Saturday, May 29, 2021
Today marked the end of a long, often uncertain chapter for the members of the Hartwick College Classes of 2020 and 2021, as well as the entire Hartwick Community. In a year unlike any other, the day was a celebration of resilience.
Traditionally held in a massive tent on top of Elmore Field, the College’s 89th Commencement Exercise was conducted via Zoom featuring pre-recorded segments. Family, friends, faculty, staff, and well-wishers joined online to watch the newest Hawks alumni be conferred their degrees and take part in the momentous occasion.
As in years past, Broome County Celtic Pipes and Drums kicked off the celebration like all such Hartwick gatherings. Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich P’12 rang the Hartwick Seminary Bell and declared, “The company of scholars is assembled, let the ceremonies begin!”
The Hartwick College Women’s Choir followed with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, under the direction of Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Steven Nanni. Past Student Senate President Matipa Mutoti ’20, Student Senate President Lydia Marteney ’21, and David Long ’83, H’14, chair of the Hartwick College Board of Trustees, then extended their congratulations to the graduates.
Mutoti listed a host of the hardships both graduating classes faced, but also noted, “I believe this may have made us stronger. The fact we are here today shows we are able to face adversity. We have solidified our places in history as the most resilient classes at Hartwick College.”
“Over the last few years, we have overcome challenges, gained new perspectives, and learned how to navigate life, together,” Marteney said. “If we think back to the beginning and the many steps – both literal and otherwise – of our journey here at Hartwick, we will realize that we are truly ready for the next part of our lives.”
“That we are holding a Commencement for two graduating classes tells a story for the ages, one of unprecedented disruptions to lives young and old,” Long said. “Rites of passage – for all ages – have been upended. You have had to move along on your journey of learning – and living – with a unique determination. You found your way: Well done.”
Professor of Economics and Hartwick College Faculty Chair Dr. Karl Seeley presented Madison Germuska ’20 and Kiara Biroo ’21 with the Abraham L. Kellogg Oratorical Prize. Faculty deemed Biroo and Germuska the best from among finalists who gave speeches on behalf of their graduating class during the 2020 and 2021 Honors Convocations, respectively.
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Barbara Feldman then announced the Margaret B. Bunn Award for Excellence in Teaching for both 2020 and 2021. “This is a day for honoring those students who have completed their courses of study on Oyaron Hill,” she said, “but to honor students is also to honor the faculty.”
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 2020 Bunn Award recipient, Feldman said, is Professor of Biology Dr. Mary Allen. Feldman then announced this year’s Bunn Award winner, Professor of Computer & Information Sciences Howard Lichtman.
Allen earned a BA in biology from Lafayette College in Easton, PA, then a doctorate in biological science from Florida State University. She joined the Hartwick faculty in 1997, and quickly earned a trustee faculty research grant to work on microbial communities in Mud Lake. Her further involvement with Project Kaleidoscope, a nationwide initiative to graduate students in STEM fields who are competitively trained and liberally educated, helped earn her the respect of peers and students alike.
Allen has been previously recognized by her students with the Bunn Award (2009), is a recipient of the Teacher-Scholar Award, and was also selected by her peers as a fall Convocation speaker.
Lichtman graduated SUNY Oneonta with a bachelor of science in business economics, and earned a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. After teaching at Hartwick part-time for many years, he joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 2002.
Lichtman was cited for his dedication to Hartwick’s students and academic curriculum. Whether ensuring students had the most up-to-date hardware and software possible, mentoring those in independent and directed studies, tor filling in for a colleague while still new to Hartwick, Lichtman proved time and again to be selfless and devoted to his discipline and the College.
Retaking the podium, Drugovich presented the President’s Award for Liberal Arts in Practice to former New York State Senator James L. Seward ’73 H’99. Seward was honored for his commitment to the people of New York, especially those of the 51st District, who he served with distinction for 34 years.
A political science major at Hartwick, his career began with an internship in the New York State Assembly. Drugovich cited his numerous accomplishments in the Senate, perhaps none more important to the Hartwick community than his support of education. “Your support will have a lasting impact on New York State, because that support has shaped the lives of tens of thousands of New York students,” she said. “Your approach to service is deeply personal and clearly driven by a commitment that redounds to all whom you seek to lift. Navigating the concerns of individuals has been a priority for you. You made what was important to them important to you, and that has made all the difference.”
Next, Drugovich awarded the President’s Medal to Richard L. Clapp ’62. The history major and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother graduated from Hartwick and joined New England Mutual Life Insurance Company. He earned several promotions during 10 years there before joining the then-fledgling Gannett Company, Inc.
“Your 30 years of service [at Gannett] and leadership helped to weave the fabric of the company which today espouses to inform, empower, and foster deep and vital connections within and between communities,” she said. “That mission sounds like you, Dick.”
Upon retirement, Clapp joined the Hartwick College Board of Trustees, during which time he was elected vice chair, and chaired the search committee for Hartwick’s eighth president.
“Now, 13 years later, you remain my trusted advisor and friend,” Drugovich said. “The person that you are, and your loyalty to and support of Hartwick College, continues to inspire us.”
For his role as a champion of merit-based America and his commitment to creating transformative change through equal opportunities in the workplace, Drugovich conferred upon Cyrus Mehri ’83 an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The political science graduate delivered a Kellogg Oratorical Prize-winning speech at his Baccalaureate ceremony, and returned to campus in 2009 to present the College’s Commencement address.
A founding partner of the law firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, in Washington, DC, he has litigated major cases involving discrimination, civil and consumer rights violations, and corporate fraud. Drugovich cited his pioneering work fighting discrimination against women in financial institutions via the Woman on Wall Street project; addressing employment discrimination in the advertising industry through the Madison Avenue Project; and helping establish the Rooney Rule, which revamped hiring practices of minority coaches in the National Football League.
“You now oversee one of the nation’s leading public-spirited class action and complex litigation firms,” she said. “Your stated mission is, quite simply, ‘To Advance Justice.’ And advance justice you have.”
All three honorees received their awards at home and offered thanks and words of encouragement to graduates via video.
Drugovich next introduced Elizabeth LeTendre ’90, who addressed the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on the occasion of their graduation. Eight years after LeTendre graduated from Hartwick with a degree in political science and a minor in management, she co-founded the digital search marketing agency Catalyst with her friend and Hartwick classmate Heather Frahm ’90. The pair grew the company, eventually navigating its acquisition by WPP, the largest communications search company in the world.Today, LeTendre serves as Chief Executive Officer of GroupM Performance within WPP, managing over $1 billion of investment and overseeing more than 1,000 employees and 200 clients, most of which are Fortune 1000 companies.
After joking about having an extra year to stress over delivering the address, LeTendre imparted three ideas for the new graduates to consider: Success begins at the end of your comfort zone; follow your true passion; and never underestimate the power of relationships. She provided specific examples of how each impacted her journey, and emphasized her third point by offering herself as a professional contact to her fellow alumni.
Embrace the uncertainty of life, trust your instincts and don’t settle, and take seriously any and all connections. “If you follow this advice, I think you will be in very good shape,” she said.
Feldman then presented the Classes of 2020 and 2021. In the central moment of the ceremony, the graduates were conferred their degrees by President Drugovich, with each graduate honored with their own slide.
Once each graduate had been recognized, Colonel Michael Doherty ’73, Hartwick College Alumni Association Board of Directors President, welcomed them to the 18,000-strong organization. Each graduate was sent a replica of the Hartwick Bell by the alumni association, a tradition, Doherty noted, meant to reflect on the College’s deep history and roots in the Hartwick Seminary.
Doherty listed the multiple occupations he has had in his career, pointing out that none were in the field he thought he would pursue early on. “This was possible because my Hartwick education provided a great foundation for these great careers in which I engaged,” he said. He also urged the newest alumni to leverage College programs such as TrueBlue Connect and Hawk Career HOP to both make professional contacts and also help future waves of Hartwick graduates do same.
President Drugovich then led the graduates in a pinnacle moment, the ceremonial ringing of their replica bells.
“You have heard the bell ring,” Drugovich told the Classes of 2020 and 2021 in her closing remarks. “You now 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 your journey,” she continued, leading the classes 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, performed by Julia Butts ’21, James Dana ’21, Ushuaia Diaz ’21, John Sapanaro ’21, Katie Sengelaub ’21, and the Hartwick College Brass Ensemble, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Andrew Pease.
The Broome County Celtic Pipes and Drums book-ended the event in traditional fashion, with not one but two classes of alumni looking toward their bright futures as Hartwick College alumni.
Hartwick College is a nationally ranked, selective, independent college of the arts and sciences located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Founded in 1797, Hartwick is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the United States and has a long-standing tradition of adaptation and innovation. The College offers 35 courses of study leading to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree and has gained renown for its innovative three-year degree program. Integrating an arts and science-based education with faculty-facilitated experiences – including study abroad, advanced research, and community-based service learning – Hartwick College prepares students to become valuable, fulfilled, and future-ready members of global businesses and society.
Contact: David Lubell