Grey skies overhead did not deter Ithaca College’s Class of 2017 from filing into Butterfield Stadium with big smiles on their faces for the college’s 122nd Commencement ceremony May 21.
Linda Petrosino, provost and vice president of educational affairs, greeted the approximately 1,400 graduating students of the Class of 2017 and attendees of the ceremony. President Tom Rochon then conferred an honorary degree to Ann Thompson Cook, advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights in religious communities and co–founder of Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for LGBTQ Justice. He also conferred an honorary degree to La June Montgomery Tabron, who serves as the first female and first African–American president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and works to advance racial equity.
Rochon spoke about the uncertainty the graduates may be feeling as they transition from college to the workforce. He reminded the Class of 2017 members to remain true to their passions and personal missions.
“It may or may not lead to that first paycheck … but identifying your core values and then mapping those values onto the challenges of the world and acting to meet those challenges will enable you to design for yourself a life that is rich, fulfilling and meaningful in every sense,” Rochon said.
This was Rochon’s last graduation ceremony, as Shirley Collado is slated to take over as the ninth president of the college in June. Trustee David Lissy ’87 thanked Rochon for leading the college through the economic crisis of 2008 and for creating the IC 20/20 plan.
The Commencement address was given by television producer Bill D’Elia ’69. D’Elia congratulated the Class of 2017 and started to tear up when talking about meeting his wife of 45 years when he attended the college.
D’Elia said he was initially reluctant to accept the offer to be Commencement speaker because he was unsure of what wisdom he could give students. He told the graduates it is a mistake to pick a specific career path, and he encouraged them to cast a wider net and fulfill who they are as people.
He used personal examples from his own career — he worked in advertising, wrote and directed a movie and has been a television producer.
“What happened here, on this campus, laid the foundation for my lofty goals,” D’Elia said. “For it was here, at Ithaca, that I learned to speak up, and I learned in speaking up that I had something to say.”
D’Elia emphasized to the graduates that it is up to them to define their own life and career path post-college.
“Life will conspire to make you less,” he said. “Your job, your real job, is to conspire to make you more. Push back on that narrow road. Keep that jackhammer close by. Bust up your path.”
Ciara Lucas, president of the Class of 2017, spoke to her fellow graduates and told them to focus on the present instead of rushing into the future.
“If you’re able to, go slowly,” she said. “Take these moments in and acknowledge the accomplishments we’ve all had over these last four years. Too often, we’re caught up in achieving that next goal, finding the next job — looking to the future instead of where our feet are.”
The senior class gift was presented by seniors Andres Garcia and Brandon Schneider, co-chairs of the Senior Class Gift Committee. Following an eight-monthlong campaign, the committee raised $10,564 to donate to the Ithaca College Annual Fund.
Thirty percent of the Class of 2017 — 443 seniors — participated in donating. Last year, the Senior Class Gift Committee for the Class of 2016 also had about 30 percent participation and raised approximately $8,000 to donate to the college.