Hartwick Class of 2018 Experiences Reinvention at Commencement

May 19, 2018

Saturday, May 19 was a day of change and reinvention for the members of the Class of 2018. Their parents, families, friends, and College faculty and staff gathered under a gala tent on Elmore Field to celebrate as they made the transition from students to alumni in the culmination of their time on Oyaron Hill.

Despite persistent rain, thousands convened high above the City of Oneonta to celebrate the students’ accomplishments, to watch them receive their degrees, and to 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. Dr. Margaret L. Drugovich P’12, Hartwick College president, 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 Chamber Choir, Student Senate President Rachel Griffing ’18 and Francis D. Landrey P’06, chair of the Hartwick Board of Trustees, extended their congratulations to the graduates.

“While I believe that the words we use to express gratitude may fade from our memory, the acknowledgement and pride we feel from that gratitude is something we can carry with us forever,” Griffing said to her classmates.

“To the Class of 2018, enjoy this day,” Landrey said. “You have studied hard. You have been inspired not only by your professors, but also by your fellow students who have accompanied you on your Hartwick journey. Cherish and maintain those friendships as you move on beyond Oyaron Hill. Celebrate today because you have earned it, but also take a moment to reflect on the change in each of you as a result of your Hartwick experience.”

Hartwick Faculty Chair and Professor of History Dr. Cherilyn Lacy presented Aslyn Avila ’18 with the Abraham L. Kellogg Oratorical Prize. Faculty deemed Avila the best orator among those seniors who gave speeches during Honors Convocation.

After a performance of “Pres de ramparts de Seville” by mezzo-soprano Alison Battease ’18, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Tannenbaum P’14 took the podium 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,” he said, “but to honor students is also to honor their teachers.”

The annual award is presented to the faculty member judged by students who graduated five years prior to have been the most outstanding teacher with whom they studied. The 2018 Bunn Award recipient, Tannenbaum said, is Professor of Education Dr. Elizabeth Bloom.

A native of Oneonta, Bloom studied at SUNY-Oneonta, SUNY-Albany, and Binghamton University. She came to Hartwick in 2005 as an Assistant Professor of Education, and was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in 2011. Currently she serves as Chair of the Department of Education, and serves on several critical committees.

“Professor Bloom has been a consistently effective educator throughout her time at Hartwick,” Tannenbaum said. “In each of the many education courses she teaches, Betsy works to build strong relationships with her students, and is dedicated to facilitating their intellectual and academic development.

“She is particularly effective at providing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge in the community because she believes that responsible citizenship begins when students participate in community processes,” he continued. “Through these teaching opportunities, students are able to take theory and apply it in practice, thereby allowing them to both understand and retain the educational theories.”

Retaking the podium, Drugovich spoke of Dr. Linda Reckhow Thomson ’72, before presenting her with The President’s Award for Liberal Arts in Practice. Thomson graduated from Hartwick with a degree in nursing, and went on to further study at Northeastern University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and American Pacific University. She has spent her career educating her patients and the public about the benefits of clinical hypnotherapy as a component of holistic healing.

“Today the Hartwick community honors your work in advancing a holistic and inclusive approach to medicine,” Drugovich said. “As a leader in the groundbreaking field of applying clinical hypnotherapy to nursing, you have improved countless lives as a practitioner, author, and educator.”

Drugovich then spoke of Virgina Elwell ’77 and Robert Hanft ’69, PM’06, each of whom was presented an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Elwell studied international relations at Hartwick before attending The Wharton School to earn an MBA in marketing and multinational enterprise. After a 20-year career in technology sales, she moved to the non-profit sector, holding important positions with the Smithsonian Institution and the College of William and Mary. A steadfast supporter of Hartwick College, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees for 18 years.

“You are a bridger,” Drugovich told Elwell. “You bridge the gap between who and where we are, and who and where we want to be. Virtually every person here today has benefitted from your service and generous support. We recognize you today because generations of students have benefitted from your leadership and your gracious, tireless, and thoughtful contributions. We are proud of you and grateful for all that you have done for Hartwick College.”

As a Hartwick student, Hanft earned a degree in economics before securing an MBA from Long Island College. He spent his 30-year career with JPMorgan Chase, retiring as Chief Operating Officer for Global Equities before founding the Trinsum Group, a wealth management firm. He serves on the boards of several Oneonta-area non-profits, and was a member of the Hartwick College Board of Trustees for 18 years, including six as its chair.

“You dedicated yourself to each of these roles, purposefully, responsively, always working toward a tomorrow that was more prosperous, more stable, or more certain than today,” Drugovich said. “The board room is not your only domain. You have helped Hartwick students through your direct mentorship. You believe that practical experience is an essential compliment to the Liberal Arts education. Now we honor you for your leadership, caring, and generosity with the College’s greatest award.”

The Hartwick Wind Ensemble offered a stirring rendition of Aaron Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody before Drugovich introduced Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva ’01, who would address the Class of 2018 on the occasion of their graduation.

Zhexembayeva received degrees in psychology and management from Hartwick College before earning her PhD in organizational behavior from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. A business owner, educator, speaker, and author, she has been called “The Reinvention Guru” and “The Queen of Reinvention.” She works with domestic and international corporate clients to help them prepare for, and embrace, change. The author of two books, Zhexembayeva has delivered three TEDx talks and spoken before more than 100,000 professionals.

“Throughout my years of college, Hartwick literally made and remade me again,” she reflected. “Once I graduated, it continued to provide me with the nourishment of friendships and ideas seeded on this beautiful hill.”

She offered the Hartwick College Class of 2018 “three key lessons that I’ve learned so far that seem worthy of this moment.

“Lesson number one: change is accelerating, And you will have many more new starts than you can possibly imagine. Often change enters into your life with no planning and no invitation.

“Lesson number two: when change happens, you will have only two options. Fight it or use it. So instead of fighting change, use it to reinvent. In a world where change is the only constant, I invite you to see it as your friend, not your enemy.

“Lesson number three: you don’t need to become a reinventor. You already are, you’re born with it. All you need to do is preserve this drive, this burning light inside that invites all of us to make things better. To try something new. We’re designed to improve things, to go on, to do better.

“What an honor it is to share this moment with you. Enjoy it, soak it all in. Take more selfies than is acceptable. Hug your friends non-stop. Change is coming. You are ready. Congratulations, Hartwick College Class of 2018!”

At the conclusion of her remarks, soprano Catherine Kondi ’18 performed “Some Other Time,” from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town.

Tannenbaum then presented the Class of 2018 to the crowd. In the central moment of the ceremony, the graduates were bestowed with the Hartwick undergraduate hood, and greeted by Drugovich, much to the delight of their assembled friends and family.

Once each graduate had been individually recognized, Colonel Michael Doherty ’73, Hartwick College Alumni Association Board of Directors Vice President, welcomed the new alumni to the 18,000-strong body. Each graduate was presented with a replica of the Hartwick Bell by the alumni association. A tradition which, Doherty said, provides a tangible connection to Oyaron Hill.

To the Class of 2018, the newest members of the Hartwick College Alumni Association, on behalf of our 18,000 members, allow me to welcome you to our community,” he said. “When you look upon your Hartwick Commencement Bell in years to come, I hope you will look back on your time here as fondly as I do, now 45 years in the past. Members of the Class of 2018, congratulations on your achievements!”

As he 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 2018, now you leave Hartwick an educated person,” Drugovich said in her closing remarks. “You may have traveled across the world. You have probably learned more than you expected and perhaps you’ve learned more than you thought you could.

“It is my hope that what you have learned best is how to learn from others, for no pinnacle moment is ours alone. This moment also belongs to those who cared for and nurtured you through 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.

The ceremony closed with a rendition of the Alma Mater, Oyaron, Hill of Dreams by Hartwick’s Not So Sharp a cappella 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.