Ithaca College’s December graduates gathered with their friends and families in Emerson Suites Dec. 13 to celebrate commencement.
The attendees were welcomed to their seats by the voices of Ithaca College’s School of Music Choral Ensemble singing “Ithaca Forever”.
Ithaca College President Tom Rochon approached the podium with a christmas tree painted on the side of his face. The crowd laughed at his mention of previously being at a children’s party, which featured a face-painter. Rochon continued to ask each division of the room – graduates, their supporters, and faculty and staff – to stand for applause.
Following Rochon, senior class co-president Jonathon Cummings and Kyle Woody, instructor in the department of sport management and media, spoke.
Cummings’s speech included several reasons why he believed Ithaca College was a great school. He told his fellow classmates to be proud of their alma mater. He said his own life experiences influenced the speech.
“My inspiration I guess would be just talking to a lot of my friends and just thinking back about all the experiences I’ve had at Ithaca College,” Cummings said. “I’ve brought up in the speech a couple of the experiences I’ve had, which I guess shaped me into the person that I am today. I tried to do my best to make the speech relatable to a lot of people and I find the best way to make it relatable is just to talk from my own experience.”
Cummings said he will receive his culture and communications degree this Spring, then take a year off before graduate school to try and get a job or internship working with public policy.
Fellow senior Jeannine Florio said her experience at the college has prepared her for the future by teaching her more than just the required curriculum.
“[Ithaca College] has helped me learn to communicate with other people because it makes it a real world situation, like talking to your professors and having to be an adult in college,” Florio said. “I feel like a lot of places baby you and in many ways that’s a good thing, but I feel like in here they treat you like adults and respect you like adults and it really sets you up for good things.”
Shasta Savage said she graduates this winter after just two years at the college. She transferred from Tompkins Cortland Community College with an associates degree in liberal arts. She said she was attracted to Ithaca College by the social environment.
“I like how it felt. I really like the people here; they are very welcoming,” Savage said.
Woody included in his speech a piece of advice that he said he has followed since he first heard it in college. He told the class, “follow your bliss.” His speech kept the audience laughing repeatedly and was later described by Rochon as the funniest commencement speech of all time.
Later, when talking about what he hopes the students will accomplish in their futures, Rochon referenced Woody’s words.
“I thought Kyle Woody put it perfectly: to find their bliss,” Rochon said. “And he was wonderful in not confining that to a narrower dream around job and material success.”
Rochon said he appreciates the support students receive from friends and family on this occasion.
“I love the fact that so many parents and family members come from a great distance and that validates that even though it’s not a formal commencement, this is still a milestone and a great celebration,” Rochon said.