June 2, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 68°F


Commencement ceremony held to honor graduating Class of 2023

Members of Ithaca College’s Class of 2023 gathered May 21 in Glazer Arena to celebrate the completion of their undergraduate degrees with a procession, fanfare and a fist bump from President La Jerne Cornish.

In his opening remarks, David Lissy ’87, chair of the Board of Trustees, asked the graduating seniors to reflect on their hard work and persistence and recognize the unprecedented circumstances that they endured during their time at the college. 

“I would encourage all of you to lean in, soak up the moment, but also to have confidence that your time at IC has prepared you for the journey that lies ahead,” Lissy said. “Whatever your next step may be, and long beyond, I hope you find … that Ithaca will always be a second home to you.”

In 2022, the college held two commencement ceremonies for students receiving their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. For 2023, commencement shifted to a single undergraduate commencement ceremony because students from previous years expressed that they wanted to celebrate their graduation with their entire class. 

The college honored students receiving their master’s or doctoral degrees during a commencement and graduate hooding ceremony May 20. This is the first year the college combined the commencement and graduate hooding ceremonies for graduate students. 

Cornish commended the graduating seniors’ dedication and focus on completing their degrees despite the significant changes that have occurred globally since the class of 2023 entered the college in 2019. 

“The very fact that you are sitting here today is proof of your resilience,” Cornish said. “You have endured much and you have excelled greatly. You have places to get to and we can’t wait to see where you go next. You are not leaving South Hill, you are launching from South Hill.”

Each graduate wore a medallion inscribed with a quote that the president of the college choses — a tradition that originated in 1992. Cornish selected a quote from activist Coretta Scott King: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Cornish said the quote reflects her hope that the graduating seniors will use the skills and experiences that they gained at the college to improve their communities. 

“As each of you prepares to begin your next chapter, it is my sincere hope that you practice compassion and offer grace when it is warranted, remaining optimistic about humanity’s potential for progress and change,” Cornish said. “Whether it is from the pull of a better tomorrow for your community or from the push of a past that your community can never return to, you must find a productive way forward no matter what. Because your community will be counting on you and because you have been equipped so to do.” 



Cornish also recognized 23 faculty who earned tenure or promotion within the past year. Linda Petrosino ’77, MS ’78, retiring dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance and professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Pathology, received the Presidential Medal for her service to the campus community.

During the ceremony, Loki Mulholland received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the college. Mulholland is an activist who made several documentaries and a book that centers on injustice, as well as founded the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation to educate people about antiracism. 

During a campus visit for a Day of Learning series event in Fall 2022, Mulholland explained that he intended to graduate in 1994 with a degree in cinema and photography from the college. However, he was temporarily stuck in Russia and never returned to complete his degree. Administrators in the Roy H. Park School of Communications determined that Mulholland was qualified to receive his degree based on his transcripts and work and presented his undergraduate degree in December 2022. 

Larry Hirschhorn ’80 delivered the commencement address. Hirschhorn, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the college, founded the Melting Pot Theatre Company and has produced musicals and plays on Broadway, national tours, off-Broadway and in London — including four Tony Award-winning productions. 

Hirschhorn said theater can teach people invaluable lessons about life, like listening to and working with others, remaining open to new perspectives and opportunities and improvising as you go. Hirschhorn encouraged the graduating seniors to take risks and appreciate each step in their journeys. 

“Really enjoy and experience your surroundings,” Hirschhorn said. “So yes, stop and smell the roses, but really smell them. Enjoy the aroma. But know that sometimes getting pricked by a thorn is part of the experience. And whenever you’re on an adventure or trying out something new, remind yourselves to enjoy the ride and take note of how it makes you feel.”

Hirschhorn encouraged the graduating seniors to show empathy and care for others as they prepare for their future pursuits. 

“To me, kindness is the most important trait in all of life, not just a life in the theater,” Hirschhorn said. “Being a jerk or self-centered or argumentative during rehearsals or any kind of meetings or gatherings it gets you nowhere. It’s the team players who always help elevate the quality of the project. Kindness is infectious and it’s up to you to help spread it around.”

Graduating senior Francesca Infante-Meehan, a double major in theatre arts management and business administration with a concentration in marketing, delivered the student address. 

Infante-Meehan said she is grateful that the college provided such a wide range of experiences and opportunities — from successful sports teams to a vibrant art scene — which became even more meaningful after the time that she and her classmates spent apart during the pandemic. 

“Yeah, we missed out on some time here on South Hill, but I like to think that’s what made the time we did have here so much more valuable,” Infante-Meehan said. “So try not to forget this place. Remember the sunsets from Circles Apartments. Remember the new friends you made studying abroad. Remember the old friends you lost touch with. All the ups and downs that happened have shaped us into who we are now.” 

Infante-Meehan said she hopes that the graduating seniors will recognize the community that they have established at the college and will find among other alumni.

“No matter what you studied or where you end up using that degree, this is your built-in network and support system that doesn’t just end once we cross this stage and shake those hands,” Infante-Meehan said. “Ithaca truly is forever.”

Kai Lincke can be reached at klincke@ithaca.edu