding teacher with whom they studied. The 2022 Bunn Award recipient, Bongiorno said, is Associate Professor of Chemistry and Department Chair Dr. Andrew J. Piefer.

Piefer earned a B.S. in chemistry from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and Ph.D in biochemistry from New Mexico State University. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine before joining Hartwick. In 2013, Piefer was granted tenure, and six years later earned the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Employee Award. His promotion to full professor, Bongiorno said, was recently approved by the College’s Board of Trustees.

Currently he teaches courses in chemistry and biochemistry, Bongiorno said, and that Piefer was also an early leader in teaching FlightPath and First-Year Seminar courses.

“He engages Hartwick students in his research in ways that involve them with novel scientific discovery, with a lasting impact on his students,” she added. “I believe that Margaret Bunn would heartily agree that Dr. Andy Piefer is deserving of this award named in her honor.”

Retaking the podium, Drugovich spoke of Trustee Emerita Elaine H. Arnold ’69, before presenting her with The President’s Award for Liberal Arts in Practice. Arnold graduated from Hartwick with a degree in sociology, and went on to earn her master’s degree from New York University and pursue doctoral studies.

Despite not finding many openings available upon graduation in the field of corporate finance, Drugovich said, Arnold took a secretarial position and used it to start her climb. That journey lead to increasingly responsible roles at companies like EF Hutton and Morgan Stanley, culminating in positions such as vice president at Citicorp.

Rather than retire after a prestigious career, Arnold has spent more than 20 years volunteering in New York City schools, helping students navigate the college application process.

“You say that your professional experiences ‘opened the world’ for you,” said Drugovich. “You, in turn, have now opened the world to children who have aspirations, as you did, but they needed someone – they needed you – to encourage and nudge and challenge and support them. Importantly, for the purpose of this award, you did this work because you believe education is the key to a satisfying and productive life.”

Following a performance of Frank Ticheli’s “Joy Revisited,” performed by the Hartwick College Wind Ensemble and conducted by Robert Johns ’22, Drugovich introduced Trustee Sarah “Sally” Griffiths Herbert ’88, H’19, who would address the Class of 2022 on the occasion of its graduation.

Griffiths Herbert earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Hartwick, graduating with departmental distinction and a minor in biology. She worked as a field archaeologist for the Office of Public Archeology at Boston University. She and her husband, Tim, went into business together — first as the owners of Ski Whaleback, Ltd. ski resort, now as owners of Ring Brook Farm, both in New Hampshire.

Griffiths Herbert reflected on the many facets of her Hartwick experience, which included being “an athlete, Greek, Wall painter, Pine Lake lover, Deer Run skier, a Leitzell dweller, and Town House tenant.” She cited favorite professors and mentors and declared, “You know me because, in many ways, I am you!”

She revealed that she considered transferring during her first year at Hartwick, but support from friends and faculty led her to stay. She stuck with it, graduated, and flourished. The personal growth she  made on Oyaron Hill became a focal point of her remarks. “I became myself on this hill, as the person you see now,” she said.

Griffiths Herbert offered three methods to spur such personal growth: “watch and listen,” “find balance that sustains you,” and “perspective.” She used anecdotes of Olympic athletes to support each point. “These are three tools you can use to adjust your trajectory throughout your career,” she said.

She celebrated the liberal arts background of her and her husband, Tim, who developed a skillset that made him able to “adapt to any professional situation, take in new information, see an old problem from a new perspective, quickly change hats, pivot, and demonstrate leadership.”

Griffiths Herbert also asked the newest alumni to not forget their alma mater. “Come back when you can,” she urged. “Your time, talent, and treasure are needed, and your friends at Hartwick will offer you different places around the table to come together again.

“Class of 2022, watch and learn, seek balance that sustains you, and enrich your perspective,” she concluded. “Go out and change the world for the better. Class of 2022, your runway is clear for takeoff. You’ve got this!”

Bongiorno then presented the Class of 2022 to the crowd. In the central moment of the ceremony, the graduates were bestowed the Hartwick undergraduate hood and greeted by Drugovich, much to the delight of their assembled friends and family.

Announced first was the initial graduating cohort of the College’s Translational Biomedical Research Management master’s degree program, followed by the bachelor’s degree candidates.

Once each graduate had been individually recognized, Hartwick College Alumni Association Board of Directors President Michelle Brown ’87 welcomed the new alumni to the 18,000-strong body. The alumni association presented each graduate with a replica of the Hartwick Bell and a keepsake that celebrates the College’s 225th anniversary.

“Your Hartwick degree will take you to amazing places, Brown said. “I encourage you to embrace each opportunity. You’re prepared to accept challenges ahead of you, utilize your personal strengths and embrace the future. We recognize each and every one of you IS the future!”

As she led the class in a ceremonial ringing of their replica bells, the tent filled with the joyous noise of the new alumni and their proud families.

“Members of the Class of 2022, you have heard the bell ring,” Drugovich said in her closing remarks. “Now you leave Hartwick an educated person. You may have traveled across the world. You may have done a remarkable thing or two. You have probably learned more than you expected, and perhaps you’ve learned more than you thought was possible.

“It is my hope that what you have learned best is how to learn from others. This moment also belongs to those who cared for and nurtured you on this journey to this day,” she continued, leading the class in thanking both their families and their faculty and staff, noting that all helped the graduates achieve this important milestone.

Before closing the ceremony, President Drugovich thanked the Hartwick Community.

“I want to say that it has been a great honor to lead Hartwick over these past 14 years,” she said. “I thank the board of trustees for their partnership and support, our colleagues for their camaraderie, and our wonderful students for showing me, again and again, that where there is learning, there is hope. I wish for this great College, and all of her people, much success in the years to come.”

The ceremony closed with a rendition of the Alma Mater, Oyaron, Hill of Dreams, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Andrew Pease and performed by the Hartwick College Commencement Choir and Hartwick College Wind Ensemble. The graduates left the expansive tent behind the celebratory march of the Broome County Celtic Pipes and Drums, proceeding into the waiting arms of their proud families, toward their bright futures as Hartwick College alumni.