Stony Brook University hosted its 63rd annual commencement ceremony May 19 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, providing graduates in the Class of 2023 with a memorable sendoff as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.
“Futures — that’s really what a commencement ceremony is about, a moment to reflect as you move from one phase of your life to another,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis in her commencement address, noting that over one-third of the graduates are the first in their families to attend college. “You have done so much in addition to your own growth as a student, scholar, and researcher, you have left an indelible mark on Stony Brook. No matter where your next pathway leads, I know you will be taking the spirit of Stony Brook with you, because you have demonstrated that to be a Seawolf is to care for your communities.”
The Class of 2023 is one of Stony Brook’s largest overall graduating classes, with more than 7,725 graduates earning a combined 7,830 degrees and certificate completions. The university conferred 4,895 bachelor’s degrees, the most ever, breaking last year’s record of 4,670. It also conferred 2,115 master’s degrees, 580 doctoral and professional degrees, and 240 certificates.
The commencement celebrations also included 45 individual college and departmental convocation ceremonies at various locations across campus, held May 16 through May 19. A doctoral hooding ceremony on May 17 recognized 127 new MDs from the Renaissance School of Medicine who recited the physician’s oath.
The main commencement ceremony began under breezy, partly sunny skies, with the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band playing along as the candidates entered the stadium. The band’s drumline and color guard led the procession along with Wolfie and Grand Marshal Richard Larson, president of the University Senate, followed by the candidates. Larson convened the proceedings by introducing Michaela Larsen, graduating with a Master’s of Music in Voice Performance, who sang the National Anthem.
United States Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer returned to Stony Brook to address the graduating class, as he has done for many years. He congratulated the Class of 2023 and said their experience at a world-class institution has prepared them for the challenges ahead. “The good news about our changing world is this — your generation is better equipped than any before to adapt to these changes, overcome the obstacles they present and to seize the opportunities they afford,” Schumer said. “It is my hope, it is my prayer, and indeed it is my confidence that you will find true success and true joy in life.”
State University of New York Board of Trustees Chair Meryl Tisch spoke to the assembled and said, “You are graduating Stony Brook in the greatest moment in its history. When people hear that you graduated from Stony Brook, you can wear that label proudly.”
Other special guests included New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo; New York State Assemblymembers Ed Flood and Jodi Giglio; Suffolk County Legislators Samuel Gonzalez, Kara Hahn, and Jason Richberg; Graduate Student Organization President Manjot Singh; Undergraduate Student Organization President Ocean Karim; and members of the Stony Brook Council, President McInnis’ cabinet and the University Council. The ceremony emcee was Assistant Vice President for Career Development and Experiential Education Marianna Savoca.
President McInnis noted that this was an auspicious moment for Stony Brook, a flagship university in the SUNY System, the number one public university in New York, and the founding institution for The New York Climate Exchange on Governors Island. She encouraged the graduates to absorb the moment and look around at everyone who has supported them in their journey, and applauded their hard work and perseverance.
McInnis called out several graduates who have made significant contributions to campus and community life. Brittney Mickaligar volunteered at the Stony Brook Food Pantry and later became the undergraduate coordinator, managing the weekly donation and distribution of over 1,300 fresh food items. Patrick Abel broke a 30-year-old record in the 100-meter dash, and also helped lead a Black & Latino Men’s Health & Wellness Program to bring men of Stony Brook together and offer needed resources and support. Dayashree Baskaran served on the board of Stony Brook’s chapter of Global Medical Brigades, an international movement of students, community workers, and medical professionals implementing sustainable health systems in remote, rural, and under-resourced communities abroad.
McInnis also highlighted the Student Blood Drive Committee, which partnered with the New York Blood Center and celebrated more than 10,000 lives saved; senior peer educators for the Center for Prevention and Outreach, who taught Seawolves about and provided critical resources on preventing suicide and alcohol abuse; and graduates in the Middle Eastern Student Association and the Turkish American Student Association, who raised thousands of dollars for Save the Children and UN Crisis Relief to support earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria.
Executive Vice President and Provost Carl Lejuez acknowledged the faculty who have invested in the students’ success and advised graduates to reach out to their mentors. He introduced a video featuring faculty reflections, followed by the Class Legacy Gift presentation. USG Vice President of Student Life Wideline Jean said nearly 600 graduates have donated to the Class Legacy, almost doubling the number from last year. She presented McInnis with a check to the Stony Brook Foundation for $22,300, money raised in part with matching dollars from the Stony Brook Alumni Association.
Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau introduced student speaker Vineeta Abraham, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in creative writing. A member of the Junoon Bollywood dance team and Stony Brook Gospel Choir, Abraham also served as president of the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society, was a resident assistant, a research assistant in the Psychology Department and was an intern in the Career Center.
Abraham compared the college journey to a blank canvas, and that “art, much like college, never happens as planned.”
“We have all seen too much, felt too much, said too much, did too much, to be the same people we used to be,” she said. “We’re older now, different now, more ourselves now than we have ever been. And that’s kind of beautiful.”
Stony Brook University Alumni Association President Ahmed Belazi welcomed the graduating class to a community of more than 212,000 Stony Brook alumni across the world, and then the Stony Brook Vocalists performed the university’s alma mater, “Sandy Shore.”
McInnis encouraged the graduates to stay connected to SBU. “We always say that ‘Once a Seawolf, always a Seawolf,’ and we want to learn from you and grow with you through all the extraordinary turns your ambitions will take,” McInnis said. “I speak for all the leaders, faculty, and staff at Stony Brook when I say that we are proud of you. But perhaps most pointedly, we are grateful for the time, the energy, the work, the inspiration, and the critical thought that you have brought to this institution, and that you will continue to bring to the world. We cannot wait to see the impact you’ll make. Congratulations, Class of 2023.”